For this year’s International Women’s Day, my personal #ChoosetoChallenge was to connect with women working in technology and ask them, ‘What motivates you as a woman in tech?’
I was further challenged by Maigh Houlihan, industry veteran and long time advocate for underrepresented communities in technology, to make this list represent women in tech working in these four categories:
- Women in highly technical roles (developers/engineering, system administration, DBA’s)
- Women who work for technical groups and hold technical supporting roles (project, program and product management, leadership)
- Women who work for a company that produces or supports technology, or supports our technology community
- Women who leverage technology to do good and pay-it forward
“It’s important that our community is inclusive and supportive of all women in technology without diminishing the contributions of the small percentage of women who are engineering and hands-to-keyboard building the technology,” Maigh said. “Each discipline within the ecosystem has unique needs. It’s also critical to recognize the nuances of building consumer-facing products or internal products – from architecture and scaling to UX and design or scrutiny by compliance oversight, they require specialization.”
Maigh also noted that while representation may be improving across the field, it’s imperative as an industry to remain mindful that the number of women actually working in hands-on technical roles remains low. Reports have this number at roughly 10% of those women working in developer roles, and it continues to be a leaky bucket.
“When we’re talking about attracting and growing more women into STEAM, the shortage of women in functional roles isn’t nearly as grave as those with highly technical skills,” Maigh said.
Yet the roles women can play in technology are infinite. While there are thousands of women working in STEAM in tech hubs such as Atlanta, Austin, Nashville, and beyond, there is still so much work to be done.
In this article, we are fortunate to highlight these women doing good work in the tech industry and wanted to shine the spotlight on women who may not be as well-known.
For this International Women’s Day, let’s learn more about what motivates women in tech.
“Helping entrepreneurs grow is what motivates me! I love watching their success and being a small part of that through Venture Atlanta. Collaboration! This is a great community and the more we work together, the better. I specifically love partnering with organizations like Launchpad2X.” — Allyson Eman, CEO, Venture Atlanta
“I’m from a small town in Mississippi, so I had to build a big-city network from scratch, and I had to do a late-in-life career change, which meant I had to reinvent my skill set and my network. So I’m driven to succeed because I want others in those situations to see that it can be done, even though it’s hard (like, really hard). Also, my husband and I recently had a baby boy, and now I have the challenge of successfully balancing being a good mom, wife and professional woman. I haven’t figured that one out just yet, but my husband’s unwavering support and wanting to be a good role model for my son definitely motivates me!” — Aly Merritt, Head of Community at SalesLoft | Host at Atlanta Startup Village
“I’m motivated most by the strong women from my home community that were incredible examples of resourcefulness, persistence, and compassion. I’m motivated by the potential of technology to give back the privilege of time to people that are time-poor. And lastly, I’m motivated by the idea of technology opening the doors of opportunity, accessibility and equality for all people, but especially the ones that are under-resourced.” — Amanda Sabreah, Founder / CEO, Staat
“Tech is constantly evolving; you’ve got to be comfortable with the crazy pace and constant change. There’s not a problem that can’t be solved if you’re focused enough, curious enough and open to the possibilities. Start-ups attract people like that, and I love building cultures designed to help them reach their full potential. As an adrenaline junkie who thrives in a competitive environment, there’s no industry for me better than tech.” — Amy Zimmerman, Chief People Officer, Relay Payments, & Co-founder of PeopleCo.
“My motivations are pretty simple: how can I be the best possible version of myself and embody my highest, greatest good? Tech provides so much opportunity to expand and grow, and the innovation cycles are so inspiring. It’s the perfect playground to not only learn about oneself, but learn about others.” — Asia Orangio, CEO & Founder, DemandMaven
“I’m motivated by a future where the people building products and services are as diverse as the people who use them. By building a supportive community where all people are welcome and valued because of who they are and help and support is encouraged, we help increase diversity and inclusion in technology.” — Beth Laing, Engineering Manager at CallRail, Director of Women Who Code ATL, organizer REFACTR.TECH
“My job is incredibly rewarding because I know that we’re giving companies peace of mind knowing they’ve taken the necessary steps to protect themselves against security breaches – and that they can call us if something were to happen. It’s even better when you consider that I get to do this work with awesome, incredibly intelligent colleagues who all believe we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.” — Bonnie Smyre, COO, Raxis
“I entered the Atlanta tech scene nearly 10 years ago with the hope of making an impact on the fastest growing industry and denouncing the idea that greatness, intellect, and unicorns can’t come from the South. Atlanta has not only debunked this myth, but exceeded expectations being ranked amongst the best in tech and outpacing other cities on our way to the top. We are attracting and retaining the best talent. It’s our time, and in the words of rapper Cardi B, Atlanta is UP, and it’s STUCK. Yet, as fortunate as I am to be a woman in tech, the harsh reality is that there still aren’t enough of us. The number of women of color in tech is even more startling. I’m motivated to change this narrative and empower others to break tech glass ceilings for our future generations. We owe it to ourselves, and I owe it to my two-year-old daughter to forge a path of opportunities.” — Brianna Jackson, HR Manager, Hannon Hill | Atlanta Ventures
“When I started Marketwake it was because I watched a tiny boat make a large wake in the water ahead. I realized then that every person leaves a wake and my mission was, and is, to help make it positive. No matter how small you may feel your wake is, I want to show people they have meaning, that their business and ideas matter and that they can impact, and change, the world around them. My mission is to help people and businesses leave a mark on this world for the better and share the stories of those who are working tirelessly to do so.” — Brooke Beach, CEO, Marketwake
“My motivation as a woman in tech comes from watching people develop as professionals and individuals. One truth has resonated throughout my career, as a leader my job is PEOPLE and if I get that right everything else will follow. There is no greater motivation than watching someone reach their career goals and better yet, watching them evolve into the rep/leader you knew they could be.” — Cassie Fields, Chief Revenue Officer | Field Services Division, Clearent
“In working across industries and continents, technology has always helped me do my best work. I made my decision to move to Atlanta in 2016 after discovering that the city had a burgeoning technology startup scene in the backdrop of Fortune 500 companies. In learning about Atlanta’s history and role in thought leadership and changemaking, it was the perfect landing place for my next career move because I wanted to have a seat at the table at the ground level of innovation. As a daughter of an immigrant and an Asian-American woman in tech, creating and sharing opportunities in technology is what motivates me. At Tech Square ATL Social Club, I get to do this by inviting researchers, startup entrepreneurs and corporate innovators (new to Atlanta or not) to conversations and collaborations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” — Cathleen Madrona, Manager, Member Experience, Tech Square ATL Social Club
“So many of the women that I’m fortunate to know are creative and thoughtful and strong, all qualities that lend themselves so well to working in tech. As an early stage startup leader, you have to move quickly and to excel requires the freedom and confidence to try new things. I’m motivated by the feeling of empowerment that comes from working in this industry, as well as the knowledge that empathy for both the team and the clients you serve is recognized and rewarded.” — Christine Ladd, Head of Marketing, Sonar
“I am living the dream. Working in the technology industry is exciting and constantly changing so there is always something new to learn. Each day, I get to make a difference by applying technology to solve problems and help college football recruits and coaches connect and win in football and life.” — Diane Bloodworth, CEO, Competitive Sports Analysis
“I love thinking of creative ways to solve a problem or try something new. As a marketer in the tech space at an extremely fast-paced company, the things we are thinking about and solving for today didn’t exist just a year ago. Having a career that also doubles as a creative outlet keeps me engaged and inspires me to always be pushing the envelope.” — Emily Fultz, Product Marketing Manager, Salesforce
“Building something entirely new or solving problems in unique ways motivates me. I’m really driven to understand how what we build impacts our communities and society. My biggest motivator, though, is to make tech a space where anyone, regardless of their background, can add their own twist and build that solution they’re passionate about, without the hurdles many people from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds currently face.” — Erica Stanley, General Manager at Mozilla Hubs, Venture Partner at Outlander Labs, Founder of Women Who Code ATL, Organizer for REFACTR.TECH
“One thing that motivates me is being able to do and create something that actually impacts people’s lives in a good way. If my company has made a customer’s life easier or just better, I’m like, ‘Yes! we did something right. Let’s keep going.’ Hearing a customer tell me how the product that my team and I worked on has impacted their life is something that keeps me moving forward and wanting to continue being an entrepreneur.” – Ifrah Kahn, CEO + Co-founder of Clubba
“It’s the support for me. The Southeastern tech scene is unmatched when it comes to inspirational women all leading and spurring one another on. Whether you’ve been in the game for 10 years or just kicked off your career, we continually bounce ideas off each other, and challenge one another to be our best selves.” — Jacey Lucus, Marketing Lead, Atlanta Ventures
“It has always been the people. I have been fortunate to have met amazingly talented and resilient women (and men) over the years working with underrepresented founders and as the organizer of TEDxAtlanta that it inspires me to want to ensure they tell their stories in the most resonant way.” — Jacqui Chew, Managing Director/CMO iFusion
“Every morning, I’m motivated by my 3 dragons, iFOLIO’s tech, team & culture. I remember babies, and now they breathe fire! Let’s fly fierce and true friends!” Jean Marie Richardson, President & CEO, iFOLIO
“I love working in technology because I’m always working on a team that’s finding new ways to solve complex business problems. Tech is also at the forefront of innovation and as a marketer, that’s exactly where you want to be – pioneering a new path to customer experience excellence.” — Jen Anderson-Alonzi, VP of Marketing, Overhaul
“The first thing I ever learned in design school was that my role as a designer is to create a whole new world that doesn’t exist, that no one can live without. That’s what I want to build and it’s hard to beat someone who never gives up. One of my strengths as a leader in tech is that I have a strong vision yet the humility to admit I haven’t figured everything out and it’s this tireless pursuit of testing our assumptions with the market, our customers and our team, that will inevitably lead us to not only a successful tech company but a more inclusive and sustainable world that no one can live without.” — Jenn Graham, Founder & CEO of Civic Dinners
“Healthcare is a complex industry in dire need of innovation. Anyone who has been to the doctor can tell you that. Not only do I thrive on a challenge, but I love working on solutions that I know are having a positive impact on our society.” — Jessica Chew, VP of Marketing, Trella Health
“Every day is an opportunity to make a difference to my clients, my family, and my community. I love tackling a complex problem and making it simpler for companies to understand and implement. As a working mom, I strive to be a role model for my daughters so they raise to their highest potential in all aspects of their lives.” — Jodi Daniels, Founder, CEO & Privacy Consultant, Red Clover Advisors
“Working in technology, things are never stagnant because as innovations are created, there are always new and interesting ways to solve age-old problems. Curiosity has been a consistent motivator in my career journey and more specifically, as a product leader. Knowing that my success is largely determined by how well I am able to learn and adapt to changes in user and market needs presents a fun challenge each day.” — Joy Guerin, Group Product Manager, ParkMobile
“Outsized service motivates me as a woman in tech. Service of any kind is important, small acts of kindness and Bill Gates size donations. But through technology, we have the opportunity to serve others in a scalable way, and I’m not sure what could be more exciting than that kind of service.” — Kaitlin Lutz, Founder & CEO, NewCrew
“I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a group of driven, motivated, and accomplished women who I’m lucky to call friends and mentors. Oftentimes it’s easy for women to listen to their inner self-doubt, but I’m able to mute those thoughts by turning to this group of women for motivation, encouragement, to learn and to evolve. And let’s face it, we also vent life and work’s challenges over wine. Either way, we lift each other by acting as motivational mirrors—constantly pushing one another and holding each other accountable on our personal and professional goals—and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!” — Karli Figueroa, Director, B2B Marketing, Kinetic by Windstream
“Nothing lights a fire in my soul more than a big, messy problem to solve. Tell me what’s broken and give me permission to fix it. Whether it’s making experiences better for customers or tightening up product positioning, the thing that keeps me motivated is the thrill of working through the puzzle.” — Melanie Crissey, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Netlify
“I want to look back at a life lived well and know that I said yes as often as I could: when my daughter asked me to play, to the family adventures, to the professional challenges, and to building and creating new things. A full life is one that is rich in relationships and experiences, and my mission is to never look back and be left wishing and wondering what could have been.” — Karen Houghton, Vice President, Atlanta Tech Village
“Having the opportunity to focus on my passion, to continue learning, and to build a better future are my three motivators. I’m fortunate to wake up and do what I love by focusing on customer strategy, and assisting my teams in growing and achieving their goals. In hyper growth businesses being strategic and flexible is challenging yet critical for growth; this breeds opportunity for constant learning and professional development. Lastly, I’m incredibly motivated to be a part of the solution that’s focused on and working towards greater diversity and equality in tech.” — Katie Christian, Head of Customer Success, Calendly
“At Dearduck, our whole team is motivated by the opportunity to solve the big, complex problems of digital discovery through innovative solutions. For myself, personally, I’m always motivated by my team, who teach me new things every single day—which means I’m big on embracing humility and being solution-oriented! Finally, the chance to be wildly creative, especially in team sessions, is another major motivation that I’m crazy about.” — Katy Aucoin, Founder, Dearduck
“As one of the General Partners of The JumpFund, I’m motivated to be a part of solving some of the most urgent challenges women-led tech startups continue to face. Two examples of those challenges include access to capital for growth and to a more inclusive ecosystem. And as a VC investing in these early stage startups, the most rewarding part of my job is when I have the opportunity to provide funding and support to a company that’s the perfect combination of the right idea at the right time with the right team.” — Kim Seals, General Partner, The Jump Fund
“I thrive on helping companies meet and exceed their growth targets. Over the years, my focus has turned to leadership and helping my team learn and implement GTM best practices, focus on results and positive business outcomes, and always be improving and optimizing. As a woman leader in tech, I offer support and mentorship to other women in my company and the broader industry, which I find incredibly rewarding.” — Kira Mondrus, SVP Global Marketing at Tricentis
“I work every day on technology that supports those caring for others and makes visible the often invisible and underappreciated work of caregiving. Technology that supports families and medical professionals in achieving the best possible health outcomes for their loved ones. I can’t think of a better use of my time and abilities than that.” — Lauren Longo, CEO, Talli™
“I am motivated by a challenge. I like tackling new, complex business problems and identifying ways to build operational efficiency. I am also motivated by the startup environment which is a combination of company culture, executive leadership, and passionate coworkers.” — Lauren Sanborn, Director of Revenue Operations, CallRail
“Community motivates me and authentic connection. There’s nothing like being connected to other innovative women who are spearheading movements, change and being disrupters. It’s replenishing.” — Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, CEO/Founder, The Village Market ATL
“I’m motivated by having a seat at the table particularly in such a male-dominated industry. Being able to prove that women can do these types of roles and working to change the perception of what an executive is and can be has been a huge driver for me. It’s important to connect with, support and lift up the women that surround you to prove that anything is possible.” — Libby DeCamps, VP of Marketing, Charityvest
“I’m motivated by the challenge to always be learning. Tech evolves rapidly and it’s hard to imagine an environment more conducive to continued learning and growth. I’m also motivated by my daughter. I want her to grow up seeing me lead and build things I’m proud of.” — Lindsay Trinkle, COO & Co-founder, Makeswift
“I appreciate my leadership role in a technology company because it requires and offers constant learning – both in how our solution can innovate to save and enrich lives – and in how I and our team can use technology to grow the business. As a female leader, I am motivated by finding ways in which my voice and perspective contribute uniquely to our team, which – of course – not because I am a woman, but because of my skills and abilities.” — Mary Ford, CMO, CENTEGIX
“Breaking glass ceilings commonly positioned to hinder women from furthering their careers in spaces that were routinely not designed with them in mind to lead. I’m a builder by nature and found tech to be a gateway to create disruptive technology to democratize philanthropic and tech for good space in a way that hadn’t been done before providing access for all.” — Sevetri Wilson, CEO, Resilia
“Tech is our Everest. And I am a thrill seeker. I have always sought out a challenge, and my career was no exception. Although we have come a long way, being a woman in tech has never been the path of least resistance. I am inspired by the pioneers that came before us and motivated by the generation of women that surround me every day who are gaining a seat at the table and leading advancements in innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship.” — Meagan M. Klosterhaus, Director of Marketing Automation, Global Payments
“The math. The science. The prospect of the future and building tomorrow. Each day I get to solve problems someone is having and work towards a solution. Maybe I can’t fix everything going on in the world, but I can help work towards making each day a little bit better. A little more based in facts, data, and helping others understand something seemingly complex.” — Megan Owens, Manager, Marketing Analytics, MailChimp
“Though we’ve made some great advancements, being a woman of color and leader in technology is one of the primary motivators for pursuing my career in our industry. Also, as the mother of a young daughter, I want to show her that no matter what she wants to do, it’s achievable by being authentic and resilient in the pursuit of her career.” – Michelle Reape, Marketing Mom Boss Media
“Every morning I wake up with an unbelievable amount of determination to keep going, to keep working until tech innovation meets the needs of people everywhere. As an early-stage VC, it is a sincere honor and privilege to support founders as they build our collective future, bit by bit. By showing up as myself, putting one foot in front of the other each day, I hope to inspire future generations to see their unique experiences as a competitive advantage in the market as they build their own careers.” — Monique Villa, Investor, Mucker Capital
“I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to support others on their path to success. Whether it’s helping my team members at Tackle learn and grow on their career journey or ensuring each member of the Atlanta Revenue Collective community has the professional support they need. I thrive off working with amazing people each day and helping them navigate the ups and downs of software, revenue leadership, and startups.” — Nicole Wojno Smith, VP of Marketing, Tackle.io
“Technology is all about disruption and innovation which means there’s an incredible opportunity to dictate what the new future we’re building will look like and how it will speak to and support women. This tremendous responsibility is incredibly motivating and empowering.” — Melissa Pegus, Senior Associate, Tech Square Ventures
“We move so fast in tech, and change is constant. That means my personal and professional growth is always on – there’s never a boring moment. Every day I’m learning something new, expanding a nascent skillset, or tackling a new challenge. I’ll be a better marketer tomorrow than I am today because of the growth opportunities tech presents.”— Nicole Smith, Senior Marketing Manager, MURAL
“I am a tad bit obsessed with my own growth and development – both as a human being and in my career. I love being an entrepreneur because I am constantly provided with the opportunity to challenge myself beyond what I feel capable of. I love looking back and seeing how far I’ve come – and also looking ahead and seeing how much I still have to learn.” — Rachel McCrickard, CEO / Founder, Motivo
“I believe that providing capital for women-led and Black-owned businesses provides economic empowerment, inclusive economic growth, and overall gender equality. As the number of sustainable women-led businesses increases, society as a whole will benefit from inclusive job growth, as well as products and services that better reflect the input of women. Once women and Black founders have a larger role in the economies of our communities, we will be able to build a society that is more reflective of our needs, desires, and aspirations.” — Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, Founder & CEO, EnrichHER
“I am motivated by my ability to provide a unique perspective to make the lives of others better. As cliche as, “making the world a better place” is, it is actually one of the most motivating forces there is if you can actually find an organization where it is true.” — Sarah Lee, Chief Operating Officer, New Story
“I love being on the forefront of big transformation – both for society and businesses we work with. Technology has the ultimate power to make a difference, and I want to be a small part of creating change that matters. I fundamentally believe that the way we use technology and build products or businesses has a tremendous opportunity to impact communities and the people within them.” — Sara Saxner, VP Growth, Three Five Two
“I’ve always been motivated by being creative and constantly learning something new. Being in Customer Experience has taught me to think on my feet and take challenges as opportunities to improve both personally and professionally. In our interactions with customers, I am genuinely curious to understand their process, what’s working and what isn’t, and making it a collaborative effort on what we can do to improve to help them grow. No matter how much we rely on technology, there is something to be said about the importance of adding a human element in our day-to-day interactions within our organizations and customers alike!” — Stacy Oh, Customer Success Team Lead, Curricula
“There are 3 things that motivate me:
1) Alignment. My life has been a series of decisive moments that have required me to let go of who I thought I was in order to claim who I truly am. In a world that is quick to assign us our place in a proscribed hierarchy, I have learned to appreciate the journey to carve my own path based on living out my own unique being. I’m also motivated to continue on my unique path when I see others who are on the same journey to themselves.
2) Inclusion. Each one of us has wisdom we’ve cultivated through our lives. When that wisdom is overlooked and arbitrarily undervalued based on fake labels like race, age, ethnicity, and gender, it is gut-wrenching and off-putting. Having experienced this myself, I’m deeply motivated to create safe spaces for people to show up as themselves and feel valued for what they bring to the table. This is why I align closely with Zane Venture Fund’s mission.
3) Deploying the Fullest Expression of My Voice. We are multifaceted. My personal journey has included claiming all facets of my voice: being Latina, a mom, an entrepreneur, a dancer, and a financial whiz – especially when others were determined to keep me small and quiet. My life’s work is empowering others to do the same. This is the voice I bring to empower capital markets to do better.” — Stefanie Diaz, Partner, Zane Venture Fund
“What motivates me as a woman in tech…
- All the bad ass women around me, as they level up, take new risks in unexplored areas and evolve; it inspires me to do the same – the fearlessness is contagious and powerful
- Taking the approach of ‘seeing the world with new eyes’ and regenerating that for everyday work but also for things I don’t have experience with gives me perspective and allows me to offer a unique view. Embracing this mindset and seeing this as an advantage helped me so much when first starting in tech and continues to fuel me.
- The ability to consistently test, change, and iterate in the tech industry is really exciting and keeps me going. Though challenging, the constant adaptation I myself have to make due to the ongoing shifts in the market/industry is fulfilling, and inevitably trickles into benefit building resilience in other areas of my life (and vice versa).
“I’m also beyond passionate about flexing and fostering emotional intelligence within the organization, which has become even more critical in this ever-changing and increasingly digital environment – it really is at the core of everything we do as leaders and creates endless opportunity for ingenuity.” — Sydney Cummings, Chief of Staff | VP of Business Operations, Terminus
“As a first-generation immigrant and first in my family to attend college, I have carried an innate drive to stay in motion, understanding that motivation often comes after getting started. What motivates me in my work is that I get to do what I’m passionate about supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs, building community, and using my platform to give back. With that, I am inspired to help others recognize their highest potential and build a meaningful career worth having.” — Tami McQueen, VP of Marketing, Panoramic Ventures
“My work in inclusive innovation is fueled by my belief that the boldest, biggest ideas become reality in the most diverse yet inclusive rooms. Enlarging the space and access for more people of color to build businesses and pursue careers in tech, shortens the distance to an equitable future in our schools, boardrooms and communities. We have work to do, to bring that future into view, but the pipeline of minority talent in tech is robust and the outcomes of uplifting that talent are certain and transformative.” — Theia Smith, Director of Inclusive Innovation, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC)
“What motivates me is the opportunity I have to make the world a better place through technology, especially for children and their parents. The possibilities are endless, and with drive, persistence, faith, and creativity, all things are possible — things you might not even fathom.” — Titania Jordan, CMO, Bark
We have so much work to do, and we’re all in this together to build a better world. Thank you to all of these Wonder Women for sharing what motivates them today and every day.