Oct 21

IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference – The Inside Story

In 2017, IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC) will be back at the San Jose Convention Center on 22-23 May. Our team will be hosting over 1500 mid-to-senior technology professionals, industry leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world. WIE ILC has been growing at an incredible pace! Our audience has grown to over four times its initial size and we’ve managed to engage 2400+ women in tech and even initiate 25+ new product ideas through WIE ILC. People often ask me how and why IEEE WIE and I decided to create this flagship event focussed on mid-career women professionals. This post will take you through our story and help you be a part of the exciting WIE ILC journey!

Back in 2014, when I was International Chair for IEEE Women In Engineering (WIE), we took a look at the entire membership portfolio and asked ourselves if we were meeting our mission – which had just been updated to focus on inspiring, engaging and advancing women in technology worldwide. While WIE held many events tailored to young girls and women in the initial years of their careers, there were few events or initiatives that WIE led specifically for women or mid-career professionals who had already chosen STEM. There was a gap when it came to engaging this demographic in terms of professional/technical development and networking opportunities.

With this in mind, we decided to create a conference and local spin-off summits that focused on these women. The first step was launching the conference at the right location. Accessibility to the event, technical and financial support along with the manpower to pull this off were some elements we thought were key when we discussed options for the conference location. After investigation, we chose San Francisco, California for its strong international appeal, its innovative technology and its dynamic volunteer base.

Apply to volunteer for ILC 2017 today!

Second, we needed to have a focused and highly curated program. From the initial launch to now, WIE ILC’s attendance has steadily increased and we have scaled the quality of the conference tracks. We invited technology leaders from across the globe and worked hard to embrace the incredible technical diversity of IEEE, which spans the spectrum from computing to physics to electronics to biomedicine to aeronautics. We were able to reach out to all sorts of technology leaders, be it individuals or industries, to be a part of WIE ILC for exactly this reason.

“It was a pleasure to participate in the conference. My workshop was delivered to a full room of engaged women, and was dynamic and enriching. I am really thrilled by how well it connected with people, and had an impact.”

Over the years, we’ve invited a variety of speakers. In the first year our focus was on leadership and professional development. In our next iteration, we introduced the Emerging Technology track. In 2016, the Pitch Competition and other tracks around startups and entrepreneurship made its debut. Through all of these changes, WIE ILC has maintained uniformity when it comes to its core deliverable – technological development for female leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Challenges along the way

Though we had a clear vision for the conference, one of our earliest hurdles was trying to obtain seed funding. When IEEE has over 1600 events happening all across the world each year – each of these supported heavily by its volunteers – it’s a challenge to find funding. Nevertheless, we launched into this project with the help of an incredible volunteer team and slowly built industry partners to fund the conference.

“Thanks again for spearheading this conference and letting us participate as panelists. It was a pleasure and so worthwhile!”

We’ve consistently delivered a high quality event enabling the partnering organisations with an opportunity to provide professional career development for their employees, recruit top technical talent,  encourage women in STEM and showcase female industry leaders from within their organizations.

Watch highlights from ILC 2016 here.

The way forward – 2017 IEEE WIE ILC

WIE ILC is fully run by its strong base of volunteers with tremendous support from IEEE staff. I invest close to 35 hours a week to pull this off – and the committee has another ten core individuals supporting the event! It’s worth the effort because of the fabulous engagement of and feedback from attendees – when people from over 250 companies and over 40 countries tell you that they see value in attending WIE ILC and they will definitely attend the next edition, that’s an incredible validation in itself! But when an individual shared they found the courage to ask for a raise or an individual shares they applied for and got a promotion to a leadership role, nothing can beat that.  

I certainly hope that you will join us for 2017 IEEE WIE ILC, which will focus on entrepreneurship, empowerment, disruptive technology, innovation, leadership, and Accelerating Innovative Women Who Change the World. Hope to see you there! 

– Nita Patel, Chair IEEE WIE ILC. 

Edited by Alina Benny, Content Volunteer WIE ILC 2017.


About The Author

Nita Patel, P.E., is a Systems and Software Engineering Director at L-3 Warrior Systems. Nita is the Women in Engineering International Past-Chair, 2nd VP of the Computer Society BoG and on the Eta Kappa Nu BoG. As MGA WIE Chair, Nita led the successful launch of the WIE International Leadership Conference and developed a comprehensive business strategy to fulfil the mission of WIE to inspire, engage and advance women in technology. Outside of IEEE, she is active with Toastmasters and the United States Chess Federation.