WiMCO Aims to Bring More Women into the Mission Critical Fold

Educate. Encourage. Enable.These three words define the efforts of a pioneering group of women in the Carolinas 7x24 Exchange chapter who have begun an initiative to recruit more women into the field. Together they have formed the Women in Mission Critical Operations (WiMCO) committee as part of the chapter with the intention of taking this initiative to a national level.

WiMCO is the brainchild of chapter members Sheila Molino, Robin Aron, Jocelyn Yard, Barbara Justice, Tamra Murray, and Leah Farlow. Sheila explained that at last winter’s meeting a couple of the women in the chapter approached her wanting to know whether there was a women’s networking group within the chapter. Shortly thereafter, board member Jim Larson, who is with Disney, sent an article to her, Robin, Jocelyn, and Barbara addressing the need for women to reach out and help one another within the industry. From there, the small group began formulating their vision and plans for achieving their goals.

WiMCO’s immediate aims are threefold, according to Robin. They want to:

  1. Support and develop strategic efforts to recruit new members to the Carolinas 7x24 Exchange chapter.
  2. Appoint internal leaders and designate from the WiMCO committee, individuals who will spearhead efforts with the education and membership committees to enhance recruitment and engagement.
  3. Assist the 7x24 Exchange organization in developing a national WiMCO committee.

Robin says they have begun the process of forming a national committee and will be finalizing approval with the 7x24 Exchange international board and launching an organizational conversation at the upcoming national conference in San Antonio.

As for their other efforts, Jocelyn says that they have partnered with the education committee on the North Carolina Mission Critical Operations grant. “What we have heard from educators across the state is that the best way to reach the most female students from different backgrounds is to have women create short YouTube videos explaining how they entered the industry, what some of the challenges and benefits are, and where they see the industry growing for women in particular. Students need to see people they can relate to. With everyone spread out, it is tough for WiMCO members to reach all of the schools and still have day jobs. With the videos, we hope to reach women in rural areas as well as metropolitan areas. Thus far, we have five video interviews lined up with Cleveland Community College. These videos will be shown at community colleges, high schools, and universities across the state. They will be available on YouTube and school websites.”

Other activities have included participating in high school career days and in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industry day hosted by AT&T. There, Jocelyn, Robin, and Tamra spoke to 20 high school and community college educators. In addition, the Vance Academy of Engineering in Charlotte has asked Jocelyn to join their board of advisors, which also includes “big engineering partners such as the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, TIAA-CREF, Electrolux, and Livingston & Haven, who are also trying to recruit young women into their programs,” she says. The group is also exploring working with to educate and place women in the data center industry as they re-enter the workforce after their tour in the armed forces is over.

Robin emphasized, “We want women to be aware that there are many women in the industry who are successful. Although the field has historically been dominated by men, there is a concerted effort on the parts of not only organizations such as WiMCO, but other organizations to recruit women into this field. Companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Disney have efforts specifically designed to recruit women and narrow the gender gap. There is a wave in the industry that has given rise to the interest level we’re experiencing.”

“We have very quickly gotten a lot of traction,” Sheila adds. “What we thought was going to start off as something small—four or five women in the Carolinas—has really taken off. Our first official meeting brought people not only from North and South Carolina, but also Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and Washington, DC. We’re seeing an immediate impact.”

It’s no wonder. The benefits of a career in the field are numerous. “The mission critical industry has strong job security,” Jocelyn points out. “The growth is not slowing down any time soon. The demand for skilled labor is very high nationwide, with a very small talent pool to select from. Companies cannot source people fast enough to fill their positions, and many jobs go unfilled for a long time. Once you are in, there is a lot of room for advancement—no matter where you live—accompanied by great salaries. In a field that added 850,000 jobs in the past decade, women filled only about 16 percent of those positions according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. So the opportunity is there for the taking.

“What is more, the field isn’t male-dominated because women aren’t welcome,” says Jocelyn. “The mission critical industry wants women. They want diversity. Women will be greeted with open arms. We see that the biggest barrier for women is merely a lack of awareness, and we are working hard to change that.”

All of the WiMCO members wish to thank the Carolinas 7x24 Exchange chapter for what Robin describes as their “consistent, innovative thought processes, which have led our chapter to develop the WiMCO committee. It will hopefully turn into a national endeavor and be very successful. Our chapter is leading the way, and we are thankful for that.”

To that end, the chapter membership committee, chaired by David Knight, is excited to announce that Michelle Reidy with First Citizens Bank will be serving as the WiMCO committee liaison. She will focus on supporting strategic efforts to recruit women to our Carolina's Chapter. “I am very excited to have the opportunity to be part of the 7x24 Exchange Carolina's Chapter WiMCO committee,” Michelle says. “I hope to spread my enthusiasm to others in the mission critical profession to increase participation and membership. This effort will provide a platform for me to continue learning about the mission critical world and help other women get involved. The committee urges all chapter members to invite the women in your organizations to join in WiMCO’s efforts.

Anyone interested in learning more about WiMCO is encouraged to join or follow the WiMCO LinkedIn Group. You can also check out the WiMCO page on the 7x24 Carolinas website.



See Article 2:
Pass It On!

See Article 3:
Summer Meeting Highlights, Winter Meeting Plans


Founding members of WiMCO from left to right: Melinda Parrish, Amy Landis, Jocelyn Yard, Sheila Molino, Robin Aron, Barbara Justice, Tamra Murray, Terra Boddy, Leah Farlow. Not pictured: Charlene Gates
Robin Aron speaks at the Carolinas 7x24 Exchange winter meeting.
Carolinas 7x24 Exchange Executive Vice President Sheila Molino speaks at the 2015 winter meeting.