Minnesota is home to the Thomson Reuters Legal business, but did you know it has also recently been a hub for female students interested in technology fields? The Anita Borg Institute, for example, hosts the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference each year, welcoming attendees from around the world. This year, with help from local sponsors and supporters, the Anita Borg Institute was able to invite 40 female high school students from the Minneapolis area, creating an important opportunity for young women interested in technology fields.

Joining thousands of professionals from around the world in October, the students will be able to attend and participate in events like the keynote speaker address, a code-a-thon, Grace Hopper Open Source Day, and gaming workshops. The program, dubbed the Grace Hopper GenConnext Program, is in its first year.

Anna Grecco, vice president of Technology for Thomson Reuters, is on the Grace Hopper GenConnext program committee, and shared some of her time to discuss challenges, opportunities, and more for young women interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Tell us about your career path – how did you become a successful professional in the field of legal technology?
At the start of my career, I worked my way through technical positions in software testing and software development, which gave me a full appreciation of and experience with the entire software development lifecycle. I broadened my experience over the years by working in both large and small companies, in a variety of functional areas, and with different teams and organizations. I also continually developed my leadership skills through experience and through the advice and coaching of a couple strong female mentors. 

What challenges did you face along the way?
I faced a few difficult situations early in my career, some with colleagues and some with management. These challenges weren’t unique to being female, but they taught me to be true to my values and to have the courage to speak up.  I also learned that although you are doing a good job, you need to actively pursue your next career opportunity and not wait for someone to seek you out.

How has the field changed for women since you were in school?
When I received my undergraduate degree in Computer Science, 36 percent of Computer and Information Sciences undergraduates were female. In 2011 only 18 percent were female. At the same time, technology jobs are expected to be among the fastest-growing over the next decade because technology is used everywhere. These days, women in technology often find themselves in the minority, especially as they move up the career ladder.

As a professional in legal technology, what do you believe is important about programs like this?
We need to inspire and encourage more young women to consider careers in technology. The more we can dispel myths about technology, remove barriers, influence thinking, and help young women develop confidence to overcome challenges, the bigger pipeline we’ll build and the more diversity we’ll bring to the technology field.

How do you believe women can impact the field of legal technology?
Studies have proven that diversity leads to improved business results, increased productivity, and better problem solving. Women can bring highly innovative ideas to solve important problems in legal technology or a variety of other fields. In addition, women are awesome at helping other women and can provide a strong support system to encourage and develop other women technologists.

What advice would you give to young women interested in STEM fields?
Go for it. Seek out opportunities and role models to learn from as you consider career options. Don’t let stereotypes or perceptions influence your decisions.

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