Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are profiling the women at Connected Nation. From leadership roles to internship positions, these women are using their skills and experiences at every level of the organization to fulfill our mission to expand broadband access, adoption, and use to all people.
Louisville, Ky. (March 22, 2019) – Heather Gate is a woman on a mission. As the Director of Digital Inclusion for Connected Nation (CN), she’s helping empower vulnerable children, parents, individuals, families, and communities through technology.
“If I can help improve their quality of life by helping more children and families access the internet with its abundant electronic resources that are available to provide educational, informational, job, and personal development opportunities, I can say I have lived a meaningful life,” she explained.
Gate has been with CN for 12 years, and in that time she has, among other things, led the design and implementation of the No Child Left Offline program in Kentucky; overseen the Computer4Kids program in Tennessee; led the planning and implementation of the New York, Nebraska and Delaware Opportunity Online programs, which were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and led the Access from AT&T affordable broadband program by working with over 600 partner organizations across 21 states.
“As the Director of Digital Inclusion, I am responsible for strategy development and implementation of programs that impact digital inclusion for all people in all places,” said Gate. “I have experience engaging with minorities, rural communities, families, and others on the frontlines of the digital divide and working behind the scenes as an advocate and tactician with local, state, and federal leaders.”
She recently stepped into a new role, using her experience in the space of digital inclusion to assist the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Gate serves on the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE), which was formed in late 2017.
Throughout her career, Gate has highlighted the importance of digital inclusion and identifying those communities that are being unfairly excluded. As an African-American woman, Gate says she often contemplates a quote from Erin Teague, the Director of Product Management for YouTube.
“Recognize and embrace your uniqueness…being a black woman, being a woman in general, on a team of all men, means that you are going to have a unique voice. It’s important to embrace that,” Teague said.
Gate encourages all of us to follow that idea and embrace our uniqueness—but especially women who are considering careers in tech.
“In the male-dominated tech sector, young women have to be fearless and confident in their pursuit of success as the path is not always easy,” she said. “Their presence in those sectors is important because having those different perspectives in the same room when developing applications is a formula for producing better products that will appeal to wider audiences. So it’s a win-win situation for men and women.”
Gate didn’t take the easy path either. She worked to earn two master’s degrees—one in computer science and another in public administration (MPA) from Kentucky State University after receiving an undergraduate degree in computer science. After graduating summa cum laude, Gate could have pursued success in the high-paying tech industry. Instead, she chose to pursue a career with a nonprofit that had an ambitious goal of helping to bridge the Digital Divide.
“Connected Nation was a natural fit for me. I wanted to use my experience with technology to help others,” she said. “Being with Connected Nation made it possible for me to achieve two of my goals—to be involved in technology and to serve my community, especially through helping kids. The nonprofit allowed me to connect those two worlds.”
Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Tech Twist: Hedy Lamarr – Actress and Inventor
Meet more of the Women of Connected Nation:
Bernie Bogle, Chief Financial Officer
Maddie Garnett, Human Resources and Special Projects Coordinator
Ashley Hitt, Director, GIS Services
Gina Lindsey, Executive Assistant to the Chairman & CEO
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