UMass Amherst to Host Panel on Women in Technology

AMHERST, Mass. - A panel of industry and academic technical women will participate in a panel designed to provide insights into the opportunities, obstacles, successes, and war stories associated with being a woman in a technical field. "Been There, Done That: Technical Women Tell Their Stories," is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 26, in the Computer Science Building, room 150. Refreshments will precede the event at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the Five College community, as well as to the public. Women students in technical disciplines are particularly encouraged to attend.

The event is sponsored by TWIST (Trends for Women in Science and Technology). TWIST is a new initiative on the UMass campus targeted to the Five College community, and designed to encourage women to pursue careers in technical disciplines, as well as to address the issues of recruitment, retention, and support of women in science and technology.

"TWIST aims to encourage women to pursue technical disciplines and provide a strong support network, to keep them from dropping out of technical fields," said Marla Michel, who will moderate the panel.She is interim executive director of the Electronic Enterprise Institute at UMass and external relations director for the department of computer science. "We know that women feel outnumbered in their technical classes and, for a variety of reasons, may leave their majors prematurely. We want people on campus and in the community to be aware of some of those reasons so that practices might change to encourage the women, not drive them away."

Noting that TWIST is supported by a steering committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students, Michel added: "In addition to collecting data to monitor the progress of any initiatives started as a result of TWIST, we are also building a Web site, which will serve as an information resource for technical women, and maintaining a mailing list that already has almost 175 members from the Five College community. We are also looking to industry to provide funding that will support the networking efforts of our technical female students."

The panelists were invited based on their varied backgrounds and willingness to share their experiences as women in predominantly male fields. They include:

* Mary Cretekos, IBM Microelectronics - IBM''s technical liaison to UMass and a member of IBM''s Women in Technology group;

* Gerry Zimmerman, Raytheon - vice president of product assurance;

* Marie LaPlante, Haldor Topsoe - chemical engineer and UMass alumna;

* Pat Sciacca, Lucent Technologies - program manager in the Software Technology Center and founding president of AT&T''s Women of AT&T organization;

* Linda Slakey, UMass - interim dean of Commonwealth College and former dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics;

* Sandy Petersen, UMass - professor of biology.

The event is sponsored by Raytheon and IBM.

For more information, contact Marla Michel at marla@cs.umass.edu or 413/545-3651.