Building a community of women who work in technology – hosted by Betsy Speare, Jennifer Marsman & Helene Love Snell

Archive for the ‘Technical Community for Women’ Category

Perspective from the start up community: how women can win there too…

Wondering what happened to the Women in Tech the last few weeks? Well we’ve been BUSY! Helene and I are both full throttle in the Windows Server team which just released Windows Server 8 Beta! My goodness – it feels like shipping – fun!! There was also a really great write up a few weeks back in the Microsoft News Center with a great picture of me in my PJs with my daughter & nieces… also featuring co-workers Jeffrey Snover and (my boss) Erin Chapple – check it out! Last, I am still looking for GUEST BLOGGERS – male or female – got a topic? Related to tech? Written by a woman? Or about women? That counts. Send me your post.  Love getting the broader perspectives…

This week’s post is introduced by one of the blogs co-founders, Helene, shown below with her mini-me! This is a great post. It lines up nicely with work being done to support women in tech in the bay area by an organization called Women 2.0. It’s cool stuff and reminds me of the book the WLC co-founders read in 2003 called “She Wins, You Win.” It really set the tone for establishing our community and has continued to influence us in supporting each other in our interests and goals. Back to the blog – this is also great for people trying to make corporate experiences for women better – good thoughts on how we may stereotype women in start-ups that apply to corporate as well.


This week we welcome a new guest blogger, and former colleague of mine, Kristal Bergfield. Kristal’s blog Corporate Refugee, discusses her new adventures in the Start up Tech Industry in New York, and her break away from a large corporation (American Express). In her own words, Kristal is a marketer, connector, and deal maker. Today’s post addresses some of the preconceived challenges that moms face at start-ups… or do they?
Read for yourself and let me know what you think….

Helene


I’m Kristal Bergfield. I’m a marketer. connector, and deal maker. I love entrepreneurs, start ups, tech, media & the Oregon Ducks. I run the NYC Tech BD Breakfast Series. I also cook more than most people and possess an abnormally vast knowledge of pop culture trivia.


Moms & Start-ups: Yes We Can!

I’ve been reading a lot of things lately about women – specifically mothers – in start ups and how they shouldn’t do start ups because they want “flexibility”(whatever that is), and can’t possibly work “start up hours” (whatever those are). From Penelope Trunk’s intentionally provocative TechCrunch article telling women NOT to do start ups, to the sexist reaction to Alison Lindland‘s request to the NYTM mailing list to meet other expectant moms at NY start ups, the message to moms seems to be that they can’t possibly be a good parent and an A player at a start up.

So, um, folks: get over yourselves. Because guess what? I (and other moms see: Beth Ferreira, Jane Kim, Emily Hickey, Naama Bloom, Maxine Friedman and many more) are doing it and, frankly, it’s not that hard. I think this is because moms who choose to work at start ups have self selected into something they know they can handle. We don’t want flexibility. We don’t want to work part time. We aren’t just there to make a buck. We’re there for the same reason everyone else is: because we want to build something that matters.

I’ve been a mom for almost six years now. Most of that time, I worked at American Express, a huge company that’s known for it’s family friendly policies. Folks in the start up world seem to think – for the most part – that working there entailed working 9-5 Monday through Friday with unlimited resources, a cushy office and a fat paycheck. And, for moms, we got “flexibility”. Um, no, no, no, no, and hellz to the eff no. Amex has many fine qualities, but it ain’t all wine and roses and none of those things were my reality. For me, working at start ups has been EASIER than working at a big company.

Whether it’s a big company or the scrappiest of start-ups, people choose the life and lifestyle they want. So, if someone wants to work flexible hours or work part time, be up front about it and find the appropriate opportunity (most likely not at a start-up). If you want to work at a start up, as the great philosopher Tim Gunn would say, “make it work”.

So yes, moms can work at start-ups. No, we can’t play fooz ball or go out to lunch as often because we need to get more done during “normal business hours”. Yes, we have to leave at 5:30 a few times a week to relieve the nanny by 6. If we don’t, child protective services will. And frankly, when we arrive at the office at 8:30am after getting two kids and ourselves out of the house, we’re turning on the lights at work. No, we’re not always at work until 10pm (but if needed, we will be), we’re at home on our laptops after we’ve put the kids to bed doing what needs to be done. And yes, we can go to evening events and hell yes we can travel because we jump at the chance to spend a night in a hotel room blissfully alone. Hell, I recently attended a hackathon on a Sunday after baking an apple pie from scratch. How many of you have done that?

If a mom wants to work at your start up, assume she’s been smart enough to do her due diligence and knows that it can be a wild ride and has set up her life accordingly. And if she’s the best candidate, hire her.

Should Women In Tech Get Special Treatment?

We are lucky to return to Anandi  this week as  our guest blogger —  remember her awesome post ”  Your dream schedule in a tech company – it CAN be done! Four steps to find the schedule you want!.” I have to admit that my first reaction to this blog was less than enthusiastic.  The beauty of owning the blog is adding my own editorial and even changing the title (which I did  – Anandi title kicks off the blog article). 

On a bit lighter note,  over the holidays, my family launched a new website in remembrance of my Mom, Chef Char Zyskowski – it’s 1200 of her best recipes and I can tell you they are all soooo good.  The site is all about enjoying food and friends.   Take a minute to check it out www.AppleCharlotteCooking.com.   Next rev will include menus she created as well as another big bunch of recipes…

However, its a conversation that is at the root of this blog even being in existence – a special blog just for women in tech.  I guess the point is, women in tech do not have the leadership or decision making positions at the same rate as most other white collar industries.  You can point to the “math problem” (girls not encouraged to do math) and the “pipe” problem (not enough women with technical degrees) – but it’s hard to not to admit that there is something inherit in the corporate software industry that discourages women from staying in software as well as a culture that doesn’t promote them at the same rate as their male counterparts if they do stay.   So I say – YES!  We should be doing something different so that women will stay.  For example, building community for women in technical companies enables them to connect to conquer the isolation that drives  them away is good.   Identifying sponsor and mentorship programs that teach our male leaders to be aware of stereotyping is powerful and connects women with coaching – it’s is all good.    The examples Anandi gives seem more like recruiting tools  that are  more superficial “rewards” offered to women who participate – as in any scare resource.   I heard from the interns at MS this year that they got a private concert with Dave Mathews – wow – and that’s both men and women.  What’s that saying?  Scarcity breeds “over-the-top?”  We can’t pick on MS for this though – every company, college, business, government in the world relies on this premise.  So, your read it, and let me know what you think!  use the comments!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (down 1 chicken due to racoon)!

To follow the Women in Technology Blog – go to https://womentech.wordpress.com/feed/

An-web (2)Blog post by Anandi Raman Creath, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Corp.

Empowering or Separate But Equal or Unfair Advantage?

I originally posted this on my personal blog, House of Peanut, and have revised it based on some of the insight I got from the discussion with friends and coworkers that resulted.  I know “good blog posts” are supposed to have a strong opinion, but I am conflicted on the topic, so  I’m putting this out there as a collection of viewpoints and would love to hear *your* thoughts on the topic.

When I was accepted at Caltech in 1991 (yikes, that was a long time ago), the offer of admission came with an extra surprise. Not only was I invited to attend Prefrosh Weekend, which was a way for prospective students to figure out if the school was a good fit, but Caltech would PAY FOR ME to attend, simply because I was female.

First thought was “OMG, I got in?!”. Next thought was “Hooray, a trip to California!” since it was a cold April in Pittsburgh. But having never thought about it before, I was puzzled by why they’d fly me out for free, since I did not need financial assistance. Of course, I soon understood it was because of their 4 to 1 male: female ratio, and the fact that they wanted to increase their ‘yield’ of admitted female students accepting the offer.

I went to Caltech, I made lots of friends both male and female, and it wasn’t terribly hard for me to adjust to life in a skewed-ratio environment. I didn’t feel like being female was a disadvantage or that anyone was discriminating against me for it, so I never felt the need to seek the services of the Womens’ Center, all-female housing, or other women-only groups, which were all available to me.  I had one professor make an asinine remark about women not being able to visualize 3-D space, but it was, thankfully, an isolated incident.

One of my best recommendations I got for my graduate school applications was from a male professor who was involved in the decision to admit women to Caltech (only in 1974!).  Grad school and my subsequent job at a Big Five consulting firm were pretty much close to a “normal” gender ratio.

And then I came to my current company, a very tech-focused environment which seems to have the same male: female ratio (or worse) than Caltech, at least on the product teams I’ve been on. I’m frequently the only woman in a meeting, and in our last team meeting, I counted maybe 3 women in a room of 40.

This is typical, but doesn’t bother me. I’ve never felt like people were treating me differently for being female.  Except when guys apologize for using bad language in front of me – that drives me up the wall. I know they mean well, and I tell them I am fully capable of swearing like a sailor and then it’s all good.

My company sponsors a Women’s Conference, which is open to all, but typically it’s 98% women who attend, and the topics are mostly focused on women in technology, how to navigate office politics, work-life balance, etc. We have several active womens’ groups at different levels of the company that offer training, host social events, and meet regularly to work on various initiatives, like sponsoring STEM events for girls. I’m guessing men aren’t explicitly excluded from these events, but they don’t attend.

And there’s my dilemma. I’ve taken advantage of the special training sessions and conferences offered by these groups, because they’re really great opportunities that others pay a premium for externally. I like to go to the social women’s’ networking events to see former coworkers and meet new people.

Some of these events have an undercurrent of “us vs. them” and “we women have to stick together” that makes me uncomfortable. I also feel guilty because I don’t feel like I *need* special treatment or training just because I’m female. And I wonder if I’m somehow saying with my actions that we women “need this kind of help”.

And at the other end of the spectrum, to borrow a term from the Caltech Honor Code, sometimes it seems like I’m getting an “unfair advantage” by being offered these things, when most of my coworkers are not.

Some men in technology fields are socially awkward and not savvy about things like office politics and networking. They may be from other countries and don’t “get” the way things work in our American culture. I bet they could benefit from the same training opportunities as well.

When I think back to the Prefrosh Weekend trip to Caltech, I know my parents would have sent me anyway, even if they had to pay for it. There may have been guys who didn’t go because their parents didn’t want to spend the money. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of my attendance being more valuable just because of my gender.

And yes, I’m really, really lucky that I don’t have to deal with overt sexism, and that I haven’t felt that frustration. I know it still exists, even in the land of technology where I’d like to believe it’s all about intellect and efficiency. It’s possible that at my worker bee level of the hierarchy, deals and promotions are not being forged on golf courses or sports bars, but at higher levels they are. But even if that’s the case, it’s theoretical – I personally don’t feel like I’m being limited because of my gender.

Do I continue to take the opportunities offered to me? Do I respectfully decline them because I don’t feel like I’m at an inherent disadvantage and maybe someone else does? Is it like going to church, where some people need that kind of community support more than others? Am I naive and being discriminated against more than I realize?

When I put these questions out to my peers on Facebook and my blog, I got some surprising answers from both men and women.  (I love social networking!)

I had a few people say they were strongly against what sounded like “affirmative action” and “special treatment” based on gender alone.  They were all engineers, two female and one male, different age ranges, so no generalizations to be drawn there.

Several people commented on the studies done re: the inherent advantage men have in the workplace re: pay inequity, perception of male parents vs. female parents, and even getting through an interview process (swapping a male for female name on the same resume, etc.)  So there is a feeling that sexism exists, and it may be very subtle.  It may be worse in different parts of the country (or world) and can be dependent on the average age of the workforce, too.

What I didn’t expect was that nearly *everyone* encouraged me to continue taking the opportunities presented as long as *I* found them useful.  A few men and one female coworker presented it as something companies do to attract and retain underrepresented groups.  Another Caltech alumnus and Amazon engineer (male) pointed to an article about Scott Page, an economist who did quantitative research showing that diverse groups are better for organizations.

Someone made a good point – these programs exist and may give me an advantage, so why wouldn’t I grab the opportunity, for my own career development.  Because most certainly others are doing so, and these are the same people I’m ranked against at performance review time.  Pragmatic, but true.

More than a few said that I could assuage my guilt by sharing the knowledge with others on my teams, both male and female.  I like that idea a lot – building community and spreading out the benefits from these targeted activities to more than the intended group.

I also noticed that the discussion seemed to delve pretty quickly into *why* there’s an underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, and it’s pretty easy to rathole and speculate on why that is (cultural factors vs. biology).  But I think that’s too large a topic to address in this post, so let’s keep that one separate, please.

If you’d like to look at the original discussion and read the comments verbatim, here’s that post.

What’s your take on this?  Do you think we still need programs to encourage and support women in technology?  Do you take part in them, even if you don’t feel you are personally at a disadvantage?  Does the question of “fairness” enter into it for you?

And I heard a woman say…

This week’s blog post is the perfect post for the first of the year – inspirational for both men and women.  I keep threatening to write the “why I hate email” blog post but you were saved once again by a much better topic.  I suspect you’ll see a lot more of  guest blogger Stacey Sargent on this forum – I already can’t wait to see what she writes for us next!

BTW, don’t miss the big blog improvements this week – we’ve got facebook and twitter buttons! Whoo hoo!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (up two chickens, now laying eggs – thanks to the Macleod’s).

Guest Blogger – Stacey Sargent.  This awesome post is all you need to know (oh, and there’s more at the bottom about her…)

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend two women’s conferences in a row. The first was the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, and the second was the Women’s International Network (W.I.N.) Global Leadership Conference in Paris.

There was one message that resonated from both experiences.  It seemed to follow me where ever I went, hanging there like a brilliant star in the forefront of my mind.  I couldn’t ignore it.  At first, I felt the message might be shining just so I personally could see it and learn from it.

What I realize now is that everyone needs to hear this message – especially women.  Women who thirst for more in their life.  Women who aspire.  Women who want something challenging AND meaningful.

The message was articulated precisely by Pascale Dumas, of HP France, at W.I.N.  When asked what she would do differently if she had to do it all again, she answered simply (with a beautiful French accent of course), “I would take more risks.”

I would take more risks.

And then I watched two different panel discussions, each containing successful women leaders who echoed the same message.

I would take more risks.

For me, it translated into the present tense: take more risks.  Now.  Period.  End of sentence.  No caveats.  No additions.  No stipulations.

Take more risks.  NOW.

With this new bright star message in my mind, it is now illuminating everything and I see the need for it everywhere.  Opportunities to take more risk.  Openings to define what risk might be for me.  New ways to look at what taking risk gains for me or what is truly at stake if it goes awry (usually what might go wrong is less than I imagine).  And I can see it in all of the women I work with – their struggle to have the self-confidence to take risks. .

In a recent interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Ginni Rometty, the new (and first female) CEO of IBM, talked about the importance of self-confidence in taking risks.

“Really early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job. And I can remember [my] reaction to the person who offered it to me. I right away said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job. I need more time, I need more experience and then I could really do it well.’

So I said to him, ‘I need to go home and think about it.’

I went home that night and told my husband, and I’ve been married 32 years now, and he’s just sitting there. As I’m telling him about this, he just looked at me and said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?’

……What [that] taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

I believe taking risks is an important life lesson that we all must continue to learn and practice.  To practice self-confidence even when we have doubts.  To lean in and take more risks, and see what happens.

I have been practicing this art (not science) of taking risks more frequently and here are a few things I have learned:

  • I am very often much more      successful than I think I will be (read this as “don’t believe everything      you think”).
  • When I take the risk, something of      value ALWAYS comes out of it.  Aligned      with  what Rometty said, this is      when I learn the most and gain valuable experiences.
  • Taking risks doesn’t get      easy.  It is getting a bit more      manageable, but I have accepted that it will NEVER be easy or simple.
  • Having support through my friends,      family and colleagues helps me bear the challenge of taking risks.  But it only works when I SHARE it with      them and talk to them about what I am trying to do. The icing on the cake      is they are all there cheering for me regardless of result.
  • It pays off.  By taking risks I’ve had higher and higher      degrees of accomplishment (my definition of accomplishment, not anyone      else’s definition).
  • It can have an exponential effect      in many ways.  More risk taking      (with both success and survival) leads me to take even more risk.
  • I now have real data that shows my      success rate and the reality of what being unsuccessful feels like.  I’ve learned that I survive the risks      that don’t turn out well.  I might      be disappointed or sad, but that doesn’t last forever.
  • A critical component is to      PRACTICE my self-confidence (more on that in a future article!).

In my leadership and development work, which I do predominantly with women in technical companies, I see the challenges in building self-confidence and taking risks.  It can be a battleground.  But I have also witnessed a large number of women who continue to learn, grow, and RISK.  What a privilege to be part of the tribe of women who forge this path every day.

Best of success (which means, best wishes in your learning)!

“Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” ~Ginny Rometty

Stacey Sargent is the founder and principal at Connect Growth and Development, a leadership and people development company that works with individuals, teams and organizations helping them create definitions of authentic success that can be leveraged to gain more satisfying and fully-connected results. Stacey has a passion for working with women who aspire to combine achievement and meaning in their work and life. She works with clients and groups at Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and more offering long term growth programs, workshops, facilitation and coaching. Clients value Stacey’s ability to bring a supportive yet challenging nature, an approachable manner, to ask right questions and bring focus to what really matters. The company tagline, “WHAT REALLY MATTERS” is Stacey’s focal point for bringing her passion and support to her clients, in the places and ways that matter. She can be reached at Stacey@ConnectGD.com or at www.ConnectGD.com.

Top Attributes of Successful Sponsors… and btw, how’s that different from a mentor?

I spent last week at the Grace Hopper Conference in Portland, Oregon focused on Women in Technology. Obviously, for this blog there are number of interesting topics including Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg’s inspirational keynote.   Sponsorship is another area that’s getting a lot of support from Corporate Executives across the industry. We talked about it quite a bit last week in Portland –  Here’s my takeaway including “top attributes of successful sponsors…”

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

To follow the Women in Technology Blog – go to https://womentech.wordpress.com/feed/

In a nutshell – senior women who benefit from executive sponsorship are more likely to advance.

Jimin Li hit on Sponsorship last week in her Women Tech blog post. Catalyst published a great article on this topic in August and the discussion has just been heating up. It’s garnering attention both because it makes sense as well as it being something we can all DOto try and reverse the trend of women in tech.

At GHC I was honored to partner in a subsection in the GHC Exec Forum with Linda Apsley, Bill Laing, Teresa Lunt, Mark Hindsbo, Rico Malvar and Rane Johnson (see her blog on GHC) to discuss the wins, challenges and outcomes of sponsorship duos. I also participated on a GHC Plenary Sessionwith three sponsorship duo (think exec/senior woman) who discussed the challenges, benefits and attributes of these sponsoring partnerships. I don’t think it was planned this way – but Linda did a great job of predicting sponsorship as a HOT TOPIC at GHC and organized that session.

 

Sabina Nawaz, CEO Coach, beautifully framed the GHC Exec Forum discussion by focusing our attention on conceptualizing what is working for women in tech and how the GHC Exec Forum could commit to re-creating those wins (perspective based on book SWITCH). While it’s fresh in my mind I thought I would write up what I heard and learned in those sessions. I also have a selfish motive – the Microsoft Exec group at GHC also wants to articulate a “How To” for execs at Microsoft who are looking to sponsor Women in Tech. So – please let me know what you think, what I’m missing and how we could better improve this information for both the prospective sponsor and sponsor-ee.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

Mentoring is about growth, learning, working through issues and decision making.  Sponsors see your abilities and potential and look for the opportunity to champion your career.  Bill Laing characterized mentoring as generally shorter term as well as problem specific, while sponsorship is a longer term investment because additional “spotlight” might be needed to highlight accomplishments or abilities. I’m not sure it’s always that clear – although I like the idea of clarifying the difference I think there’s a bit more cross over.

What are the top attributes of successful sponsors duos for Women in Tech?

1. A Shared Passion/Goal: Share a passion for a common goal or interest that you need each other to accomplish. Examples of this included driving best practices in secure computing, driving progress via corporate women’s communities (See the Microsoft Server & Cloud Women’s Leadership Council) and increasing the percentage of women in computing (Harvey Mudd College has gone from 12% to 42%– due to an amazing sponsoring partnership).

2. Developing 2-way trust:This shared passion becomes a win-win as the sponsor is able to “amplify” the needs and requirements of the individual as well as the project/goal underway as well as depending on the sponsor-ee to represent the shared goals and vision the other direction into the team, community or industry.

3. Integrity: Being a sponsor more than an assignment – the exec knows this person and is able to give representation this person because you know who they are, what they’ve done and have a sense of their potential. It’s a genuine belief in ability and deep knowledge of proven capability of the sponsor-ee. This gives you the clear conscious to identify opportunities for the sponsor-ee not based on favoritism, but ability.

4. Chemistry:Each duo had a unique and genuine relationship based on mutual respect. It’s clear in the successful sponsor relationships we discussed today that these people liked each other.

I’m a women in tech – how do I get my own sponsor?

This is one area that isn’t so clear – currently the idea is that senior technical women (i.e. principal, director) who wish to advance their career need executive sponsorship. In my experience, I also needed a sponsor to get to the principal/director level. Iain McDonald was a great sponsor for me and continues to be recognized as a great sponsor for women at Microsoft (perhaps a blog post from you Sir Iain)? So, now do the math – take every senior technical woman that wants to make it to the executive level – there are still more of them than there are execs who are available to sponsor. So, how to get a sponsor…

1. Ask. Ask someone you admire, think you might be able to trust and someone you think could help your career progression.

2. According to Catalyst Research,“…There is no silver bullet for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor…. Sponsorship is earned… [with] reputations as flexible, collegial professionals who are consistently committed to their own career…” so – not sure how that’s actionable but gives another perspective.

How can I be a successful sponsor-ees?

1. Articulate what your needs and goals are clearly to your sponsor. They can’t help you if they don’t know where you want to go.

2. Don’t hide mistakes/failures – be open and honest. The funny thing is that we always think people are not aware of our faults. Usually, we’re the last to know our own “defects.” In the cases of mistakes – Sponsors on the panel encouraged us to be open and transparent about mistakes and what we’ve learned from them.

3. A question for the GHC Plenary panel asked how to deal with jealousy, accusations of favoritism or special treatment. The answer was two-fold – the first was really about the integrity of the relationship (see #3 in previous section) and the second was to be confident in your sponsorship relationship – ignore jealousy and accusations of “special treatment – ” they should get over it.

So, think of this as V1 – we’re just learning how to capture the ideas and make it actionable broadly. Looking forward to your ideas and suggestions on what might work here!

5 Reasons Women in Tech Benefit from Building Community

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

The best part of managing this blog is that I get to post whenever I want  – and believe me I  am getting some great articles – we might even increase to 2x week – we’ll see!  So far the feedback has been fantastic – everyone is so excited and the guest bloggers have been inspiring!   It’s so amazing what people come up with when they get a little bit of encouragement and a small stage…

Betsy-Speare_thumb1

So, week 1, we discussed why we wanted a Women in Technology blog – and the answer:  build a sense of community amongst a dispersed group of technical women.  Top question:  is this an internal Microsoft blog?   The answer is no.  Here comes the disclaimer…  This is in no way a Microsoft endorsed blog or represent Microsoft.  We just happen to have several women who work at Microsoft participating… but the cool thing is that technical women from all over the world are joining in our discussions (check out the Wandering Scientist – she’s taking this conversation an entirely different way).    So, I thought I’d kick off this weeks post with the following observations:

TOP 5 REASONS WOMEN IN TECH BENEFIT FROM CONNECTING (apparently people love lists) :

1.  We are usually isolated.  The only woman in the meeting, hallway or building doing a technical job.  This breaks the feeling of isolation.

2.  We trust transparency and honesty  – Women in tech sharing honest experiences is valuable to us.

3.  Technical women want data – qualitative and quantitative –   we’ve all heard the stats – less than 10% in core technical roles, less than 1%  in leadership roles – combine that with the qualitative experience and we know have a lay of the land that we can strategize around.  Catalyst does a great job presenting this data by the way!

4.  We want to see success stories – and use those ideas to make our experience and contribution to our jobs better.

5.  Before we are technologists, we are mothers, sisters, daughters and partners.  We want contribute to both ends – just like the women in medicine, law, sales and marketing.  We know that if we leave technology it will make it harder for the next woman, so we are looking for ways we can rationalize staying.

What’s your top reason?  Comment on this post and I’ll pull together an even BETTER list!

So, in the spirit of transparency –  I thought I  would also share our BLOG CHARTER (wow!)  that Jennifer Marsman, Helene Love Snell  and I came up with to guide us in this blog…  so you can see exactly what we are trying to accomplish and why.  We’d also love to hear from you on the charter – how should it change or evolve?

Note:   I give credit on the format and the importance of “chartering” to my fabulous friend CJ Corbett.  He would be a great contributor to this blog as he is constantly trying to find his feminine brain (really).  But I digress.  So first I thought I might get lucky and be able to cut and paste this blog…

image

Not so much.  Cut and paste into a table, slow but worked – could only have 1 column…

Title:  Charter: Women in Technology Blog

Business Case:Providing opportunities for women in technology to connect through common experiences and unique technical and personal insights therefore increasing a sense of community and support for women in the technology industry.
Goals: Provide women in technology with opportunities to connect professionally & personally in a structured manner which is reusable and connected to modern career tools.

  1. Enable discussions spanning women’s impact on technology decisions, businesses and design as well as their experience s as women in technology.
  2. Deliver high quality blog content that is relevant to Women in Technology.
  3. Maintain a professional forum open to diverse opinions supported by a wide variety of contributors.
  4. Have fun.
Opportunity

  1. We have a unique opportunity to kick off  discussions about all aspects of technology and how it impacts and is impacted by women who participate in its creation. We will encourage a diverse set of topics that we may bring a unique view upon including the impact of technology in the future, missing investments in technology, design discussions, women in leadership and more.
  2. The low ratio of women in technology focused roles creates a sense of isolation and minority for many women in those roles. Our opportunity is to create a place where technical women, dispersed around the world, can come to together in a common discussion.
  3. As women in technology who provide leadership roles at Microsoft, we are in a unique situation to recruit a unique set of bloggers – both within and outside of Microsoft.
  4. This forum is an opportunity to make 21st century global connections between technical men and women at Microsoft and technical men and women around the world who are interested in promoting women as strong technical contributors.
In Scope of this project:

  • Showcase  technical companies best practices for enabling women to contribute optimally.
  • Professionally toned rants
  • Opportunity to use a modern approach to building personal brand and on line reputation.
  • Topics of interest to women in technology

Last – given this charter – here’s some of the topics we have coming up from our guest (and local) bloggers

  1. Kicking off a discussion with a new group of women.
  2. Jennifer: Why you are doing/reading/writing this?
  3. My Favorite Resources for Women in Technology (it’ll be about GHC, Girls in Tech, Digigirlz, Systers, etc.)
  4. Personal story: Identifying your Next Career Step
  5. Following Your Passion
  6. Indistinguishable from Magic (Cool Tech Summary)
  7. Why I love HTML5Getting funding for scholarships for women in CS

And the list goes on… so you can see why we have been excited to kick this off – stay tuned and send your comments, suggestions and blog posts for inclusion!

Bets, Jennifer and Helene

Do you need permission to improve a crappy team? Ask your Board of Directors!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

Betsy-Speare_thumb1_thumb

Before we even dive into the topic du jour, I want to say that this blogging business is a learning experience – i.e. test link, get an editorial pass, and get this all done 24 hours before posting.  Maybe we’ll start a new blog called “how to write a WIT blog.” Finally – THANK YOU!  – just a little over 500 hits last week on our first post and some very motivational notes from women who are happy to see other technical women. It’s such a bummer to feel isolated – hopefully we can curb some of that here.  Next week we start our guest-blog-a-thon…

I have a “board” that I discuss all my work problems with. It’s a bunch of rad women that I just really trust to tell me the truth, give good feedback and wonderful ideas – but mostly just courage to be honest – self asses and then move on.    A little while ago, in a technical women’s lunch (read:  big “board”) we had such a great discussion that it made me want to just write it down.   In my experience, women can  stretch professionally by having open conversations. I don’t think the value of  peer feedback and mentoring are unique to women. Technical men  have these conversations with each other as well – but not often with women (statistically fewer technical women…). I wonder if the guys talk about their failures and successes more, but I bet the successful men have figured out how to get feedback.  A big part of “success” is mentoring – basically learning from the experiences of others and soliciting feedback on thought structure and ideas. I think the guys just have more opportunities to have conversations w/ other men because there are more of them around. It’s just harder to findother women to trust and talk to – we might not see each other that often!

So the big “board” that I referred to is the  MS Windows Server and Cloud Women’s Leadership Council(a grass roots community of technical women at Microsoft – short name “WLC” ) meeting with a topic brought up by a program manager we’ll call “Jane.” She had recently changed managers within her group. The new lead just wasn’t as inspirational as her last manager and she didn’t feel connected with her peers. She had delivered a “stack” of feedback and changes she was asking her new manager to address including asking for more inspiration and connection with the rest of the team. She came to our lunch frustrated with the lack of response and to discuss her options and get feedback (THAT takes courage!). BTW, Jane’s clearly an articulate, intelligent woman with a lot to offer and will go a long way. I asked her level (“Senior PM” in Microsoft terms, mid-level/non-manager PM), what the “stack” of feedback was and then considered how to respond.

First, to clarify – all of the  feedback to her manager was reasonable and none of it reflected bad behavior on the part of her manager – nice guy and friendly – not mean, condescending, flirting, out to get her, competitive or any of a myriad of potential crappy manager traits that we have all experienced or heard about a thousand times. Also – I’ve known Jane for a while and while she has a lot of gusto and energy, she doesn’t have deeply engrained “issues” that would make me steer her toward some kind of performance improvement plan. Last, while I’m not familiar with her new manager I’m familiar with her team which has a great reputation and solid leadership.

So the new team did not have the connection and sense of community she desired.  Wait a second, I thought – is she was waiting for someone else to create something she needed?   When had I encountered this? Had I? Honestly, no, I’ve never been a “wait for permission” person – in fact  waiting for permission makes me think I’m going by the rules for the sake of the rule and then I REALLY stop waiting! I remember one of my first test managers, Greg Chapman, telling me this was a great trait – I remember my Mom telling me otherwise. Poor Mom.

So, what was the feedback? I said it much more tactfully, but if you are looking to grow – quit looking for inspiration, direction and problem solving to come from a manager. In my case, eventually my job goals, vision and commitments came from my own assessment of the work to be done. As I became more senior, it was expected that I would find my own way, define my own priorities and make sure they lined up with the objectives of the team. Ideally, they would even improve the path to the team vision. Eventually, it has become sort of backwards to complain about a problem without a solution in mind unless you’ve really racked your brain on how to fix it – but that’s later in career. So in listening to our Senior PM (with the fabulous courage to ask the question), I wondered how to convey that – and I gave it a shot and suggested she make some suggestions on how to improve the situation.   I suggested that in addition sometimes the feedback you are giving says more about you than the receiver (not always, but in this case, yes). Maybe it was time to figure out how to address the broken issues on your own?

Mai-lan Tomsen Bukovec (a valued member of my personal board and recent Geek of the Week honoree) jumped in. She explained that at some point it was up to you to create the team you wanted. Someone else pointed out that you could quit waiting for permission to make it better. You could do brownbags and ask your manager to present, pay for pizza. How to build that sense of team camaraderie that was missing was up to her – build what she needs. Our lunch group came up with some really good suggestions.

(Mai-lan, Geek of the Week)

Jane  asked what we did to make sure we had a great team that we could lean on. I pointed to the room. This group what we had created to make sure we had the support we needed.

When I see successful women in technology there is a common attribute. They don’t wait to find out if it’s “OK.” They aren’t so concerned about “stepping on toes” and they don’t wait for someone else to fix it. Something isn’t working for her or her team or her customer and she just figures out something to make it better and does it. I guess the really successful ones probably figure out how to get it in their review and receive some recognition for it… but we’ll leave that for another blog topic called “VISIBILITY and SPONSORSHIP (check out this great article on Sponsorship that Deb McFadden forwarded me from Catalyst.”

So there are multiple pivots to this discussion. I do wonder how well this “go for it” mentality facilitates collaboration and other cross team skills. I mean it’s sort of hard to listen when you are busy just solving all the problems yourself. Yes, I know that’s an extreme, but I’d like to hear from you on that too.

So after the discussion my new friend send me mail asking for some 1:1 time – I told her I would be happy to discuss. Then I saw the title of the meeting request from her “HOW TO TURN ANY JOB INTO A PERFECT ONE.” Oops. That wasn’t what I meant… I haven’t met with her yet but I felt sort of guilty just accepting the meeting invite.

Women in Technology blog– Our first blog!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft

Happy Family member,  new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

 

Betsy Speare

 

In 2003 I became part of a group of 10 women asked by Bill Veghte, then VP of Windows Server to help him understand the experience of Women in his group. While we had little insight into the reasons why at the time, we know now that there were three issues that were likely concerning him. First, the numbers for women in technology in our group were abysmal – I’d estimate less than 10% of technical heads belonged to women. Second, the retention rate beginning with mid-level women began plummeting dramatically faster than men at the same level. And last, those women that were staying were getting promoted at a significantly slower rate. Even at that time, our executive leadership understood that you aren’t likely to deliver world class products for a diverse set of customers with a non-diverse workforce and further, the less diverse you are, the less diverse you get.

Anyhow, that initial set of conversations with Bill and then his replacement Bob Muglia were encouraging. We found out we had a common set of experiences as women in Windows Server. We were motivated and excited to spread the word. We met a few times a month and brought our lunch while we discussed what we knew, what we didn’t know, how we could help Bob educate his staff. We had some great ideas and spent about a year pursuing them with Bob’s unwavering support. We brought in Abbey Stewart – a woman at the U of Michigan who had done extensive & impressive research and recommendations to positively impact the experience of women in the engineering and sciences department and throughout U of M. She had successfully transformed the tenure evaluation process to be a “blind” selection based on the candidates qualifications and had some amazing results (check out her reseach!).  We showed Bob’s staff videos and powerpoints and even Abbey! How could they not see the benefit of shifting our processes and policy? They didn’t bite. We changed tactics and came in with lists of recommendations and ideas on how we could improve the experience for women in Windows Server. The response was not what we had hoped. The GMs were interested in stats almost exclusively.

“Was this really a problem?” “What are the stats in my team?”  “How many women were available to hire?” “What percentage did Microsoft hire?” “ How many stayed?” “For how long?” “Why did they leave?” “Why aren’t there very many to hire?”

All reasonable questions – none of which we could answer. HR wouldn’t give us the numbers, exit interviews were unlikely to be very revealing and without the stats we couldn’t get through. Fundamentally I think the staff wasn’t trying to blow us off, they were trying to understand what “success looks like.” How would they know if they were doing things better? What numbers would change? We couldn’t answer.

We were dismayed and deflated. I remember sitting together at one of our lunches – all of us disappointed with the lack of progress we had made – even with all our effort and enthusiasm we hadn’t made a dent. I remember declaring that I didn’t want to waste my time on this anymore and that it’s not likely that the minority can change the mind of the majority. It was so frustrating!!

In the same moment we looked at each other and recognized that at least we had gotten to know each other. We never missed those lunches because it was such a relief to sit in a room full of women (ok, 10 women seemed like a LOT) and just talk about whatever we wanted. We had no taboo topics. We discussed our promotions, our bosses, our reviews. We discussed where the women were and where they weren’t. We recognized the propensity toward technical women being in lighter weight roles more focused on project management and UI and not many (we had 1!) in core systems, networking or kernel. We investigated different ways of supporting women (read She Wins, You Win – it sets you in the right direction).  It was relaxing and refreshing to connect with other women. So, we decided to abandon Bob’s staff and just take care of ourselves. We kept having lunch every few weeks. Then we began thinking about what we could do for ourselves and the other women we worked with.

The results 8 years later are amazing and the impact is probably beyond what we actually know. What we know for ourselves is that out of those 10 original women, only 1 has (tearfully) left the company due to a job transfer her husband accepted, 2 has left Windows Server (but we still see her!) and the other 7 are still in the (re-orged many times) Server and Tools Business and have all been promoted to senior ranks. We are officially called the Windows Server Women’s Leadership Council (you can join us on our new Linked In page) and our membership is past 300 women AND even some men. The initiatives we drive reach well beyond 1500 women at Microsoft and span multiple divisions (I’m counting the 1degree program and Senior Women’s Efforts for those who are counting – more on those in another post). We have an executive sponsor (Windows Server VP Bill Laing – there’s a good story here) and a budget! Gasp! We have a well published charter (coming soon with perms from the WLC Board!), a web page with events and contacts (internal only for now) and more events that we can keep track of. Our basic premise for any initiative is that if you are interested in making it happen, then we’ll find the budget. You can imagine the variety – everything from book clubs to mentoring rings to yoga classes.

I’ve had this conversation 100s of times with these women over the last 8 years. I’m still surprised when a woman or group of women comes to me for input on creating community or personal mentoring, have this conversation, and the veil of mystery is lifted – we aren’t alone here! Then the stages of grief overwhelms her, she spends some time (1 day to 6 months) venting and then, she begins to take some action. Just like we did.

So this blog is an extension of that conversation and community.  There will be discussion, technical explanation, venting, leadership and mentoring…  a spot where we can have regular, open discussion about how to improve our experiences and see the results of women in technology.   Here, we can educate ourselves and while giving interested male counterparts, managers and executives some insight into our experience and the opportunity to share their perspective as well. So that’s it. This is it.

At this years Tech Ed Women in Technology Forum, I partnered up with Microsoft Principal Developer Evangelist Jennifer Marsman and Microsoft Director of Communications for Windows Server & Cloud Division, Helene Love Snell.  Together, we’ve come up with an impressive list of guest bloggers!   If you are interested in blogging, let me know – I hope we have a variety of contributors (men too!) that can share their perspective on building great experiences for women in technology.  Also – while Jennifer is out on leave (congrats!!), I’ll be learning as I go on this blog – suggestions welcome.

 

Ultimately, we must own our own happiness (quote from my Mom) and we can really impact the experience of those who might be feeling a bit isolated – join in and welcome!

Betsy Speare

betsyspeare@hotmail.com

Follow me on Twitter @BetsySpeare

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