The impact of women-led innovation on the world is undeniable—from everyday items like the paper coffee filter and windshield wipers to complex technologies such as frequency-hopping mobile technology and computer compiler language. But even as women continue to make significant progress toward parity in the broader workplace, technology-related industries are lagging, by most metrics. According to a 2020 Built In report, women account for 47% of the U.S. workforce, but only hold 26% of computing-related positions.1
Women in tech: making their mark
Three inventors at Bank of America share how childhood curiosity has spurred a lifetime of innovation
Emerging technologies in particular—including augmented reality, artificial intelligence and facial recognition—are pushing businesses to be more intentional about designing technology that’s representative of the people it’s intended to serve. That’s why, in addition to being socially responsible, it makes real business sense to encourage women and other diverse voices in the workplace--volumes of research continue to show that, across all industries, teams with gender as well as racial diversity drive better financial performance and are more successful.2 In the video below, three inventors share what drives their creativity and how bringing together diverse perspectives can inspire more equitable solutions.
“We know that having all voices at the table only helps us create better solutions,” notes Katherine Dintenfass, senior vice president of digital planning at Bank of America. And Dintenfass didn’t originally see herself as an inventor. As a child, she explains, she was always very curious, constantly asking questions and visiting the library with her parents to find the answers.
“When I was little, I took apart the TV because I wanted to see how pictures got into the box,” she remembers. “It was later in life that I realized solving problems in unique ways was inventing.” Katherine recently helped launch a new digital banking tool designed to give customers easier access to the resources they need. In her role, she notes, fostering a creative environment is key to finding new solutions and making a positive difference in people’s lives. “We’re supported in a way that everyone can be an inventor. It’s incumbent upon all of us to find innovative solutions and to be part of the inventing process.”
Helping people stay healthier
Heather Dolan, a senior vice president in payments and merchant services at Bank of America, specializes in creating innovative ways to help make payments easy and secure for customers. Like Dintenfass, her fascination with figuring things out started at a young age. “When I was in grade school, I recall working on my first technology project. I wrote a program that printed out a rose. I found it incredible that I could create something that could create something else,” she says. “That was the moment I knew I wanted to be involved in technology innovation.”
The pandemic has made many of Heather’s innovations even more important. Recently, Heather worked on person-to-person payments using augmented reality glasses. “In the past, these types of applications felt far out. But, being in a physically distanced world makes these kinds of innovations even more important to help keep our customers safe.” Dolan says. “The coronavirus has transformed many of the technologies I work on. What was once about convenience is now about helping people stay healthy.”
The link between curiosity and success
Rebecca Morgan, a senior vice president in the bank’s Cash and Transportation Services group, began to see her career path when she took an introductory computer programming class in college. However, her curiosity had begun to manifest itself much earlier. She remembers, as a child, deconstructing a Rubik's Cube to see how the pieces fit together. “I just took a screwdriver to it!” she says. “Unfortunately, it never quite fit together the same way.”
In her current role, working to bring better digitization and standardization to the banking industry, Morgan is able to work with other financial institutions and can attest first-hand to the value of diversity in business. At a recent industry forum, she says, she and others were “tasked with reviewing a policy and documenting a persuasive case for change. While everyone had their own individual perspectives, we learned we were stronger when we could tell the story together. We were successful because we were curious about one another’s ideas and approaches.”
For some women in the technology industry, the effort toward gender equality is personal. As Dintenfass, Dolan and Morgan all emphasized, their work is made better by introducing diversity into the problem-solving process. Says Dintenfass, “When I think about the legacy we want to leave behind for the next generation of women, it’s centered on a more representative view of technology.”