Unpicking Diversity myopia: not seeing is not understanding, and not valuing differences

I’m excited about my Diversity meetup at Microsoft Ignite, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it in advance.

The term or word prejudice comes from the Latin prae + judicium meaning to try in advance. Prejudice is literally a pre-judgement about the characteristics and desirability of a person or a thing. Everyone has their heuristics about how the world works, but this can be dangerous when it slips into prejudices, and often we cannot see what these prejudices are.

I have been puzzling over the statement that I hear sometimes: I’m already diverse, I don’t need to worry about diversity because I never judge people on their race, gender or beliefs. I don’t think that’s true, and I think people can have a diversity myopia, which means that they believe that they place themselves beyond seeing differences in people, as if that makes them more logical somehow. My argument instead is that, by seeing, valuing and understanding differences, it gives us another superpower or another lens by which to understand situations, people, and ourselves. This is the true mark of a leader and it would make us better leaders to be able to see, understand and value diversity. However, we can’t hold the view consistently that we ‘don’t see differences’ and then claim to be already sensitive to diversity. If you don’t see, understand or value differences, then you can’t be sensitive to diversity, either.

Leaders who understand diversity, prejudice and the dynamics of change, will manage them better in themselves and in other people. We all experience work situations where our professional requirements, demands and responsibilities conflict with our ethics and values. The resolution of these situations require skills that are not part of any job descriptions: they require real thought. These are opportunities for reflexive leadership: self-reflection and deep thought, which is quite at odds with the way that we normally skate on the surface of our busy lives (Alvesson, Blom, and Sveningsson, 2016).

Diversity Myopia can be evidenced by the statement: “I see everyone purely in terms of merit and I don’t see their characteristics.”

To succeed, leaders need to be skilful in recognizing and managing diversity, as well as valuing it. Davidson (2011) puts forward this concept of leveraging differences to help us to navigate the complexities of diversity. Leveraging Differences is the ability to use people’s distinctiveness, uniqueness, competencies and perspectives in order to make the organization more effective. How can we leverage differences?

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Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/kellepics-4893063/ 

Seeing the Differences

Firstly, we have to see the difference. One of the signs of diversity myopia is the claim that one does not see differences. If you cannot see differences, how can you be sensitive to them? Some of the differences are obvious, such as language, sex or ethnicity. Other ways, such as specific disabilities which are not obvious, are not easy to see.

Understanding the Differences

It’s important to understand the differences in order to leverage them successfully, and to make people comfortable as part of your team. We can do this in all sorts of ways: for example, I have spent this weekend reading about religions with a focus on Islam and Zoroastrianism (Mazdayasna) in order to try and educate myself, and understand them better. I am not claiming to be an expert in either religion, but I learned a lot that I did not know before.

If we do not try to understand differences, then we are working on prejudices and over-simplified stereotypes. This means that we can be working under a confirmation bias, so self-awareness never impinges on our consciousness to hint that we are anything other than ‘diverse-aware’.

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Valuing Differences

Understanding diversity can be transformative, and it results from an active and sustained seeing, understanding and respecting differences. There is no way that we can tick a box and state that we are ‘diverse-aware’ now. It is an ongoing process, and it is a long-term relationship which changes your life.

Priorities can change because you understand people’s priorities better. It means that you can start to care more deeply about other issues that others care about; the environment, for example. For me personally, it has given me a wider vision of the world that I live in, and it means that I have become a lot calmer about transient problems that I might otherwise have been. It also means that I can step away from people and problems that are simply toxic, because I have found other things to care about, and to spend my energy on. The thing with diversity is that it is amost addictive; it gives me more to care about, and I want to know more, so I learn more and that gives me more, bigger things to care about.

This is the personal changes that this has brought for me. What can you do in order to learn more about Diversity?

  • Be curious and learn
  • Be an active listener
  • Be prepared to have the humility and self-awareness to get things wrong
  • Be prepared to work at conflicts that matter, and to see them through, even if it challenges your core beliefs.
  • Be prepared to think that what other people have said is true.

Rethink the data outside of a confirmation bias. I think that this is missing from a lot of the dialogue that I see on Twitter, for example. Genuine grievances, such as the MeToo campaign, can be dismissed under the guise ‘that doesn’t happen everywhere’ or even disbelief disguised as a statement ‘if a woman really had been attacked, then she would not do this / go there / do that, would she?’ Inquiry and thoughtfulness can help us to be more open and understanding in communication.

What does diversity myopia mean for the business?

For the business, diversity can help us to understand our business processes and systems. It can help businesses to remain innovative and engaged with customers and team members, because the veil of having diversity-myopia has been lifted.

Seeing, understanding and valuing differences is challenging, but it can help us to move in directions that we didn’t see before.

I am learning a lot, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

References

Alvesson, M., Blom, M. and Sveningsson, S., 2016. Reflexive Leadership: Organising in an imperfect world. Sage.

Davidson, M.N., 2011. The end of diversity as we know it: Why diversity efforts fail and how leveraging difference can succeed. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Why is it so difficult to report harassment, and what can you do to help?

This is a personal blog and it is from the heart. This incident is separate from the MeToo incident that I wrote about previously.

When I was 24, I moved to Aberdeen, in Scotland, to start a new postgraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence. On my last night in my home town before I left to go to Aberdeen, I celebrated with childhood friends in a local restaurant, which had a little dance floor and a bar. In the bar, I met an ex-boyfriend, and I ignored him. He tried to speak with me, and I told him to leave me alone.

I went up to dance with my friend, and my ex-boyfriend followed me and continued to hassle me. His first punch came from nowhere and I only remember being hit directly in the face, and everything going red, and falling backwards. I don’t remember anything after that punch. I only remember, vaguely, my friend Christine screaming and screaming and screaming and I could only hear her, and everything was red. I remember idly wondering why she was screaming but then I lost consciousness. I only woke up the next day in bed, covered in scratches and bruises and I felt like I had bad whiplash.

After the punch that took me to the floor, he hauled me up by one arm and was punching me with the other. Then, I was kicked about on the dancefloor, unconscious. My ex-boyfriend was pulled off me and he went to the bar. I was taken home by my friend in a taxi. I don’t remember any of it. I wasn’t drinking much because I am not a heavy drinker; it was the initial punch that took me out. I weigh about 100 pounds and I’m not quite five foot two. It was no contest, really.

After that, the bar/restaurant went back to normal; people eating, drinking. I have no awareness of the events after my attack. All I do know is that my ex was told to leave the bar, and some men in the bar followed my ex-boyfriend outside. They beat him unconscious in an act of revenge, which I did not instigate. I do not approve and there is no joy in it for me.

The next day, I decided I would go to the police, after going to the hospital. As I learned about the events afterwards, I began to understand that I could not go to the police. I didn’t want the very well-meaning men to get into any trouble; their attack on him had been down to his attack on me. So, I felt responsible, even though I was not there.

His mother called me to see if I was ok. She told me that she’d raised a monster, and that I should stay away from him. And I did; I never saw him again. I started my postgraduate degree with my body covered in the vestiges of his attack on me. He used to wear a ring and I had scratches from where it landed on my body, with the weight of his fist behind it.

I am writing about it now because, all these years later, I regret not going to the Police and reporting it. I had so many witnesses, and I should not have felt responsible for the actions of the well-meaning men who wreaked revenge on him. But I did. I think that victims can feel that all problems end with them, and that they are the only ones who can fix things even though they are the victim. That’s why you end up absorbing so much.

I never felt any victory that he’d got beaten up. I don’t think he learned anything at all. I learned a few years later that he’d attacked his then-current girlfriend, a woman I vaguely knew. I felt responsible for her.

I don’t think that those well-meaning men should have beaten him up. This deprived me of control of the situation. Revenge was not theirs to give; it was mine to take, going through the courts and speaking to the Police. It is the best way to secure long-term sanctions on their behaviour. I understand that they thought they were doing the right thing. I did not hear about their revenge attack until the next day, and I was aghast. I understand that they felt that they had to do something.

My choice? For me, honestly, being a witness, and making my voice louder, would have been the right thing to do in the longer-term. By taking action in place of me, they essentially took my control, my choices and my voice away from me; my experience, my suffering, went unheard. I was not being allowed to drive the situation, and that’s what I wanted. I wasn’t consulted. I don’t believe women are weak fools at all and I don’t need people to speak for me. I just need my voice to be helped to carry, and, by ‘speaking’ for me, they were taking away from me the very things that would secure the most likely outcome for ensuring that he did not do it again.

Women need to be heard and believed. We don’t need talked for, talked at, or talked over. When we talk about #MeToo incidents, often you will hear women say that they feel better after speaking out. They don’t say that they feel better because someone else did something or spoke for them; they want control back. Loss of control means no options, and not having options is a terrible way to live your life.

By going to the Police and trying to secure a conviction against him, I could have helped to make sure that he would have had a record, which would have warned off future victims. And I was wrong not to see that. In the later incident, the one I wrote about in the MeToo blog, I was very well aware that other women would suffer in the same way I did, so I did my best to make sure it was stopped before it started. That made me feel responsible, and I have paid the price of the highest level of guilt since since I was not successful in the process. Victim blaming can often include the victim themselves, and we do not need told what to do. The world will make you feel small, if you let it.

After the separate #MeToo incident, I was given some medical counselling. Due to a shortage, during the counselling process, I was paired with a male counsellor and I am going to call him Edward. Edward taught me many things. He taught me that your friends are not the ones who spend time with you or who even like you. Edward helped me to see that I had choices, even though I felt that my choices were taken away from me. Edward helped me to feel as if I had control back, even though the control of everything, even that of my own body, had been slipping away from me. In doing these things, Edward helped me to get my voice back.

I never got to thank Edward. One day, I called to speak to him, and I was told that he’d fallen ill, and he wasn’t coming back. I never called again. One of my regrets in life is that I never got to thank him and I hope that he found someone in his life as precious and supportive of him, as he was to me. There are good people there and they flit in and out of our lives, leaving a thread of love that you can see if you are looking for it.

Inspired by Edward, who strove to ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world’, I am going to put forward a list of what you can do to help. This is based on a few sources, but mainly Rape Crisis Scotland should be credited here.

Do:

  • Listen. Good or ‘active’ listening means you help the victim develop their own
    thoughts so they can look at options and make their own decisions. It’s not up to you.
  • Stay calm.
  • Be comfortable with silence.
  • Encourage
  • Take notes
  • Ensure safety
  • Read this list from RAINN in case an incident has happened
  • Listen. Keep the cakehole shut.
  • Accept and don’t judge
  • Be patient.
  • Take the lead from the victim– it is important for them to feel in control
  • Avoid asking intrusive questions.
  • Learn about sexual violence and its effects
  • Learn about ways of coping with these effects
  • Ask them what they need from you
  • Look after yourself too
  • If you think what you’re going to say sounds thoughtless, it probably is. So shut up.

Don’t:

  • Judge
  • Instruct
  • Decide for the victim
  • Feel responsible
  • Ask loaded questions, opinions and comments such as ‘you could have done such and such couldn’t you?’ or ‘you must be feeling terrible?’
  • Use ‘should’ or ‘if I were you’. If you are going to do tell me what to do, just go away. You are not helping.

I’m going to end, as I sometimes do, with a poem.

“Even in our sleep,

pain which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart until,

in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom

through the awful grace of God.” – Aeschylus

A Day in the Life of Jen Stirrup: Wednesday 25th July, 2018 #SQLCareer

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I’d share more details with you.

Midnight

As before, I’ll start my day at midnight. I’m reading about motivation and reward, and it’s role on organizational behaviour. If you’re really interested, I’m reading Karabenick and Urdan’s 2010 book, and specifically, it’s chapter on expectancy theory. If you want the skinny, here is the Wikipedia entry on Expectancy Theory. You can see it relates to a lot of things, including how people solve problems on computers. There’s some research that suggests that the usability and user adoption of a computer solution depends on a few things, including the user’s self-confidence and the expected usefulness of the solution. As an architect who builds BI, data science and data-oriented solutions in general, this is important to me since it helps me to understand what decision processes people go through when they decide whether to use software or not.

1.30am – Sleep

6.30am – I am woken by doggy licks and demands for cuddles by Copy and Paste, who, somehow, have managed to break out of the dining room and break into my bedroom. I am sure that there is some teamwork going on somewhere. I let them outside, and I shower. The three of us eat breakfast in my back garden.

7am – Due to the heatwave, I’m taking Copy and Paste out early in the morning, and then again late at night.

8am – Back home, and it’s time to start my day. Plenty of fluids for Copy and Paste and for me, and then C + P go and hide from the heat.

Dealing with the Hot Spots at work

If you know anything about FlyLady, you will know she’s an online coach who helps you to declutter and clean the house. Why am I talking about this? Because there is a lot of home-spun common sense in her materials, which can apply to different things. Take, for example, a hotspot. According to FlyLady, we have hotspots in our home that just collect clutter and junk, and her advice is to go for progress rather than perfection so that you eventually work through it. FlyLady’s advice is that you should make a daily effort to spend an allotted time, even just minutes a day, working on a hotspot.

A hot spot is an area, when left unattended, that will gradually take over. My favorite analogy is of a hot spot in a forest fire; if left alone, it will eventually get out of hand and burn up the whole forest. – FlyLady

I think we all have hotspots in our work, which we hate doing. For me, it’s my accounts, and, in particular, my expenses. So, today I’m dealing with my expenses so I can give them to Anja, my rather long-suffering personal assistant. We work together remotely and my hated job is getting the expenses in a format she needs so she can upload the expenses and add corresponding details into Receipt Bank so they can be billed back, where appropriate. So, today’s hotspot is to do that job.

9am

I have dealt with my mental hotspot, and it’s a good thing. I feel as if a weight has been lifted and it puts me in a better state for the day.

So, now to actual work, after having grabbed a coffee. Copy and Paste get a wipedown with a cool cloth, and I refresh their water bowls.

This morning, I am working on a remote data visualization project, which I love. It feels like a hobby. I am using Power BI to create the dashboards and templates. I have done a series of wire-frames to show how, and why, the artefacts have been laid out as per my design. The difference here is that everything looks quite different from the original work, so I need to explain the Why as well as the How.

Since I’m doing my MBA, I have access to online libraries so I can dig out the research as I go along. I need to prove myself since data visualization is an art as well as a science, and the science is backing up my rationale.

11am

After grabbing another coffee, I have an online meeting with Peter, a developer who is helping me on a project. We need to work together to swap skills in order to deliver a piece of work. I have the Azure expertise, and he has the development skills that I need. So we use GoToMeeting and we share screens and share the control of the keyboard.

11.45am

I have started to get ‘silent’ phone calls again, with someone breathing down the phone at me. I pick up the phone and I take it to another part of the house, and I leave it there. They are breathing down the phone to my empty hallway upstairs.

I come back downstairs, and I apologize to Peter for the interruption and we keep going, until I knock off to grab a drink before my next meeting.

11.55am I check on the phone, and the caller is still there. He’s quiet now but the call is still open. I don’t say anything and I just hang up. It’s not welcome and it’s a nuisance more than anything else. I need my phone back for my next call.

12pm

I have a meetings with lawyers and representatives from a company who have asked for my expert opinion with a number of things. The actual content is confidential, of course, but I thought I’d share it because I had a meeting during my last post as well.

For various reasons, I have a mistrust of lawyers and the police, which readers of my MeToo blog will no doubt guess at. I was let down. I don’t even bother reporting the calls because all the police do is give you false hope that they will do something. If the mysterious caller reads this, know this: really, you do not bother me. I have been through much worse. Find something better and more fruitful to do with your life, and if you want my attention and respect, you have to earn it by doing good, clever, intelligent things. In the meantime, I am going to continue to ignore you so hard that even you will begin to doubt your own existence.

So, I have been nervous all morning about dealing with lawyers. That said, this lawyer is very direct right from the bat, and that helps put me at ease.

1pm

Normally I’d like to take a walk again, particularly after calls which I find stressful. It’s too hot for the dogs, though, and I don’t want to leave them in this heat. So I do a little yoga instead, and I have a light lunch before diving back in to work.

2pm

I’m using PowerPoint and Power BI, and creating the template for my customer. The customer are not using Power BI but they are interested in adopting it, and, if they do, it will go worldwide so it would be great to empower people to use their data in such a great and impactful way. Note: I am not selling Power Bi and I am not a reseller. The customer will have to go and work with Microsoft directly. I’m not financially incentivized to recommend it but I do here, because it is a great fit.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about:

colour-blindness – I find Coblis, the colour-blind simulator, essential to my work. Under some conditions of colour-blindness, some shades of blueish green can become quite grey. If I’ve used grey elsewhere in the dashboard which shows bar charts, for example,, then the viewer will not be able to distinguish between the legend and the bars properly.

Golden Ratio of Design – I am thinking about the design layout.

Using statistics to combat dual axis – You can read more about the problems of dual axis over at Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s blog here. I am looking at indexing the data in order to show it better.

5pm 

I have an internal community call with some Microsoft team members. There will be more news on this in the future, but for now, all you need to know is that I am very excited!

6pm

It’s time to eat something, so I make a simple light meal of noodles, veg and I crack an egg in it. While I was at University, I lived with some girls from Malaysia and Hong Kong, and we used to share cooking tips. Miyana I have not forgotten your advice and yes, ginger makes everything taste better! I also make some ginger tea, which I can cool for later.

I eat at my desk, and I clear out some emails. I have been asked by someone to nominate them for an MVP Award and I don’t mind doing that, of course, but I don’t know them at all and I have the barest of details. For some reason, they seem to assume that I have influence over the program. So, I confirm in an email to them that I have no influence over the Program and that I don’t officially work for Microsoft although I do community volunteer (non paid) work. I think that the perception has come from the fact that I’m a Microsoft Regional Director so people make all sorts of assumptions. I figure out that they have some misunderstandings of the MVP Program and I point them to do some reading and to come back to me with more precise details. This takes a lot of my time and I’ve spent about half an hour sorting it out.

7pm

Time to walk the dogs. It’s cooler now, and the dogs have been extra quiet and mopey today because it is so hot outside. I decide to take them out for a couple of hours.

I am passionate about the environment and I care about reducing plastics, wasting water, and maintaining a good environment. So my dogs and I walk in a local park, and I pick up litter as I go. Today, I pick up four plastic bottles, a container which has held stacking crisps, and a plastic wrapper, which are just laying around. I hate people sometimes.  I usually pick up at least one plastic bottle a day, so that adds up to 30 plastic bottles a month which I pick up and recycle as a minimum – today was four bottles that were missed. It makes me angry; it’s such a simple thing and the waste all adds up. It all adds up if we all do our little bit of good, you see.

The park has recycling facilities so I recycle as much as possible except for one bottle of water, which is nearly full. Instead of tipping the water out, I take it home and I put it on my petunias and my geraniums so that the water isn’t wasted, and I recycle the bottle.

I am striving to reduce my purchase of anything plastic in the first place, so I am switching to non-plastic packaging as I go along. Examples are:

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Solid shampoo and conditioner bars rather than bottles – I use Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, wrapped in paper, so it means I am not buying plastic bottles. We are used to foaming up shampoo and getting things in lather, but that is normally just sodium laurel sulphate. So, to lather it up, just rub it in your hands and on your hair. This works great. Instead of bottles everywhere, I declutter and I have a few simple bars of soap, which smell amazing.

Travel tip: Solid shampoo bars are better than bottles for the plane, since they get through airline security just fine.

 

I am switching to purchasing toilet rolls on subscription from Who Gives a Crap? that don’t use plastic wrapping paper. Plus, 50% of the profits go to building high sanitation solutions around the world in the most deprived areas. Examples include: WaterAid AustraliaSanergyShining Hope For Communities and Lwala Community Alliance

 

This chimes with my concern to save water and if it means that I can switch my purchases to help someone else, then, why not?

9pm 

I am back home. I am recording YouTube videos at the moment, and my surroundings are now quiet enough that I can actually record my voice. The videos are in the can, but the audio needs reworked. I do this until midnight, when it is time to read my MBA work again.

I use Techsmith Camtasia which is amazing for producing videos. For me, it has no real competitor and I love it.  It has a lot of settings but it is worthwhile taking the time to learn them. If you are looking for video software, just get it. You won’t regret it. It will save you a lot of time.

I also use Audacity in order to finesse the sound. It is open source, and I export the audio back into Camtasia.

Over to you

I’d be interested in more ways in which I can help the environment in my daily life, so please feel free to leave comments and thoughts. I’m always looking for new things to do.

References

Karabenick, S. & Urdan, T.C., 2010. The decade ahead theoretical perspectives on motivation and achievement 1st ed., Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Pub. Ltd

A Day in the Life of Jen Stirrup: Tuesday 17th July, 2018 #SQLCareer

I was inspired by Brent Ozar, Steve Jones and Iris Classon to write about my day. My work and life don’t balance each other at all; my work is my life and I love what I do and I’m an unapologetic workaholic. I’m also a single Mom, so life crashes down around my ears on a daily basis. So my take is slightly different and I want to talk about what it’s like to be a technical single Mom, which is another dimension to being a woman in technology. We are even rarer, I suppose. So this is my #SQLCareer post, 1 out of 4.

I live on cups of tea and tea enables and empowers me. I didn’t note it at each step but there will be tea at each point.

12am My day starts at midnight. I’m usually still working then, so I’ll start here. I’m doing my MBA at a college in Zurich, Switzerland and it’s a lot of hard work. I read very late into the night. I’m enjoying the challenge and I’m learning a lot. I’m doing it to qualify and validate my twenty year consulting career. I learned a lot from working in consultancies before starting to work for myself eight years ago, and I’m grateful for the experiences. I’m reading about change in organizations, and reflecting on my experiences of change management as a pawn and a player.

2am I sleep.

3.30am Dogs wake me up barking, insisting that someone is outside. My security lights have come on. It could just be an urban fox, drinking at the water bowl that I leave outside for the birds. But still. I calm them down, and then try to go back to sleep.

6.15am I’m back up again. My dogs, affectionately known as Copy and Paste, have somehow managed to get out of the dining room where they sleep, and have decided to sleep outside my bedroom door. They are a complete joy and they are patient with the fact that I’m not a morning person. I shower while they tear up my house and garden before I walk them at 6.45.

CopyAndPaste.jpg

My dogs Archie and Nimbus, also known affectionately as Copy and Paste. They are half-brothers from a different set.

6.45am I wake up my teenage son before I walk my dogs. He’s a morning person. I’m not. We grunt at each other and then I take Copy and Paste out for walkies.

7.15am. I’m back. My Alexa is playing BBC Radio 4 Today program, or the BBC World Service, whichever one grabs my interest. Teenager is showered and I’m shovelling things in his school bag, throwing lunch money at him, nagging him to choose breakfast cereal, fix his school tie, making sure he’s got his bus pass and fending off requests for Iron Maiden merchandise, a paintball birthday party, a bunch of comics and a manga book.

In the meantime, Copy and Paste have formed a protest group demanding treats, and are demonstrating by sitting in front of my fridge and staring me down accusingly. They are looking for cheese but Bad Dog Mom isn’t handing out treats.

7.16am Bad Dog Mom hands out treats.

7.17am Boy eats and dogs devour treats. I tidy up the house, which involves dish washing (my new dishwasher comes on Monday), taking out trash and recycling, zipping around with the hoover, and putting things where they belong.

7.45am  I shovel my son out of the door, and I drive my teenager to the school bus and I try to really listen to him. My Mom antenna are twitching for problems and I want to see he’s ok.

8am I drop off boy and I realize I haven’t eaten so I grab a croissant from Simmons bakers, who have been in business since 1838. I’m a regular. I drive back to my home, tuning into the Today program on BBC radio four.

Infonomics
8.15am I take the dogs out again. I listen to Audible while I walk them. I’m currently listening to Infonomics by Doug Laney from Gartner.

8.45am coffee is brewing and the dogs are settling for a nap. My dog sitter arrives and I leave to get my train for my customer visit.

9am I’m on the train, furiously emailing.

10.30am I’m at my new customer site so I get to know the new team I’m working with. I don’t officially start for another week but I want to visit them so we are ready to hit the ground running. We kick off a high level view of our approach to taking them to a data science platform, analytics and machine learning. We draw, map and use post-it notes to move technologies around, remove some, add others. We note out data sources and data consumers. I photograph it all, for recording later. We are still agreeing a data modelling tool but they like Toad and Sparx.

1pm I met an old colleague for lunch. He referred me to the new customer so I want to thank him. I’m excited to be working with him again. I worked as a consultant for large and small firms before starting my own business, and it was the best way to start out. It meant I built a wide network, and I learned sales, marketing, customer perception and voice by learning and watching what other people did.

2pm I travel home and I sleep on the train.

3pm I’ve been asked to be an independent expert for an investigation and I need time to reflect. I have a meeting with the panel soon, and I like to walk as it helps me to gather my thoughts in preparation. It’s obviously NDA so I can’t get into details. I will say, however, that it can be quite stressful and walking does help me to think clearly. It’s crucial that I get this totally right, like everything else I do. People are depending on me and I have to be absolutely bullet-proof and right. Dogs are over the moon about the walk so at least someone is happy!

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4pm Home. I have a Microsoft Regional Director call. That’s NDA.

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5pm Teenage boy is home and he announces that there is no food in the cupboard or fridge. Teenage boys eat like locusts. So I go out and get some shopping done and we eat ready meals.

6pm My son and I walk the dogs. I want him to spend time away from a screen or anything electrical. It also means I get to talk to him, really talk.

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7pm My teenage son is bored with my presence and goes to his room to read Tokyo Ghoul. I have also sneaked a read of it, and I thought it was outstanding. In any case, I need to get some work done for a US based customer, and they are online now. The dogs alternate between running amok in a playful fashion, or lying in a heap because they have worn themselves out. It’s nice outside so the doors are open, and they bolt in and out of the house.

I work in an ad-hoc fashion and this US based customer has a deadline of next week. I am using Power BI to create data visualization templates and I am creating them a Style Guide as I go along.

9pm My teenage son goes to bed, after having sent me an Amazon wishlist of ten Iron Maiden tshirts.

I am still working, and I will do so until midnight, when I call off my official work. My work involves the billable work but it also involves catching up on the following:

  • I have press releases to do for a keynote so I need to answer interview questions by email
  • I am featuring in a tech magazine so I have to prepare some materials for that
  • I need to approve headshots
  • I need to lead the developer who is building my new website for me. This means I need to deliver content, do things at the Azure backend so he can move on to the next step, and answer all of his questions. He is an owl like me, and we both work late. He’s an Artificial Intelligence postgrad and he’s doing the work for me in his evenings.
  • I need to sort out my accounts.
  • I need to delegate work to my personal assistant, who is currently creating PowerPoint templates for me. When she’s done that, I’m going to give her my presentations to be redone in the template, and it will be new content for my website. It’s hard to delegate since I need to be very precise, but it is about investing time now to get time back later.

12pm – 2am MBA reading. I drop billable work at midnight and I start to read again.

That’s it!

Artificial Intelligence Mentoring with Teens in AI

After listening to Satya Nadella’s BUILD keynote this year, I was inspired to do even more with my background in Artificial Intelligence. As a Microsoft Regional Director, I relish in sharing in the positive and forward-looking vision that Microsoft gives because I do think that they are changing the future in many ways.  If you want to see the highlights of Nadella’s keynote, head over to YouTube here for the official Microsoft YouTube channel.

What is Teens In AI? It’s close to my heart because it combines my two loves: technology and diversity. The objective is to increase diversity and inclusion in artificial intelligence.
Teens in AI aims to democratise AI and create pipelines for underrepresented talent through a combination of expert mentoring, talks, workshops, hackathons, accelerators, company tours and networking opportunities that give young people aged 12-18 early exposure to AI for social good. The vision is for AI to be developed by a diverse group of thinkers and doers advancing AI for humanity’s benefit. So…..

I’m excited to be an Artificial Intelligence mentor at @TeensInAI’s Artificial Intelligence Bootcamp & Hackathon.  For more information, visit the Teens in AI website.

There are still places left at the #Hackathon with code ACORNFSM free for kids on free school meals and ACORN80@ gives 80% off – come learn about AI with top industry mentors @MSFTReactor 2-3 June.

I hope to see you there!

So how many badass female inventors, role models do you know? Here’s a handy starter book list to share and inspire

How do you inspire girls to make choices that inspire them? How can we inspire girls to be badass and yes, it is a compliment? How do you give them role models?

There is nothing worse in the world that not having any choices. So let’s give our daughters the chance to have options and choices, just like boys. Don’t filter them out before they get started.

I’m in data and technology (my uncle was at Bletchley Park) and I was inspired to learn to program as an eight-year-old girl by a spy who cracked Japanese codes whilst hiding out in India. I was extremely lucky to be taught by someone who knew Alan Turing personally and was friends with Ludwig Wittgenstein, but many folks don’t know where to start. They just know that they have to harness their daughter’s enthusiasm somehow. And there is nothing wrong with boys reading these books either…. or anyone else. My son can read these books and say ‘wow, Hedy LaMarr was awesome!’ and that’s great to hear, right?

On Twitter, I saw the British historian and BBC presenter Dan Snow post the following tweet:

What Mr Snow may not have expected is that there were many responses about the fact that many inspiring women in history get forgotten, or even written out of history. Think Bletchley Park; how many famous women do you know from there? There were thousands of female workers at Bletchley Park there but we only hear about the men.

It’s time to right this wrong, and Snow’s tweet got me thinking. Some mentioned some of their favourite books that focused on women who inspire, in order to show their daughters a different way. Example:

WE NEED MORE OF THIS! We often talk about girls needing role models, and we end up being caught in a paradox.

How do we inspire girls with role models, if there aren’t any role models? How do we get role models, if we can’t inspire girls?

Before you read below… how many women can you think of? A quick poll of people around me produces ‘that woman who invented Tippex and was David Bowie’s mother’ – three things with that; a. stop defining her as a mother b. remember her own name as well c. she wasn’t David Bowie’s mother (!). A quick research shows that Bette Nesmith Graham actually was the mother of one of the Monkees. In a reverse Handmaid’s Tale sort of way, you might call him Michael OfBette. If you haven’t read Handmaid’s Tale, please do; it will make you angry because it is so plausible. It will make you scared for how the world could go, and that’s exactly why you should read it.

Well, the good people of Twitter started to put the world to rights again, when people started to note their own favourite books, which showcase women in a variety of fields. I am listing them here, and please do add more in the comments.

I do not get paid for recommending books because that’s plain grubby and money-grabbing. I’m recommending these because the good folks of Twitter recommended them, and I will be reading them myself.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – recommended by James O’Flynn

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst – recommended by James O’Flynn

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath and recommended by Jenny Colledge

Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs by Jason Porath

These books are perhaps more for the adults:

Laurel A Rockefeller writes a series aimed at women in history

As I said, I’m into technology so I have to recommend Programmed Inequality (History of Computing): How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing. Written by Marie Hicks, it will inspire and hurt and you will learn something about how Britain can do better. Plus, WELCOME TO MY LIFE, PEOPLE.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – If you don’t read it, then you have to watch it. It’s painful because it’s articulate, insightful and it feels so close to the surface that you can almost touch the dark reality that’s not so far away from ours.

So, Mr Snow, if you ever decide to do a series on female badass characters throughout history, I think  you’ll have a very interested audience. #SubtleHint

I want better things for our children, boys and girls. If you are reading this far – Well done you – and it gives me hope that we might miss out on the dystopian future in The Handmaid’s Tale after all.

It’s about giving girls choices. If your daughter wants to be a mommy and wear pink, that’s fine. But if she also wants to be a car mechanic or scientist or save the world through environmental science, she shoudl be able to do that too.

 

Open Source Decency Charter Proposal for Dealing with Harassment at Technical Events

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If you’re reading this, you are probably a decent person. You shouldn’t read this thinking that you will be putting yourself in danger if you attend a tech event. I can tell you that I normally feel pretty safe at these events and you can read my story here and I’ve talked about it publicly since I want to do something good with it. Note that I don’t represent any other organization or body or person with this blog. It’s another heartdump.

Most people are pretty decent but what do you do about the ones that are not? How do victims know what to do? How do you know how to help one of your friends?

The vast majority of people want to help and are decent, and that’s why I’d like to propose the creation of an open source Decency Charter to help at technical community events which need support for handling harassment at events.

A Decency Charter would outline reasonable and decent expectations for participants within the a technical community event, both online and in-person, as well as steps to reporting unacceptable behavior and concerns. It’s fairly simple at heart: be decent to one another.

I think that it would be good to have to have something very clear in place that people can use as a template, so everyone can have a voice and feel safe. That’s why I think an open source Decency Charter is a good suggestion and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

This blog post is an attempt to bring a few strands together; namely diversity, harassment in the technical community, and a proposal for a way forward.

It’s a shame that we have to encode decency into technical events.  More and more workplaces are being embroiled in sexual harassment cases. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 2017, over 50% of workplaces have had an issue with sexual harassment. I think it would be good if people could adopt a Decency Charter, since it sounds more positive than a Code of Conduct. The inspiration came from Reid Hoffman, who talked about a Decency Pledge in his article The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs where he talks about sexual harassment of women in the industry. I’m grateful to Reid Hoffman for his article because it does help to have male voices in these discussions. Simply put, his voice will carry further than mine, and with way more credibility.

Followers of my blog will know that I’m trying to get support for a Diversity Charter to support diversity at events. As an additional add-on, I’d like to propose a Decency Charter as well, which gives people a template that they can use and amend to monitor their event, as they see fit. I’d love your ideas and please do email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com with your thoughts, or leave a comment on this blog.

I am going to start to list a few things here from the viewpoint of someone whose head is bloodied, but unbowed and I want to use my voice. Everyone’s experience is different but I thought that this might help in shaping a Decency Charter that sits alongside a Diversity Charter. So, what do I actually want?

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As a starter for ten:

I want to feel safe and comfortable – Make it easy. I don’t have to have to think about it too hard if something happens to me or one of my friends – I need something that is so easy that I don’t have to look far to know what to do. I need to know what to do when something happens. I want to have a ‘home’ to go to, if something happens – that can be a location, or a person to call. I want to talk to someone. I want a number to call that is very visible on my event pass or pack so I can find it easily. I don’t want to google around for a form to fill in because that introduces a delay when it goes to an organizer, plus I am worried about putting my concerns about an individual or an event down in writing in case it gets in the wrong hands. This won’t secure my safety after the event, and that worries me, too. If I make a complaint, I can’t be sure that it would be successfully resolved and all relevant data removed, or handled confidentially. Google forms are so easily digested and forwarded by email and, like feathers, it could spread. I just want to talk to someone, in my own time. So, before, during and after the event, I’d ideally like each event to have a named panel of people who will listen to my concerns and they can act upon them in a clearly documented way.

I want others to feel safe and comfortable – I expect people to be able to answer accusations made about them. I don’t want people to think that the Microsoft Data Platform community, for example, is some den where there is a lot of harassment. There isn’t, but I’d like to see a Decency Charter in place in case there is.

I want to have a voice – I don’t want my voice taken away from me. I don’t want other people to speak for me. It’s easy for people to propose things without asking victims what they want, it’s very easy to dictate an approach from a point of privilege.

I want other people to have a voice – because everyone should be allowed to speak for themselves.

I expect confidentiality. I don’t expect people to repeat private details or rumours. At best, it immediately breeds distrust and you will never earn it back. At worst, you can deeply impact someone’s life by handling issues insensitively, and this cuts both ways. An accusation can’t be a condemnation, and there also has to be a balance with protecting people at the same time. Gossip doesn’t make me trust your processes in resolving things, and it has to be well thought out from all angles.  People can see how people behave with one another, and it’s a halo effect.

I expect you not to judge.

I expect to be able to get help right now, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it. This is simply making sure that event volunteers are trained in knowing who to alert when something happens and responding thoughtfully and without judging, and, ultimately, centred on sensitivity.

I expect to be able to get help after the event, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it.  I think that having an easily-available contact in place, well after the event, would be a good step. Event organizers usually have to clear things up well after an event, so this isn’t an onerous issue at all.

So how could this shape up?

I’d like to propose that, along with the Diversity Charter, we roll out an accompanying Decency Charter, similar to OpenCon Community Values or  the PASS Anti-Harassment policy. The PASS one is a good model but it only affects PASS events, and I’d like it to be an ‘open source’ way forward for community models. I think that, if we offered a ‘package’ of a Diversity Charter plus accompanying Decency Pledge, then the community have a template of ‘add-ons’ that they can choose to flex and use for their own events. They are absolutely welcome to change and adapt as they feel fit. I think it would be great to get a version 1.1. out there for the community to review and we can see what changes I get back.

What problem does this solve?

People don’t know where to start so we can give them a hand up.

As part of the speaker selection process, speakers can submit their past speaking experience as part of the speaker selection process. Organisers can choose to follow up with those past events to see if there are any issues with speakers; in any case, they should be doing their due diligence on speaker selection anyway, so it should not cost much effort  just to ask if there were any other issues that they should know about. It’s hard to deal with attendees because they are harder to police, and they can provide anonymous details at the point of registration. However, sending a signal with a robust Decency Pledge would send a message before people turn up to the event, and they should agree to adhere to it as part of the event registration process.

It’s so much easier to talk facts to someone, which is why I think organizers can offer contact details in case anyone wants to get in touch with them after the event.

Here are some resources to follow up:

PASS Summit Anti Harassment Policy

Enforcing a Code of Conduct

Responding to Reports of Harassment at Tech Events

I also want to add these resources in case this blog triggers anyone:

Male Rape and Sexual Abuse – because men can be victims, too.

Supporting a Survivor. 

I wanted to put this poem here, which is Invictus by William E. Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

You’ve got this.

I’d love to know what you think. Please contact me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com and I’ll be pleased to know your thoughts.

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