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Alliance benefits high-tech women

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LOUISVILLE — It could be just another book club, a lunch bunch or a feel-good group at work — except that this year, the Women’s Alliance at StorageTek won a $35,000 budget from the corporation’s coffers.

That sum shows that StorageTek has put its money where its mouth is to attract, retain and promote talented women in technology, according to Pat Martin, company chairman, president and chief executive officer.

“I think it’s important not only because it’s the right thing to do as a society, it’s also good business,” Martin explained.

Nationally, women represent only about 10 percent of the engineering and technology workforce, according to Beverly Louie, director of the University of Colorado’s Women in Engineering program.

However, she said since women represent half of the talent pool and half of the consumers, finding ways to reflect that in engineering and technology workplaces is paramount.

“These are areas where we need to retain women, and these alliances can help address the issues and create the kind of culture that will encourage women to remain in corporations and be highly successful,” said Cathy Hatfield, programs director at the Denver-based Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

She said alliances like the one StorageTek recently formed started popping up nationwide in the 1990s, but not much earlier. However, today other companies with a strong regional presence — for instance, Coors, US Bank, Qwest and Seagate — also sponsor women’s alliances.

“Corporations spend a lot of money recruiting the right individual for the right job,” Hatfield explained. “It’s in their best interest to retain these individuals.”

Since launching in December 2001, the Women’s Alliance at StorageTek has organized networking events, educational forums, mentoring relationships and community outreaches to that end.

“A lot of these alliances start from the top down,” explained Women’s Alliance member and solutions technology director Charlotte Tyson. “But ours is top-down. We started it with strong executive support.”

The idea has clearly caught on at StorageTek.

Women represent approximately 25 percent of the company’s 7,000-member global workforce and more than 30 percent of the 2,200 workers based at world headquarters in Louisville.

Roughly 250 of those 700 local women now participate in the alliance, according to StorageTek public relations manager Robin Raulf-Sager.

“And we keep moving into bigger rooms,” said Monica Dozier, a StorageTek e-business project manager and WA steering committee member.

Fellow Women’s Alliance committee member Karla Kimrey, a StorageTek vice president of investor relations, said men still hold nearly three times as many positions in the technology field.

If men formed a similar alliance, she joked, it would just be called a business meeting. Meanwhile, the group at StorageTek has helped women working in 14 different buildings on campus meet each other under one roof.

Beginning in 1997, Hispanics, blacks and Asians at StorageTek began forming alliances.

“But the Women’s Alliance is nice because it crosses the ethnic and racial barriers,” Raulf-Sager explained. “It brings the alliances together.”

Membership is free and the community is welcome to attend Women’s Alliance programs, she said. For more information, call Raulf-Sager at 303-661-5920.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.