SheLeads Women’s Forum Offers Perspectives on Leadership

May 2, 2023

The SheLeads Women’s Forum was held on March 30 as part of the School of Computing and Information (SCI)’s celebration of the 5th anniversary of its founding. The event was held in the Information Sciences Building. Dr. Catherine M. Cotell, Technical Director for the National Security Agency’s Laboratory for Physical Sciences, delivered a keynote address. Provost Ann E. Cudd also moderated a panel of consisting of SCI alumni, faculty, and local women who are leaders in technology.

Cotell’s keynote address detailed her own professional journey and offered advice for students who are interested in working for the government. Cotell began her career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with an S.M. in metallurgy and a PhD in material sciences. Cotell said that her family has had a longstanding tradition of government service, with her father, her siblings, and herself all serving numerous organizations over the years. Cotell talked about different opportunities within the intelligence community available to students who are interested in government service. She also described how research and development take place within the intelligence community and took questions from audience members once her speech had concluded. After Cotell completed her address, Dean Bruce Childers presented her with a plaque to commemorate her visit to SCI.

The panel hosted by Cudd offered a range of perspectives on topics like leadership and professional development, as well as challenges and opportunities facing women in technology. The panel was introduced by Anita Kaul, a sophomore who also serves as President of Women in Computer Science (WiCS), a student organization at Pitt. Another Pitt student and President of the Minority Association in Computing (MAC), Birizibe Gnassingbe, also joined the panel. Dr. Diane Litman, Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Angela Kennedy, President and CEO of Carnegie Speech, Ilana Diamond, Managing Partner at 412 Venture Fund, and Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, comprised the remainder of the panel. Each in a different phase of their respective careers, the panelists held an insightful conversation for those in attendance, discussing the importance of mentorship, maintaining a work-life balance, and other topics.

Recordings of both events can be found here. SheLeads is one of the latest events in a series meant to commemorate the fifth anniversary of SCI. Others have included a celebration for students at Phipps Conservatory and the Dean’s Spotlight lecture series.


--Daniel Beresheim