Keeping the golf score card after 20 years in IT; reflections on International Womens’ Day

On International Womens’ Day, I think about my journey how I got here today. Other women may have similar experiences. Unlike Jenni Murray, I believe that you can be trans, proud and a real woman. Just saying.

Over the years, I have had challenges as a female IT consultant. Here are a few choice examples taken from my 20 years working in IT:

– a business contact once rubbed his hand up my leg when he thought I was asleep on a plane next to him. I jumped out of my skin. I realise now that he was trying to figure out if I wore tights or suspenders, and he was looking for the ‘line’. The skinny; I wear black 40 denier tights because I have varicose veins on my legs like a roadmap. They are comfortable and I like them. Oh, and don’t wake me up when I’m sleeping… although I know that he didn’t mean to…..
– Whilst at a conference, some business contacts trying to keep a golf score card and challenging other colleagues to try to get me into bed, using the golf score card to keep track of points when someone spoke to me or double points if I accepted a drink (for example).  I found the golf score card with the names and scores on it when one of them dropped it on the floor. I was extremely humiliated, and realised why folks had been so friendly and welcoming to me. They grabbed the card back, but I wish I still had it – to remind me.
– I’ve had my work actively sabotaged by someone who told my boss that he could not fathom the idea of senior female tech lead and genuinely believed I got the role for being female and to tick boxes;
– I’ve been told to my face that I am ‘not close enough to the kitchen sink’. Unfortunately for them, I was made their technical lead one month later on merit, and they had to put my presence in their pipe and smoke it. I was gracious about it since  I needed them to deliver well for me since the results would prove my worth. They delivered well, and I delivered the whole project on time, on budget,and to spec.
– I’ve had my email mailbox deleted on one site because I was the only female out of 200 plus men, and I ‘destroyed the all male equilibrium’ of the IT department. That was escalated to C-level, and nobody spoke to me after that because I’d complained. You can’t win, can you? I needed to deliver the project, and needed email. I did deliver, on time, on budget, to spec with a kindly Project Manager forwarding me emails to another account so I had everything I needed, and ensured I wasn’t cut off email trails.
– I am usually the victim of someone discrediting me as being too ’emotional’ and/or ‘not technical’.
– I’ve had men refuse to share an office with me in case I am ‘unclean’
– Discussions of female sanitary items; do I prefer ‘wings’ or not?

It’s the small things; for example, not responding to your email on a thread, but to the second-last email on a thread so that your contribution is cut out. Yes, I see you… but so does everyone else. Not clever and easily provable.
Sometimes it is not overt; it can simply be that I’m mansplained, or interrupted constantly.  It’s a case of people simply never having the capability of believing that women can do anything technical and they will glibly reconcile it as other ways e.g. I am a ‘statistical oddity’. I like that, actually.

This doesn’t include the hugs where the hands just goes a little too low, or the colleague who leans towards me a little too close, or who looks at a part of you for a little too long. You don’t have to be attractive or pretty to experience that.

Here are some takeaway actions for you:

Shout louder to get your voice heard. Your voice is a good one. If people are tone deaf at the start, you haven’t lost anything anyway!
Throw your light out farther, and help others do the same. All of the setbacks have made me simply want to throw my light out farther. So, this blog post here was the result of a meeting that day, where I was being discredited subtly 
Be helpful; you’ll be nicer to work beside, you’ll get more projects and more ‘wins’ in the long term. In the situations above, there was usually someone good enough to help. Be that person.

Be communicative; be the person who forwards email trails to anyone who has been actively cut out of it (male or female!)

Be considerate: the person who considers promoting the quiet female on the team. She’s probably good, you know.

Anywhere can be Trump’s Locker Room. Trump’s talk of pussy-grabbing and locker room? He was wrong to say that, and wrong to say it was ‘locker room’. It can be anywhere. Offices, work parties, conferences, anywhere.Be the person who steps in and takes away the ‘golf score card’ when it’s being used to keep a track to see who can get her into bed. Tell them to ‘grow up’. That’s not just locker room talk; that’s everywhere. Be the person who helps to stop it before it starts.

If someone is being victim-blamed as ’emotional’ – the accusation is usually treated the same as a real scandal and people don’t question it. If someone is emotional, is that because they are being bullied, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? Watch out also for people pressing other people’s buttons, and getting others to do the footwork for them by isolating them. Take a look at these guidelines here and if you are unlucky, you’ll come across someone who does a lot of these behaviours; if so, stay away from them but try to limit their impact on others, too.
On the plus side, the people who let me play in their box are usually wonderful people; they accept me and value me for who I am, and what I bring to the table. I think that this is why my projects are successful; many people discriminate right at the start and I don’t get beyond the starting block so they get partialled out. So it’s only the nice people who see past the five feet two frame and look at how I can help them out.

For the people who do give me a chance, they bless me in all sorts of ways. These people are men and women, cis gendered and transgendered. I’d like to thank all of my customers for being genuine and wonderful.

To summarise, I have less of a ‘range’ to play in, and I have to fight more and longer to get heard, and I have to be ten times as good to get to the same place.

Be brilliant – try your best. Own what you do and love. Then, you’ll be brilliant all by yourself.

 

Interested in helping SQLBits to craft the first ever SQLBits Wikipedia page?

Exciting DitBits news from the SQLBits camp today. 

 We will be hosting a ‘Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon’ which will focus on gathering budding community authors, editors and reviewers together to create the first ever Wikipedia SQLBits page!


I’m looking for photos for the SQLBits photo album, which we will be posting online. Please send your photos, or links to photos, to me at jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org and I promise not to laugh at your old photos if you don’t laugh at mine!

 We will see you in the Community Coffee Corner at 5.30 – 6.30 on Friday 18th July!

 

 

SQLSaturday Budapest #278: Coffee Corner for Women In Technology: Making yourself visible and getting ahead

Social systems don’t trailblaze and they are not necessarily easily visible. However, social methods are quietly voted in by societies and it’s easy not to notice them. How can you try to make sure that you are noticed in your career? Is there a lower number of women in IT, or do they simply not put themselves forward enough? How can you create a sustainable competitiveness as a company, if diversity is not an important part of the organisation?

Come to this session for a lively discussion on how to shine, share your expertise, inspire each other and train yourselves in how to use networking to advance yourselves and each other.

Join myself and Gosia Borzęcka for an informal chat on this topic. You are very welcome to join us! Men and women are both welcome.

Our session is at 2.45 and we hope to see you there! The official site is here and to register, click here.



PASS VP of Marketing Denise McInerney talks PASS BA Conference and 24 hour free online webinar series


Here is a Channel 9 Podcast about the PASS BA Conference and our free 24 hour online webinar event, presented with Blain Barton with Denise McInerney, PASS Vice President of Marketing and data engineer at Intuit.

Blain and Denise discuss the upcoming PASS Business Analytics Conference and the 24 hours of free online business analytics webcasts previewing the event on February 5th. Tune as they chat about the ins and outs of both events from why you should attend, what makes BA so important in today’s data enriched world and how you can register for both.

In case you’d missed it, I have a discount code to hand out because i’m privileged to be speaking at the event. 
If you are looking for a discount, here is a code to get $150 dollars off: BASF2O and to Register click here.

Women in Technology: Children at Technical Conferences

I read a post with the same title by Tim Radney, which I loved. In his post, which I suggest you read, he talks about taking his son to a technical conference. I thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences taking my son to a couple of User Groups in the UK. A few months ago, Mark Broadbent (SQL DBA guru and a great friend of mine) needed a speaker at the last minute for his Cambridgeshire PASS Chapter user group. I said I would do it, but I’d have to bring my eight year old because it would be too late to get a babysitter. Very fortunately, Mark agreed that I could bring my son.  At this point, I have to thank Mark for his patience with my son, who now calls him ‘his big friend Mark’. Mark introduced him to games on the mobile phone and didn’t mind that my son ate more food than anyone else! To introduce my son to everyone, I asked him to offer everyone a chocolate and then everyone settled to hear my Big Data session. My son and I went home happy.

I run HUGSS, a SQL Server user group in Hertfordshire. I’ve taken my son on the odd occasion, and he sits really nicely, reads quietly whilst the adults are talking, and eats as much as he gets his hands on. We are a very small group at the moment, and so far, nobody has minded too much. 

For those of you who haven’t worked it out already, I’m a single mother and have been for a good while now. I play mum and dad. For me, the hardest bit of being a parent is “teaching your child how to walk, and then teaching them how to walk away”. I didn’t set out to be a single mum and it wasn’t the life that I had planned for myself, but we are where we are. I do the best mum and dad combined roles that I can do. I love my job, I love the sqlfamily that I come across, and most of all, I am blessed, really blessed, to have a smart, wise, loving little boy in my life with a big generous heart and wonderful chuckle who opens my eyes and teaches me something new every day. He loves cuddles and TS Eliot poems about cats. He loves soldiers, Nerf, lego, iCarly, Hallowe’en, ice cream with sprinkles on top and loves being read limerick poems. I count myself lucky each and every day. I want more than anything to make his dreams come true and give him the brightest, best future that is in my power to do so.

So, in my role of mum and dad, I used to worry what people would think of me as a ‘single mum at a tech conference’ as an attendee, presenter or organiser. There tends to be less female attendees, and I wonder what percentage of those are in my demographic. I then wondered if perhaps other women worried as I did, that I would be odd-one-out. Then it struck me that perhaps, by sharing my story, that perhaps other women who share my life experiences might realise that actually, it isn’t an issue. People accept you for who you are. Community is community. I believe one hundred percent that there is no community as welcoming as the ‘sqlfamily’ and I have found my ‘home’ there. You already have a shared passion for tech and everybody is learning, and if I can do this, anybody can. 

Otherwise, I’ve never taken him to a larger conference and we are both not ready to do that. I think that it would be too much for him (he is only 8, after all!). I’m a mum before anything else, and I’d be fully involved looking after him than I would in doing community work or helping people with SQL Server or BI questions. When he is older and might benefit from the experience, such as doing computing science at secondary school, then I might be more inclined to take him so that he can be inspired by meeting some of the brightest minds in tech at sql server conferences, for example.

Normally I try to keep my family life separate from my professional and community life, but Tim’s blog celebrated family and technology, and inspired me to write a little so I’ve shared a few thoughts here. My experiences and opinions will be different from other people’s, but I had hoped that these thoughts might help someone somewhere.

Best,
Jen

PASSWiT: Women in Technology Panel roundup of commentary

Panel Discussion: “Beyond Stereotypes: Equality, Gender Neutrality, and Valuing Team Diversity”
What was the Panel discussion topic? 

Are there times when you feel the “odd one out” on your team? Do you have to make an effort to fit in? Often, even when there isn’t blatant sexism, racism or other discrimination in play, there can still be a lot of peer pressure to conform to the group and consequences if you don’t. Join us as our panel discusses some central questions around promoting equality and respect in the workplace. We’ll discuss hard topics like how to establish, build, and grow relationships with co-workers in a diverse setting, how to deal with situations where you – or a colleague – suffer from social exclusion, and how to arrange social events that are inclusive and promote teamwork in a professional setting.  And we’ll share ideas on what we can do to enhance each individual’s contributions and build stronger, more effective teams.


Panellists:


Erin Stellato
Rob Farley
Cindy Gross
Kevin Kline
Gail Shaw


Sometimes we all feel excluded for some reason, for example, their sexual orientation, or perhaps because of their religion or ethnic background.

There are different perspectives: Gail Shaw remains herself, true to wherever she may be. Yay to Gail for not being a social chameleon, but being herself. A good ‘herself’ to be!

Rob Farley commented about religious backgrounds, and how this can impact your ability for other people to allow you to fit in. As a committed Christian, he can see this occurring from time to time.

Cindy Gross commented sometimes it is hard to work out if people are treating you differently if you have a particular background, or if there is another reason for that.

The distinction between extroverts and introverts in how people think and how they respond to you. interesting commentary by Kevin Kline Note that people may not have a big circle of friends around them in order to share their thoughts or try to work out whether a situation is about them or not.

How do you deal with a situation where you or another person suffers social exclusion?

Rob Farley: by staying silent in these situations, then you can drop in others’ estimation. You have to make a judgement call about whether someone has crossed the line or not. If you see someone suffering social exclusion, don’t stay silent. Sometimes people need help in understanding where they cross your line. Everyone has a different ‘line’ to cross. It is important to read body language. There is a fine line between being funny and crossing the line. Be a champion for others.

Kevin Kline: find a backup if you think that someone is crossing the line. It is easier to discuss values with a group backup.

Gail Shaw: If you people you call friends that are pushing you to change, they are probably not your friend. Don’t let others push you to being something you are not. Words of wisdom. 
Burn those bridges if you have to, for your own sake.

Erin Stellato: You can lead without being the leader. Find that commonalilty and build that relationship. Relationships take time. It’s ok to identify the differences but find the common thread. 

To summarise, the panel all gave out some great wisdom in how to deal with diverse teams in the workplace, and also in volunteer settings as well. This can make teams more efficient and work better together in terms of work-life balance, quality of delivery, and can even help businesses be more productive.

at SQLPass Summit and Interested in moving into management? Then you must attend Women in Tech Lunch

The Women in Technology lunch at SQLPass Summit has a complex topic this year: “Beyond Stereotypes: Equality, Gender Neutrality, and Valuing Team Diversity” 

Diversity isn’t just a ‘nice thing to do’ – studies show that it is a way forward for companies to perform better, and even increase the bottom line. Studies by psychologists such as Irving Janis, and social psychology experiements by luminaries such as Solomon Asch, show that diverse teams make better decisions. The complexity scientist Scott Page has looked at mathematical models.

There is the thinking in the Dilbert comic below:








Here, Dilbert is commenting whether these companies are well run because their Boards are diverse, or do well-run Boards decide to appoint diverse boards? It is a horse and cart question.

What does the data science say? Do organisations do this because it is a ‘nice’ thing to do? According to complexity specialist Scott Page, professor of complex systems, political science and economics at the University of Michigan, diversity:

  • produces organisational strength
  • leads to higher productivity
  • strongly linked to innovation 


Using mathematical models, he was able to link diversity to productivity and innovation.


Furthermore, research by McKinsey, an international management consultancy firm, has shown that diversity makes for better decision-making at all organisational levels, with companies with women in top management performing better operationally and financially compared to other companies in similar sectors. 

The McKinsey study also shows that diversity is especially important for problem solving and innovation, which are both extremely relevant for IT. Diverse teams find more innovative solutions, get stuck less often, and are able to find a solution faster because they have different perspectives within the team. In fact, diverse teams even outperform teams of experts, as experts are often trained to think in the same way. 

I used to think that companies sought me out, as a female technical blogger, strategist and implementor, because they were being ‘nice’ and wanted to tick a HR box somewhere. I now recognise that they wanted to hire me because, simply put: Diverse companies make are looking at innovative ways to make more money. The ‘nice’ bit is all very… nice…. but the bottom line is that they want diverse teams to increase their bottom line.

Some of the innovation policies at companies like Cisco, Toyota and Google recognise the link between diversity and innovation, showing an understanding that differences in the composition of their work forces boost their bottom lines.  Let’s take Cisco as an example, They are a keen supporter of the SQLPass Summit 2013 event, and you can visit them at their stand. They also have a Diversity portfolio, where they emphasise (quote from their website):

“When we talk about diversity at Cisco…it’s about inclusion – bringing together a diverse workforce with unique life experiences, cultures, talents and perspectives. We promote a creative, innovative, and collaborative environment that helps drive our business strategy.”


Communities have an influence on who we are, as an individual.  

Diverse settings aren’t always easy to navigate, however. In the Women in Technology session, we will be looking at dealing with situations where you see or experience social exclusion, and how to promote teamwork in a diverse settings. These are all hard management tasks, and the WiT lunch will discuss these difficult issues. If you are serious about a management career, these are things which you could end up tackling – so why not get sensitive to them now? If you are already a manager of people, then you will want to know how to get the best out of your team, and have a positive impact on them and on your organisation. The Women in Technology lunch is a great place to start learning, or be challenged about your ideas.

So, if you’re interested in moving from your DBA role in tech towards a management role, or you are already a manager, then you need to be aware of diversity and it’s importance in an organisation. To come back to our original question: companies are well run because their Boards are diverse, or do well-run Boards decide to appoint diverse boards? The data shows that the diversity leads to stronger teams, better problem solving, innovation, and understanding your customers better.

Diversity isn’t a pretty thing. It’s a real driver for businesses, and smart business recognise a good thing when they see it.

And that’s why you need to attend the Women in Technology lunch at SQLPass Summit 2013. You are here to learn and network, and the diversity discussion will help you to be prepared for diversity discussions when they occur in your workplace.