University Hosts Seventh Women in Tech Conference


Courtesy of VU Women in Tech

Dr. Alicia Strandberg currently serves as President of Villanova University Women in Tech.

Kendall Hayes

This past Saturday, Jan. 29, the University hosted its seventh Women in Tech Conference at the Inn at Villanova. In person for the first time since 2020, the conference pulled off a successful hybrid format with a theme based around quantum computing. 

The VU Women in Tech Conference brings Villanova students, faculty, alumnae and staff together from all of its different schools across campus. The conference gives women the opportunity to imagine a future career in technology, to network across schools, professions and generations and to truly become part of a conversation centered around technology. 

The day began at 8 a.m. with breakfast at the Inn at Villanova. At 9 a.m., introductions and keynote speakers began, which was followed by two sets of breakout sessions and a closing speaker. The conference ended at 2 p.m. 

Speakers included both Villanova and non-Villanova alum. From members of the FBI Cyber Squad to Microsoft employees to experts in their fields, the conference had it all. 

Director of VU Women in Tech, VSB Professor Alicia Strandberg, spoke about the conference this year, its origin and why it is important to have a conference such as this one on this campus. 

The conference began eight years ago when Sue Metzger, a professor at Villanova School of Business, took a group of students to a tech conference in Philadelphia. Metzger took charge and led a small group of students there. The conference blew them all away and made Metzger ask herself why this only had to happen one day a year. This idea that Villanova could have the potential to host its own tech conference is what led to the start of Villanova’s own Women in Tech conference. 

Strandberg explained that Metzger knew exactly what she was doing when she created her committee for the Women in Tech conference. 

“She was very intentional,” Strandberg said. “She did not want it to only be a school of business endeavor, so she teamed up with her friends across campus. We have somebody from every college on the committee.” 

The conference was not always at the Inn at Villanova. During its humble beginnings, the event took place at Bartley Hall. Strandberg explained a little bit about the first Women in Tech conference at the University. 

“We said let’s do it on a Saturday and if we can get 50 students or 50 people to show up, we’ll call it a success,” Strandberg explained. “Well, that Saturday we had 100. It was a nice day. We actually ran out of lunches and started buying people lunch at the Curley Exchange. We pulled it together and we saw the immediate interest.”

In the early days of the Women in Tech Conference, themes were kept very general, with a focus on accidental technologists: Women that had degrees, but did not expect their careers to take them into tech yet ended up there. As time went on and the conferences got bigger, the committee tried to tackle something new. Conferences had themes such as blockchain, financial technology and now quantum computing. 

At this year’s conference, due to the theme, many of the speakers discussed quantum computing. Jessica Pointing from the University of Oxford was one of these speakers who is considered an expert on quantum. Students who felt that they needed a more basic description of quantum made their way to Denise Ruffner’s breakout session, as she has written a children’s book on the subject. 

Katelyn Tsai, one of the students on the committee, spoke about why conferences such as this one are important for Villanova students. 

“As technology is the industry of the future and women are glaringly underrepresented within it, this conference empowers, motivates and inspires women in tech to be leaders in our field,” Tsai said. “Attendees have the unique opportunity to learn from experienced professionals who inspire us to be forward-thinking and innovative.”

Strandberg made it clear that a main goal of this conference is that Villanova students can not only be a part of the conversation on technology, but also feel truly comfortable with it. 

“It’s good to be in the know,” Strandberg said. “When you graduate, I want you to feel comfortable. I want you to not lose your love of learning.”

Strandberg did not fall short of this goal this year, as 117 people and people attended the 2022 Women in Tech conference this past Saturday. For those who did not catch the conference, links to all of the speakers will be on the Women in Tech website by the end of this week.