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NOTEBOOK: Anti-harassment comments take stage at Women of Innovation


This year’s Women of Innovation Awards came as sexual harassment, particularly of women, was all over the news. That wasn’t lost on speakers at the Technology Association of Iowa’s event, held at Prairie Meadows on Monday.

First Dave Tucker, vice president of engineering at Ames-based Workiva and board chairman for TAI, reassured the women in the audience that there are men in tech fields — which were the focus on this night — who are good mentors and are interested in appropriately helping them advance their careers without harassment. He had words for men who won’t do that.

“To the women in the audience: You may have heard some negative things in the press lately, but I want to assure you that there ARE men out there who will treat you with respect, who will mentor and help you grow your career, and who will help you find great opportunities in tech.

“To the men in the audience: If you are not helping to create an environment that will attract and offer growth and opportunity to any minority group, then get the hell out.”

Keynoter Lea Hickman, partner at Silicon Valley Product Group, added her thoughts later. “I have had the opportunity to work with some very amazing people, both men and women,” she said. “People who are encouraging. Just incredibly supportive. I’ve had mentors. 

“But I’ve also had some not so great experiences,” Hickman added. “Throughout my 28-year career, I have been diminished. I have been discriminated against. And I have been sexually harassed by both male and female colleagues and superiors. 

“I have been the only woman in the room for far too long. I know some of us are very uncomfortable with what is going on in the press today (updates on harassment allegations against Hollywood stars and elected officials). I just want to acknowledge that these things do happen, but there are ways to overcome it.” The crowd applauded. 

Hickman continued: “I think for any group that is underrepresented in any industry in a society in any category, there are similar challenges. It’s not just women. It’s our own individual responsibility to actually take action.”

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