(From left to right) Lisa DeLapo, Danielle Pinta and Heidi Baynes present as panelists at CITE 2022.

Nov 30 2022

CITE 2022: Women Boldly Approach Tech and Leadership Roles

At the California IT in Education conference in Long Beach, women share their experiences in male-dominated fields and strategies for making tech positions more accessible.

This year, California IT in Education had a record number of female attendees at its CITE conference, panelists said in Wednesday’s “Every Role is a Starring Role for Women in Technology” session.

Speaking to an audience of men and women, panel host Ari Flewelling, professional development manager at CDW Education, celebrated that word about the conference had spread. “That means the people who have been coming, whether it be our female- or male-identifying attendees, are telling people, and they are bringing someone with them,” she said. “And that is a great strategy to help with recruitment, employment and mentorship.”

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Hiring practices were talked about at length in the panel discussion and in CITE 2022’s Tuesday keynote session, which featured Danielle Feinberg, a visual effects supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios. In the keynote, Feinberg explained her own early career experiences and what it took to make the leap to her current position.

Women Should Confidently Apply for the Jobs They Want

When Feinberg started at Pixar, she worked primarily on lighting in animated films because she was awestruck by the way it could change a scene and tell a story.

She showed examples from films she worked on, including “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” “The Incredibles” and “Coco.” Each project had unique challenges. “Finding Nemo” needed to appear believably underwater, “Wall-E’s” setting needed to look more like post-apocalyptic Earth than Mars, “The Incredibles” pushed the team to animate a character with long hair and “Coco” featured more lights than any previous Pixar film: 8.5 million in a single scene.

Feinberg CITE 2022

Danielle Feinberg, Visual Effects Supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios, demonstrates the effects of lighting in an animated film with a scene from “Coco.”

With each challenge, Feinberg and her team rose to the occasion, often under tight deadlines. After the success of “Coco,” she applied for the visual effects supervisor position on the movie “Turning Red.”

“This has typically been a very, very technical job, and I’m not very technical. People tend to think of lighting as one of the less technical jobs,” she explained.

However, the new film’s director was Domee Shi, who had just won an Oscar for her work on the short film “Bao,” and rumors were circulating that Shi wanted the new feature to be a combination of art and technology. “So, I decided to apply,” Feinberg said.

She got the job and added that the first thing she did was stick out her neck and recommend the use of a new technology, which turned out to be so successful for animating bodily movement that the team decided to use it for facial expressions as well.

 

On Wednesday, panelists spoke about the discrepancies in women and men applying for jobs, citing a survey that found women typically will apply only for positions they’re 100 percent qualified for.

“I know I can do this, so I feel confident now applying for those jobs, and I want to integrate that into my own female coworkers’ minds,” said Lisa DeLapo, director of informational and instructional technology at Union School District in San Jose, Calif. “I feel like they’ll never try because they don’t feel qualified, and they are.”

Hiring Practices Need to Change to Include Women and Minorities

Participants in the women in tech panel also talked about the changes they can make from within an organization to support hiring and retention practices.

“When you start looking at people’s resumes and comparing what you’re hiring for, what are the things on that list that are essential? What are the things that would be nice? What could be taught?” Flewelling asked. She also pointed out that many responsibilities are collaborative and won’t need to be handled solely by a new hire.

LEARN MORE: What does it take for women in K–12 to make it to the top?

“You have to engage your HR department,” added an audience member after raising his hand. “If you’re not proactive with them, they will overlook potential candidates because of their own bias.”

From the corporate side, Danielle Pinta, program manager for Google for Education, said she’s already seeing the effect of companies mentoring and hiring candidates more thoughtfully. “I’ve been in positions numerous times where I’m the only woman in a room full of men, and over the last five years I’ve started to see that shift. Whenever I do see it shift, it feels really good.”

Pinta pointed to the programs Google has around hiring minorities as a way tech companies are moving in the right direction.

Bookmark this page to stay up to date with our CITE 2022 conference coverage, and join the conversation on Twitter when you follow @EdTech_K12 and use the hashtag #CITE2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia

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