By Wanda Tankersley, COO
The U.S. Census estimates that computer and engineering occupations hold 80% of the science, tech, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce; but of these positions, only about 15% are filled by women. Narrowing this gender gap in tech is the driving force behind the national non-profit organization Girls Who Code.
Partnering with like-minded organizations to advance future generations in the communities we serve is at the heart of our mission here at MTA, and we were thrilled to serve as the official tech partner of Girls Who Code Camp for Mat-Su Borough students. On June 1, we kicked off the first day of camp, where I had the honor of delivering a keynote presentation on my experience as a woman in tech. The final day of camp was held in our new location at the Shoppes at Sun Mountain. The day was spent exploring the high-tech workspace we’ve created there, hearing from a women-led panel of MTA employees, and collaborating as teams. The panel, featuring women of various career paths within MTA, had a strong focus on how each department uses tech.
Heading into this women-powered week, I reflected on a time when I was in these young women’s shoes. Today, I’m the COO of a tech powerhouse that generates over $100 million annually, though this hasn’t always been the case. I was a solidly average student in middle and high school, and I didn’t come from a particularly fruitful background.
When I think about how I transitioned from where I started to where I am today, I think about the wonderful teachers I had that encouraged me every step of the way. For me, education was the key for me to change the life I had been born into, and I grabbed onto that like a lifeline. By the time I finished college, I had become a strong student – not because I was the smartest in the room, but because I was curious, persistent and hard-working.
Even in my professional life, though, tech has not always been at the center of what I do. I started off in accounting, working for one of the Big Four accounting firms, but soon realized that what I love doing most is solving problems to help make a community the best it can be – and working in both tech and telecom allows me to do just that.
It was awe-inspiring to be able to share my story and experiences with the young women of the Mat-Su Borough, and to help serve as the beacon of light that once guided me to where I am now. I, like MTA as a whole, remain dedicated to fostering and empowering the next generation of women tech leaders and setting them up to pioneer our community’s ever-bright future.
We thank Girls Who Code for allowing MTA to be a part of this journey and look forward to future partnerships that can help get young women excited about all the possibilities that the tech field can offer them.