SIGGRAPH 2016: Women in Tech

Posted By Akiko Ashley on July 29, 2016 10:10 am | Permalink

ANAHEIM, CA - Diversity is a huge subject being talked about in the media today. Anyone who watched the Academy Awards could not miss the protests for the need for more diversity in the Academy. Our country may soon elect the first female president as the Democratic Party elected a woman as their Presidential Candidate for the first time. 

Photo: Pam Hogarth, Jinko Gotoh, Lisa Flom & Alain Chesnais

While attending SIGGRAPH I wanted to talk about the diversity of women in the workforce in technology. Young women should know there are opportunities for women in the tech industry including the computer graphics & interactive industry. I was invited and attended an inspiring Inaugural Meetup event for women sponsored by Industrial, Light & Magic, Disney, and Pixar held Monday night at Steakhouse 55 in Anaheim. A great location in the heart of the Disney Convention Center. The Meetup was a networking event for women student and professionals to chat with each other, with an opportunity to meet with Recruiters and Supervisors from each company. I was amazed by the assortment of women who showed up, excited by the chance to see what other women were doing at these companies and getting to know each other, and networking for many for the first time. It was instant chemistry. Women are a vital part of today's pipelines in the tech industry. I was impressed by the turn out, and how surprised women were to find out what each other's role was in the pipeline. 

Rachel Rose, Senior R&D engineer for Industrial, Light and Magic

I met encouraging women from all walks of life, who fill roles in different parts of the technical pipeline. Rachel Rose, who is a Senior R&D Engineer at Industrial, Light, & Magic was quite informative, and supportive of women looking to be work in engineering roles. She shared her experience as a technical engineer at ILM with other women. Women in engineering roles are growing, it was wonderful to meet this intelligent, strong role model. Pauline Koh is a young woman who did Render Management for the Motion Picture Company for over a year, she shared her experience about living in London and her technical knowledge on the Cloud, Camille Fache is a Character FX artist  who has worked on animated features was looking for new opportunities, while a met another woman Colleen Case MLS, a Professor of Computer Graphic Technology at Schoolcraft College in Michigan, who about 15 years ago went to South Africa touring schools to inspire & recruit young girls from K to 12 in the computer graphics & technical fields. All of these women in one place networking to create a better environment for women.

The following day I attended the Walt Disney Empowerment for Women event held in the morning by Disney. Pam Hogarth, who has a strong educational background has been devoted in schools like Gnomon & Otis in the getting women into computer graphics & engineering programs, she is on the Board of the Directors on the VES. Pam says the membership of the VES is 15% women. Alain Chesvnais who has served as the President of ACM from 2002 to 2005, is now part of the advocacy & support of women in computing in the ACMW, he is not shy about pointing out the lack of women in the computing field and good at asking the right questions that get people to think differently about women's roles in this field. He is very supportive of women who have projects in the computing field. 

Women attendees at Women In Tech Meet Up

Jinko Gotoh, who serves as Secretary for Women in Animation spoke about the role of Women in Animation supporting women working in the animation industry, and her estimate of women in school for animation was about 60 percent but in the workforce they only made up 20% of the workforce. Lisa Flom from Women in Technology talked about the issues women were facing in the work force as far as advancement and opportunities, she said that their membership was 150,000 members, and that WITI provided mentorship programs that helped women meet other women to serve as role models. I met this charismatic Astronomer Dr. Laura Danly PHD who serves as the Curator and Griffith Observatory and say they are hiring and would love to have women applicants. We talked briefly about The Baltimore Charter for Women in Astronomy that serves to equalize the role of women in science showing that diversity contributes and does not conflict with the excellence in the field of science & create an environment for women that is equal to men. 

Pauline Koh, Render Manager for the Motion Picture Company

Victoria Alonzo, Executive Vice President of Physical Production at Marvel Studios said while talking on a panel in Production Session, she was surprised to see a line for the women's bathroom at SIGGRAPH, but it also made her excited because it meant more women were at the trade show then ever. 

I want to thank Industrial, Light, & Magic, Disney, and Pixar for  sponsoring such a powerful event for women giving me the opportunity to talk about this, and for being supportive of women in the computing field. This is a big step, and one that addresses the diversity of women in the computing field.

Today, I have met many role models...and am thankful for the opportunity to keep growing. Change is coming.