The founding mission of the Alliance of Channel Women (formerly Women in the Channel) – to advance career and leadership roles for women at the highest levels in the technology channel by providing education, community, advocacy, and opportunities for personal growth – established 10 years ago, continues to be as relevant today as it was then, empowering and advancing women’s careers in telecom and IT.
The nonprofit ACW will celebrate its 10-year anniversary at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo – the same event where, a decade ago, the organization’s three co-founders, Bita Milanian, senior vice president global marketing at Ribbon Communications; Hilary Gadda, director national channel development at TPx; and Nancy Ridge, founder and president Ridge Innovative – recognized the need for this type of organization. ACW will kick off the four-day conference at ACWConnect Live, March 9, in Las Vegas.
The theme at this year’s ACW networking event is “Embracing Diversity: Leveraging Unique Talents.” it will feature keynoter Kelli Masters, a respected sports agent working in a traditionally male environment. Attendees also will get to meet ACW’s new president – Amy Bailey, vice president of marketing at Telarus – and new vice president, Cassie Jeppson, director of North America channel programs at Lenovo. The new leadership roles were announced in October.
|Join the Alliance of Channel Women, 100+ industry-leading speakers, more than 6,400 partners and 300+ key vendors, distributors and master agents at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, March 9-12. Register now!|
To find out what continues to fuel the growth and success of ACW, Channel Partners caught up with Milanian, Gadda and Ridge.
Channel Partners: Let’s start at the beginning. How did ACW come about?
Hilary Gadda: We were all at the Channel Partners show in D.C.; it was the evening and we were gathered around talking about the agenda and we saw there just weren’t any women being represented on the panels, in any discussions or in any keynote. And, we said, “we need to change this. We can do better. We’re smart, strong women that have something to say. How can we go about joining women together to make a difference?”
When we came back from the show, we had a call that was Nancy and Bita and I, and we said, “we can do something; let’s not leave this on the show floor.” That’s when we reached out to Channel Partners and asked if we could do something at the show in Vegas.
Bita Milanian: I was lucky enough to be at that first gathering in Las Vegas, and thereafter we recognized that there was definitely a need, and the interest and excitement to bring women with these backgrounds together to help each other personally and professionally, and to be there for one another.
It’s been really inspiring to see how it’s grown from there and how we were able to structure the organization, form a nonprofit, etc.
ACW has certainly evolved since it began, and one of the most beautiful elements that I personally enjoy seeing is the diversity of individuals who have joined since.
CP: What has sustained ACW for a decade?
Nancy Ridge: There’s still a lot of what our original charter was still about that needs to be done. There have been some changes [in the industry] but not everything that we would have liked to see accomplished for women in the channel or women in technology has been over these 10 years.
Our foundational principles still stand. Everywhere I go I continue to meet women; in fact, I met one at an industry event two days ago. She’s an entrepreneur business owner and she’s been isolated running her business and taking care of her family. She said, “I know there’s this women’s group that you’ve been involved with and I should get involved myself. Tell me about it.”
When I first got the idea [for ACW] it was around this premise that women continue to be …