The fifth annual Women Advance IT Leadership Conference sold out its 350 spots quicker than ever, according to conference co-chairs Marcia Dority Baker, assistant director of academic technologies and Amy Metzger, assistant director of IT strategic sourcing.
The conference will run on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 5-6, at Nebraska Innovation Campus and feature three keynote speakers, a speaker panel and two workshops. The panel will focus on reviewing the past of IT and deciphering what the future of IT may look like, according to the conference website.
Dority Baker said the conference tends to have 40% men and 60% women in attendance.
“We need everybody at the table,” she said. “We need everybody to be at the conference to learn how to be a better ally to each other in the workplace.”
EDUCAUSE, a non-profit that encourages IT education, is partnering with UNL Information Technology Services, which created the conference, for this year’s event, according to Metzger and Dority Baker.
Dority Baker said the speakers are encouraged to conduct their presentations in a TED Talk style, and the audience is expected to participate.
“It’s not just this passive, ‘I’m going to show up and listen,’” she said. “It’s group work and small group activities. That really lets people leave with a list of action items on what they can do when they get home.”
Over the years, the conference has evolved in several ways. Dority Baker said it started as a half-day event and slowly grew to two full days.
“We always try to make it a little different each year,” Metzger said. “This year we have two workshops, versus last year we had one workshop. We try to mix it up so it’s not the same every year.”
Dority Baker said more than 100 of the event’s 350 attendees are coming from outside of Nebraska to attend the conference, and some are coming from other schools in the Big Ten Conference.
“We want to make sure that we have women in leadership that are there to share their leadership journey,” Dority Baker said. “We’re always looking for ways that we can show our students what they can do when they grow up but also learning [how that person got to that role].”
Students are able to attend the conference for only $25, compared to the normal $225, according to Dority Baker. Seventeen UNL students will be attending the conference, which Dority Baker and Metzger said is higher than in past years.
The theme of the conference is disruption, according to Metzger. Metzger and Dority Baker said they chose this theme because it is important to make changes rather than simply talking about making them.
“We spent the first couple of years bringing about awareness, and we just are really getting tired of talking about it,” Metzger said. “We really try to go and find tools to help people who attend the conference.”
Dority Baker and Metzger said they have been to many conferences, which helped them in planning this one.
“We’ve tried to really build this out in such a way that the good stuff that we really like in conferences we put here to make sure we get that out of this conference,” Dority Baker said. “Based on feedback, I think we’re getting there.”
This article was modified at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 to reference Marcia Dority Baker as Dority Baker rather than Baker.