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Women are strong innovators and have more opportunity in a disruptive career, said Whitney Johnson at the Women Tech Awards Thursday afternoon.
Johnson is a Boston-based investor and co-founder of the investment firm Rose Park Advisors. She was the keynote speaker at the Women Tech Council’s (WTC) annual awards event.
She moved to New York in the late 1980s while her husband went to school. “Women who went to Wall Street in the late 80s became secretaries, so that’s what I did.” Little did she know, Johnson said her start on the low rung of the company ladder helped her “chart a disruptive course.”
Now Johnson said she is passionate about getting more women into tech fields and particularly into careers that disrupt and change the status quo. Women have a 20 times more opportunities and six times higher chance of success in a disruptive career than a traditional one, she said.
Her four steps toward charting a disruptive course are: target a need that can be met more effectively, identify your disruptive strengths, step back or sideways in order to grow and let your strategy emerge.
While disruptive careers can be scary, lonely and unpredictable, they are also worth it, Johnson said. She says women are still being excluded and discouraged from pursuing tech careers and they cannot and should not be left out of inventing or innovating.
It is difficult to leave the safety of a good, well-paying job, but Johnson said a step that may seem backward or sideways into a disruptive career can “turn into a slingshot.”
“Forget the plateau of profit. Seek to scale the learning curve,” she said. “… I am here to tell you when you have a gift for math, science or tech, you must pursue that gift.”
She encouraged those in the room to start women-owned businesses, hire more women and invest in women.
Following Johnson’s speech, the WTC presented the Tech and Academic Excellence awards.
Full list of honorees:
Academic Excellence – Dolly Holt, University of Utah
Leadership Excellence – Joy De Lisser, ATK Alliant Techsystems Inc.
Technology Excellence – Sheh Bertram, Zions Bancorporation
Trailblazer – Alison Wistner, Mercato Partners
Professional Excellence – Heather Deason Zynczak, Domo
Outstanding Entrepreneur – Jeanette Haren, Truenorthlogic
Educational Excellence – Susan L. Thackeray, Utah Valley University
Impact Award – Josh James, Domo
Full list of Tech Award finalists:
Sheh Bertram, Zions Bancorporation
Jennifer Beyer, Allegiance, Inc.
Lyda S. Bigelow, University of Utah
Jill Canales, 3form, Inc.
Joy De Lisser, ATK Alliant Techsystems Inc.
Jeanette Haren, Truenorthlogic
Janna J. Lewis, Holland & Hart LLP
Gina Sanzenbacher, Jordan Applied Technology Center
Cory Schaeffer, Listen Technologies
Sabrina Stover, BidSync
Susan L. Thackeray, Utah Valley University
Shauna Leavitt Theobald, Utah Valley University
Christy Whitehouse, The Summit Group Communications
Alison Wistner, Mercato Partners
Heather Deason Zynczak, Domo
Full list of Academic Excellence Award finalists:
Amberly Evans, Utah State University, Physics
Dolly Holt, University of Utah, Bioengineering
Heather Wark, University of Utah, M.D./Ph.D. in Bioengineering
Stacey Janel Smith, Brigham Young University, Ph.D. Physical Chemistry and X-ray
Malgorzata Rycewicz-Borecki, Utah State University, Environmental Engineering