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Women in technology confab comes to Wisconsin

Now that spring is in gear, women looking for new directions in technology business are heading to Lake Geneva for a "shorts and tee shirts" alternative to the traditional conference – Camp WorldWIT, starting Thursday afternoon and lasting until Sunday, with yoga in the mornings and two full days of seminars and workshops.

"Everybody has fond memories of summer camp. ... Your physical surroundings and the things that you're doing physically make a big difference on how you can take in information," said Liz Ryan, founder of WorldWIT, a professional networking organization for businesswomen.

Ryan said she's already corresponded with most of the people coming to the camp. That's because the origins of the camp are in an online discussion group that started off in Chicago and now includes about 40,000 people by her count in chapters spread across 23 countries.

ChicWIT, the Chicago group that started it all, has about 10,000 of those members, she said. There's one in Milwaukee, Milw-WIT, and another may be starting up around the Fox Valley soon.

The discussion centers on a moderated e-mail list over which members – who have to sign up but may do so for free – network, talk about business and life and offer advice.
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One attendee of both years' camps is Marcia Drucker-Holberton, advanced technology marketing manager at Comstor, in Virginia, who found out about the events through D.C.-based CapitolWIT. She said that while that chapter doesn't have many regular face-to-face events, she participates regularly online.

"It's not just about our work and our jobs and technology and all that," she said. "We share a lot more that goes beyond our day to day professional lives, but there is that thread that runs through it."

Last year's conference was a real camp – it was held at Appel Farm in New Jersy, which runs a children's summer camp. This year's may be in a more adult location, but Ryan said she's going for the same mellow atmosphere.

"I remember having one conversation under an oak tree with a couple of women between sessions where I actually helped one of them map out her marketing plan for a Web site," Drucker-Holberton said. "And we did it in thirty minutes."

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