University of Iowa Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dan Reed and others sat in the Red Chair Oct. 23 in the BioVentures Center at the UI Research Park to show support for women in computing careers.
The Red Chair is part of a nationwide campaign created by the organization Sit With Me “to symbolize that women in technology need more seats at the table, that men and women can sit in support and solidarity for technical women, and that one highly visible action can instigate others.”
The Red Chair’s visit to Iowa City was organized by IowaTechChicks, a community organization that strives to connect and educate women working in and interested in technology.
“We were thrilled when asked to host the red chair at the BioVentures Center at the UI Research Park,” said Stephanie Dengler, UI Research Park director of operations. “What a fantastic cause. With part of our park’s focus on Ed-Tech and Med-tech we are fully supportive of women in computing and IT.”
Individuals were invited to sit in the chair, have their picture taken, and share it online with the hashtag #womenintech.
Deb Walton, an IowaTechChicks member who took pictures for the BioVentures Center event, said that gender diversity in the workplace is important to her as the human resources manager for UI Research Park tenant Leepfrog Technologies, Inc., and on a more personal level as a mother of two teenage daughters.
“Women in general bring a different perspective to any workplace,” said Walton. “Many hands make light work, and if a female perspective can be brought into that, that’s awesome.”
Kristine Bullock, the Southeast Regional Manager for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, is another community member who sat in the Red Chair. Bullock said that less than 1 percent of high schools girls choose to go into computer science. Her mission as a member of the STEM Advisory Council is to bring more diversity to STEM fields by increasing awareness and interest about STEM careers for K-12 students.
“One of the biggest exports we have in Iowa is our talent,” Bullock said. “Getting kids to see these opportunities will affect the economic vitality of the state.”
One of the ways the UI is supporting the growth of diversity in STEM fields is through the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa, set to open at the UI Research Park in fall 2015. The facility will include a STEM floor for partnership between the Southeast Regional STEM Hub and the University of Iowa.
The partnership will provide unique opportunities for collaboration, mentoring, research, career preparation, and the development of innovative teaching/learning ecosystems and career pathways across the STEM disciplines for K-12, community college, and university students and educators.
At the BioVentures Center alone, 37 individuals came to sit in the Red Chair.
Prior to its visit to the BioVentures Center, the chair visited Little Village Magazine, 1 Million Cups and Geonetric in Cedar Rapids.