Last week, I attended the 2007 PASS Community Summit in Denver. It was my first time going to PASS, and I was impressed by how in-depth the sessions were and involved the attendees were in the conference events. However, the Women in Technology Luncheon and Panel Discussion, which was held on Thursday, September 20, was the highlight of PASS for me. This year’s panel discussion topic was “Women in Technology: Reaching our Goals.” Denise McInerney, who won this year’s PASSion Award, was the chair of the panel, which included four other women from all different areas of the SQL Server community: Sharon Dooley, who has a consulting practice and is a SQL curriculum manager for Learning Tree International; Lara Rubbelke, who recently left Digineer to work as a tech specialist for Microsoft; Andrea Schneider, who works on the SQL Server team at Microsoft; Buffy Ransom, who is a senior director for Oracle’s JDEdwards EnterpriseOne. These women have differing levels of SQL Server or database experience (for example, Sharon has worked with SQL Server since it was first released, whereas Andrea has only been in the IT industry for three years), but all are highly respected in the SQL Server community.

The luncheon gave women (and men) in the SQL Server community a chance to ask the panelists questions related to how to reach your goals. Many of the questions that were asked, such as who are the key members of the panelists' networks and what obstacles have they had to overcome to get where they are now, were predictable, as were many of the panelists' answers. However, one thing surprised me: None of the women on the panel felt that they had ever had to fight to be equal with their male coworkers. Because I’ve only been in the IT industry for about 21 months and I’ve seen that the industry is male dominated, I expected at least one of the women on the panel to say that she’d had to fight to be equal with her male coworkers. Although none of the panelists felt they’d had to prove themselves as a woman in their jobs, Sharon offered advice for women who do feel like they have to prove themselves in a male-dominated industry: don’t try to be “one of the guys.” Denise suggested making sure that everyone knows what you’re doing well, so that gender isn’t ever a problem. After attending the Women in Technology Luncheon and Panel Discussion last week, I believe that every woman in the SQL Server community should go to it if they attend PASS. The luncheon is empowering and it’s great to hear how other women in the industry have handled problems and gotten where they are today. For more information about the Women in Technology special interest group, go to http://sigs.sqlpass.org/WIT/tabid/105/default.aspx.