Celebrating Women’s History Month: Conversations with women in tech at UPSTACK

by | March 21, 2024

March is Women’s History Month and an excellent time to reflect on the advancement of women in the technology industry.

  • Statistically, women hold only 35 percent of tech jobs in the U.S. at the end of 2023, according to data from The World Bank.  
  • Anecdotally, we’re seeing more opportunities for women to enter and grow their careers in technology, but there’s still work to be done.

UPSTACK is a champion of women in tech and has many female leaders among its advisory partners and employees. In fact, UPSTACK is leading the tech industry with women making up nearly 50 percent of our team. We spoke to a few of these pioneering women about their experiences in the technology industry, the challenges women in tech still face, and the steps needed to attract and advance more women in tech.

Our UPSTACK panelists include:

  • Amy Ghigliotty-Rodon, Director of Service Delivery
  • Melissa Manente, Senior Customer Success Manager
  • Stephanie Mansolino, Director of Marketing
  • Melissa Thobe, Senior Product Manager
  • Lindee Weickmann, Technical Product Manager 

What inspired you to pursue a career in technology, and how do you think your experiences as a woman have influenced your journey in this field? 

Amy Ghigliotty-Rodon: I’ve always been curious about technology, even when I was younger, in the ’80s, when it was considered a luxury, not a necessity. As I learned, I became more curious and knew it was more than a hobby. Beginning my IT career in the ’90s wasn’t easy as I was one of a few women in technology and had to overcome many obstacles to prove I belonged at the table. One of my first female mentors pulled me aside early and gave me the best advice: “Confidence is key. As long as you can add value to the conversation, don’t be afraid to speak up and make your point heard.” I carry that advice with me to this day and share it with anyone — man or woman — who is doubting themselves. 

Melissa Thobe: I started my career as a software engineer when there were very few women in those roles. I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do; I just knew I liked solving problems. My brother suggested I try programming classes, and I knew right away that it was the space I was supposed to be in. As one of the few women engaged in technical design and implementation conversations, I’ve had to learn to make my voice heard, have confidence in my insights, and find creative ways to present a solution. I continue to leverage these skills to be a better communicator and think outside the box. 

Melissa Manente: I stumbled into this career after getting a recommendation from a previous employer. I immediately took to the fast-paced and ever-changing environment that is telecom. I started as a 19-year-old young woman with fierce determination and quickly learned that I was going to have to work harder to stand out among my peers because of my gender. I was lucky early on to have a strong mentor to show me the ropes. However, being a woman in a male-dominated industry has given me a rougher exterior than most. I always felt the need to prove myself for fear of being dismissed or looked past because I am a woman. 

Stephanie Mansolino: The growth of technology in our daily lives has always fascinated me, and I wanted to apply my marketing experience to a technology company. You don’t have to be a coder or engineer to be in technology. There are many roles in sales, customer service, data, marketing, accounting, finance and HR that can teach you about technology and allow you to apply your skills to the job, making you a valuable asset to the company.

Lindee Weickmann:  When I first started at university, I initially pursued a career in pediatric physical therapy, but my trajectory changed when taking a Management Information Systems prerequisite class in my first year. I then changed my major to Computer Information Systems, which focuses on the intersection between business processes and technology. Transitioning to the technology space, specifically business analyst/software product management work, feels like I’m solving a daily puzzle, which continues to excite me.  

My journey began when I entered the workforce and received a role as a Business Analyst at a telecom company. I found myself in a unique IT environment where women were the driving force in leadership. I was surrounded by amazing women leaders, managers and mentors, who I learned from firsthand. Their guidance provided me with a unique perspective and foundation that propelled my career forward. This exposure not only shaped my professional path but also made me appreciate the contributions of women in technology even more. 

What are some of the greatest challenges women face in the technology industry today, and what steps do you believe can be taken to address these challenges? 

Melissa Thobe: We have come so far from where we were when I started my career as the only technical woman at the table. However, the numbers are still not in our favor. One of the biggest challenges is finding the ever-elusive work/life balance not just every day or even every year but over our careers. Women typically remain the primary caregivers in families, and with the rapidly changing landscape of technology, it can feel impossible to keep up. Offering and supporting continuing education, re-entry into the workforce, and carving out time and space for technologists to learn and play with emerging technologies at work is key to keeping women engaged and moving forward in their careers.

Melissa Manente: As far as we’ve come with equality in the workplace, women still have to work harder and smarter to be recognized. Women continue to have to prove themselves worthy. As time passes and more organizations such as UPSTACK consistently recognize smart, strong and capable women, the paradigm will shift and accept women as peers in this industry. 

Stephanie Mansolino: Women need more opportunities to say yes to leadership positions at their companies and the board level. We also need to seek them out. Sometimes, we can get in our own way. Contribute to meetings, raise our hands, and be the project lead. Say yes, be a leader, be a mentor and do our best. Let’s step up. We can’t doubt ourselves in our roles in business; our opinions matter. 

Lindee Weickmann:  Women have overcome some big challenges. The main roadblocks are being overlooked, undervalued, and often lacking the same level of respect as their male counterparts. If we keep showing up, speaking out, and supporting each other, we can start making real changes. It won’t happen overnight, but together, we will shift things more and more in the right direction. 

Can you share any initiatives or projects you’ve been involved in that aim to empower and support women?

Melissa Thobe: I mentor several women with whom I have had the pleasure of working in previous roles. These women range in age, skills, career goals and location. It is always helpful to know others have been in the same situation and came out the other side. I also join a monthly Women in Technology luncheon with women in various stages of their careers. I feel lucky to learn from all these women in my life, and I hope they get as much out of our relationships as I do. 

Lindee Weickmann:  Every month, I gather with amazing women for dinner to catch up and support each other. Whether navigating tough situations at work or helping each other find new opportunities, it’s like having this built-in support system. We share advice, swap stories and lift each other up. It’s these organic connections that really make a difference. I’m just grateful to have such a solid group of women in tech to lean on. 

Stephanie Mansolino: As a Girl Scout Co-Leader to a Brownie Troop, I’m excited to see how young girls are gaining computer skills and problem-solving abilities through engaging badge activities like space exploration, mechanical engineering, automotive design and pottery! These STEAM experiences will help them develop the confidence and well-roundedness they need to become future leaders in all kinds of fields. 

How do you see the representation of women in technology evolving in the future, and what role do you think organizations and individuals can play in fostering greater gender diversity and inclusion in this sector?

Stephanie Mansolino: The young girls in our schools right now are the future. Significant progress has been made in recent years to offer programs focused on technology in middle school and high school, including coding, video game programming, and robotics. Now, we need to encourage our girls to try them out.

Melissa Thobe: As more and more girls are encouraged and supported in pursuing STEM options at younger ages, the number will continue to grow. Unfortunately, there’s only marginal growth at the top levels of organizations. Purposely seeking more women for higher-ranking technical roles, in addition to encouraging and supporting paths for promotion and growth within organizations, can help the number of women in these roles grow.  

Lindee Weickmann:  I envision a future tech industry where women are not only present but thriving. To achieve this, organizations must implement inclusive policies, actively seek diverse candidates, and provide support programs for women in tech. Individuals can contribute by challenging stereotypes, advocating for equal opportunities, and serving as allies and mentors to women in the field. By working together to address barriers and promote gender diversity, we can create a more inclusive tech space. Collaboration is essential for realizing the full potential of women in technology. 

Amy Ghigliotty-Rodon: I can only see women getting stronger and more valuable in the technology sector. Women are strong and resilient, and we utilize those strengths to overcome any/all adversity that stands in our way. Coming together as a group and having the support of organizations that don’t “see” gender but talent will help change the old-school mentality and perceptions.

Melissa Manente: I’m seeing more women in leadership roles, which will help shape our representation in the future. All organizations should celebrate ALL people who make a difference. Both men and women contribute to the success of any organization and should be acknowledged for the outstanding differences they make daily. Once women do not need to be singled out, true equality will be achieved. 

UPSTACK is known for reinventing the tech advisory space with its unique platform, including people, processes and technology. The true power of the UPSTACK Platform is the people.  We embrace all genders, races and abilities, and are proud to support women in tech.

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