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Phoenix Conference Opens Door For Women In Tech Conversation

By Amanda Luberto
Published: Friday, April 29, 2016 - 8:33am
Updated: Monday, May 2, 2016 - 9:41am
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(Photo by Amanda Luberto - KJZZ)
Monique Morrow speaks to a group about the digitized world.
(Photo by Amanda Luberto - KJZZ)
Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference held at the Palomar Hotel.
(Photo by Amanda Luberto - KJZZ)
Monique Morrow talks to a group of girls at the conference.

Some of the world’s most progressive women in the technology sector met up in Phoenix recently to swap ideas. This was the second year the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference was held in the Valley.

More than two dozen speakers from around the world came to the Palomar Hotel in downtown Phoenix to discuss taking risks, tech secrets and the art of multitasking, in order to increase the number of females in the booming technology sector.

Monique Morrow, CTO at Cisco Systems, the largest networking technology company in the world, was one of the conference speakers. She talked about different aspects of the digitized world, and how women around the globe can get involved to get a head start on the rest of the tech field.

"The great news is there's a revolution among us. A revolution that you can't stop anymore,” she said.

Morrow came into the tech industry almost by accident. After spending time in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, a friend of hers convinced her to leave her work in foreign service and join his business.

“He said you can do it you can do it! And not only did I do it but I started to love it and love it even more,” she laughs.

When Morrow first got to Silicon Valley, tech was a field almost completely dominated by men. Even today, according to a gender equity report by Fenwick and West, only 9 percent of tech officers in Silicon Valley are women.

Recently, she has taken her love for tech in a new direction. Being CTO of New Frontiers at Cisco Systems allows her to look at the intersection of technology, economics and research for potential portfolio alignment. She travels often, looking at what tech women in other parts of the world need to achieve equality, and now wants to inspire other women to dream bigger.

In her talk she reminded her colleagues to keep three things in mind: women count, learn everything you can across multiple platforms, and have a purpose for everything in the workplace.

"Whatever we do, think about the purpose of what you're doing and think about adding. Whether it's here in Phoenix or whatever you do in the United States...that there's a purpose in what you do,” she said.

Kristina Landen is a sophomore at Embry Riddle University in Prescott studying software engineering with a focus in cyber security, a point that Morrow touched on multiple times. Landen came to the Girls in Tech conference to hear Morrow talk, but also to network with more women in her field.

"This is just more of an opportunity for me to meet new people, meet other girls my age potentially and learn more about everything that I can,” Landen said.

By most accounts the tech industry in Phoenix is booming, even if it’s still under the radar. Morrow said the challenge, not just locally but for the whole field, is to encourage women to take that leap of faith into a field still dominated by men.

“Please come into technology, there’s so much to do with technology. If you have an iPhone, why not create apps for it? I think you can do it,” Morrow said.

Next year, the conference will return to the Bay Area next year to Silicon Valley, still widely considered the tech and innovation hub of the nation.