Continuing the Imagine Cup's tradition of empowering women in science and technology, Microsoft is proud to announce the second annual Women's Innovation Dinner, sponsored by Avanade, to be held at this year's Imagine Cup Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia.

A joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, Avanade connects companies around the world to the latest in Microsoft technology solutions, providing focused consulting for everything from business agility to customer loyalty. For Pamela Maynard, General Manager at Avanade UK/Ireland and the host of the Women's Innovation Dinner, that vantage point requires a strong base of women in technology and the sciences.

"We believe there is a direct connection between a company’s diversity and its success," Maynard says. "To achieve this, it is crucial that we motivate girls to pursue careers in the technology sector – so women can continue to be represented at all levels within companies and institutions. Having women in leadership positions is one way the girls of today can have the confidence to aspire to become leaders themselves."

Imagine Cup has proudly championed that very mission over the years, and this season’s Women's Empowerment Award and Women's Athletics App Challenge will put a specific spotlight on rewarding woman-first teams and technology solutions. Since Avanade counts Imagine Cup participants among its global staff, Maynard, who has served as Avanade General Manager since 2008, can speak directly to the power of technology innovations in expanding opportunities for women in her field.

"As companies begin to redesign work processes to incorporate consumer technologies into the workplace, it becomes even easier for them to encourage diversity in the workplace," Maynard says. "Technology is catalyzing an increasingly greater capacity to offer flexible working initiatives, which helps both men and women achieve greater balance in their personal and professional lives." Maynard also points to statistics about staff diversity driving higher profits, customer acquisition, and "the ability to make employees happier and enable them to have a greater emphasis on creativity and greater problem-solving capability."

The dinner, taking place on the evening of July 9 at the Park Inn Hotel, will feature Maynard and other women innovators speaking about their early careers, the obstacles they've overcome and the importance of networking. We invite all students, faculty and Imagine Cup Finals attendees at worldwide finals to celebrate a growing group of innovators and, of course, enjoy a fantastic meal with some of the smartest people in the world. See you at the Women's Innovation Dinner! 

Hugh Samuels
Imagine Cup Correspondent