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History of a Tech Superwoman with Cat Posey

Whitman alum shapes her life around building community and a better path forward

By Tara Roberts

Cat Posey

Building a meaningful life isn’t about climbing upward for Cathryn “Cat” Posey ’05.

It’s about understanding and responding to the needs of the moment. Posey’s story as a tech leader and change-maker starts with—and remains guided by—her time as a History major at Whitman College.

“I love stories,” Posey says. “I love how understanding our story helps us understand where we are, which is the only way you can figure out where you’re going.”

She believes the world today is at a critical moment. Rapid advancements in technology feel overwhelming, she says, but humanity has a chance to manage these changes. 

To do that, Posey believes it’s important to look to history: When today’s biggest tech companies launched, the industry placed urgency on rapidly developing the software. Mitigating potential societal downsides sometimes took a back seat.

“We might be creating the same errors of the past,” she says. “During that wave of technology in the early 2000s, there were hard questions that were put aside while people said, ‘Let’s just build the technology,’ and then we had all these issues.”

With that in mind, Posey has focused her work on using her knowledge and influence to help create both tech and support systems, particularly for women, to have a positive and thoughtful impact. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of future do we want?’ and be bold enough to create it,” she says. “It’s now or never.”

Fueled by Purpose

Posey was first drawn to Whitman by history. On a campus visit from her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, she sat in on one of Associate Professor of History Nina Lerman’s classes and was awed by the deep discussion.

As a History major who also minored in Rhetoric and Film Studies, Posey stood out for her curiosity, Lerman says. She was the type of student whose insights helped her professors see things in new ways.

“She was completely fabulous in any class discussion,” Lerman says. “She was very thoughtful about the readings and able to see complex layers and synthesize things. She was a scholar and a thinker in a wide context.”

Though she never expected a career in technology, Posey says her liberal arts education helped her “learn how to learn.”

She taught herself to code in her first post-college job. She planned to go to film school, but, as she moved up in tech, she fell in love with the industry’s possibilities while searching
for community.

“I realized we needed to tell more stories of women in tech—and more inclusive stories—so that women could find themselves,” she says, “and so that we could understand what the moment was and where we needed to go.”

Inspired by the resilience and strength in Alicia Keys’ song “Superwoman,” Posey started the hashtag #CallingAllTechSuperwomen. The conversation evolved into a meetup at SXSW (South by Southwest), where attendees discussed the need for mentorship and sponsorship.

By early 2015, Posey had moved to Silicon Valley to become CEO of Tech By Superwomen and launched the organization’s first summit.

It was a pivotal point in her career. Later that same year, she was invited to join the United States Digital Service, President Obama’s tech startup, which aims to bring better government services to the American people through technology and design.

Cat Posey ’05 presenting on “How Brands Can Win in the Rise of AI.”In 2017, Capital One hired her, and she became a Senior Director of Machine Learning. Then 2020 arrived, and everything changed again.

Cat Posey ’05 presenting at Impacta 2023 in the Dominican Republic. She presented a keynote address, “How Brands Can Win in the Rise of AI.”

The Power of Community

When the pandemic hit, the strain on women to juggle caregiving and careers became even more difficult. During that time, Posey reflected on everything the women she knew had experienced—socially, culturally and politically—since the last Tech By Superwomen Summit in 2018.

Once again, Posey leaned into the moment. She left Capital One in May 2023 and began a personal sabbatical and an opportunity to identify where she could best help others. Part of this is revitalizing Tech By Superwomen, though she is not yet publicly sharing plans.

“There remains a need, even more so now, for women to come together and have community around what we’ve been through, what we need,” she says.

Posey also connected with fellow Whittie Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg ’01, founder and Executive Director of Black Women in Executive Leadership, or B-WEL. At a 2023 gathering of B-WEL fellows in Italy, Posey felt inspired by the connections she made. 

“We go through a lot of isolation and loneliness in life. I think that’s true for everyone, but as a woman and a Black woman in leadership, it can be lonely,” Posey says. “The power of community strengthens you and reminds you that you’re not alone.”

Read more about Kamau-Rutenberg's vision for B-WEL.

Whitman—Needed in This Moment

Posey says her effort to shape a better future includes her service on Whitman’s President’s Advisory Board. Posey says she’s proud of Whitman’s leadership in educating people who can ask urgent questions, add context and shape a better society for everyone—at this moment more than ever.

“We’re in a very tough time right now, and I think about the criticality of a liberal arts education,” she says.

“Students need an understanding and appreciation for what history teaches us, and how it helps us think about what kind of future we want.” 

Published on Mar 21, 2024
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