CloudNOW is a non-profit consortium of the leading women in cloud computing, focused on the professional development of women around the world by providing a forum for networking, knowledge-sharing, mentoring and economic growth. In a few weeks they host their fifth-annual Top Women in Cloud Innovation Awards. We chatted with co-founders Jocelyn DeGance Graham (CEO) and Susan Wu (CTO). Take a look…
Smart Industry: Why is this organization necessary?
Jocelyn: CloudNOW was founded in 2011 with the backing of some of the leading voices in cloud, both male and female. CloudNOW works in concert with the industry to promote equality from the inside out, highlighting women’s contributions to cloud, and creating a value-driven meritocracy for today’s leaders and our future leaders. CloudNOW was founded because of the pronounced gender gap in tech jobs, especially in emerging technologies like cloud. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68% of women enroll in college (compared to 63% of men), and women increasingly outnumber men in college-graduation rates. Yet women still make up only a quarter of the tech-industry workforce. CloudNOW wants to address both the talent pipeline and gender disparity in the tech workplace. Unlike other women’s organizations that focus on broad topics like work-life balance, CloudNOW stresses technical content, conversations and demonstrated expertise in cloud, open source, and converging tech. We strongly believe that we are responsible for addressing gender disparity. If we’ve learned anything over the course of our careers, it’s that no one is going to do it for us.
Susan: CloudNOW contributes to the digital transformation by recognizing outstanding women in cloud and converged technology through the annual Top Women in Cloud Innovation Awards, which honors female-led teams who have used cloud technologies at end-user organizations to solve real world problems, contribute to the community and/or the society in a significant way, or innovate and move the industry forward. Many of these outstanding women have not been outspoken about their work and CloudNOW has become a launchpad for them to publicize their projects in the industry. Since receiving the award, several women have been invited to speak at cloud conferences for the first time. Conference organizers are also looking to our organization as a source for accomplished female speakers. Recipients of 2016 Top Women in Cloud awards include representatives from Cisco, GoDaddy, Intel, Netflix and Walmart.
Smart Industry: What is the state of women's contributions to the cloud, big data and the IoT?
Susan: There’s a wealth of published articles and anecdotal data on women’s contribution. But we’re starting to see complete transparency, especially from open-source communities like Linux and OpenStack. An independent analyst firm called Bitergia has been publishing statistics about women in open source. Bitergia reported that women represent about 10.6% of the OpenStack population, responsible for 7.2% code contributions and 25% of code reviews. Bitergia also found that women represented 9.9% of the population responsible for the Linux kernel and responsible for 6.8% of the code contributions.
Smart Industry: Are there certain fields / industries where women are playing a particularly critical role?
Susan: The concepts around Industry 4.0 involve automation that assists with decision-making when it is too difficult or unsafe for humans and digital twins to contextualize information. The technologies that enable Industry 4.0 with complete information-transparency include data science, cloud native applications, and distributed systems. The knowledge of the manufacturing industry is also germane. IT careers, for the most part, were siloed by traditional organizational structures. Because Industrial IoT is multi-faceted and crosses disciplines, those professionals are the ones who can lead cross-functional teams, drive change, deliver results and make sense of the alphabet soup of technologies.
Jocelyn: The greatest opportunity is for women to start their own technology companies in this space. With the barrier to starting costs so low because of cloud, there’s no reason to work for someone else. The best opportunities are the ones women create, versus waiting for someone to give us a job. Just look at Diane Greene, founder of VMware, who is now on the board of Google.
Smart Industry: What most excites you on the horizon of this digital age?
Susan: In traditional industries, career progression can be somewhat linear and correlated with length in position. In this digital age, there are more tools for in-tandem experimentation, which means even upstarts with far less resources can disrupt incumbents in the market. This is exciting because enterprising individuals can make a significant impact on the emerging industry without deep financial backing.
Jocelyn: I absolutely agree with Susan--the technology has become an equalizer. People that don’t have the cookie-cutter background, but that have great ideas and initiative, can catalyze their businesses.