The last six weeks have been a whirl wind with three summits in three continents, the Analytics and BI MQ publishing, and women’s history month. Oh, and I almost forgot about four snow storms and loss of power for six days. Yeesh!
As my family and I sat around the Easter brunch table, I shared with them a surprising statistic I had stumbled across on Twitter. According to Fast Company, 92% percent of American consumers surveyed could not name a single influential female in technology. Some named Alexa. I posed the question to my son and husband. My son replied, “Cindi Howson!” (he’s a charmer all right). My daughter, away at college, outdid him by texting her reply, “You and Rita!” (whom she’s never met but has heard about). My husband asked, “Is Fiorina still around?”
I asked them, “Haven’t you heard of Ginni Rometty—the CEO of IBM—or Cheryl Sandberg – the COO of Facebook?” My husband, who reads the Wall Street Journal daily, didn’t recognize Rometty’s name. My son and daughter, both college-aged, hadn’t heard of either. Why is this?
It reminded me of something Laura Sherbin, Co President of Center of Talent and Innovation and HBR author, said at our Women in Technology breakfast at the Dallas Data and Analytics Summit: Women don’t like to brag and don’t like to put ourselves out there to take credit. When we accomplish something, it’s almost always in the form of a “we,” at best. “We” are not our own best advocates.
Coincidentally, that morning, Carlie, Rita, and I discovered we were named in a list top 10 female influencers in data and analytics. The three of us were silently cringing, thinking of all our other co-workers who could have / should have been on the list. It was our colleague, Doug Laney, who widely shared the list with our team (thank you, Doug!). Admittedly, I felt much better, happier, when another list of both female and male influencers popped up a few days later.
Dr. Sherbin advised that women do have to learn to tout our accomplishments, and if we really need to share the credit, try to phrase it as “I and my colleagues …..” but get that I in there! Maybe. I can’t help but think how people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs get movies made about them. Books about them help with all this touting. Rometty, on the other hand, didn’t found IBM, so I guess she won’t benefit from the PR of movie. I wondered to my family if buying a boat or two, a la Larry Ellison would help. Ironically, for me, some of the most inspiring women in tech were profiled in the movie Hidden Figures. What does that tell you about how much “touting” these ladies did that it’s taken 50 years to shine a lot on them?
At the summits, we also spoke about the pipeline problem facing our industry. Female enrollment in technology continues to decline in most countries. In Sydney, I was fortunate to have a conversation with an online recruiter at the breakfast event. Language in job descriptions certainly is a problem. Others also described how men apply for jobs and are hired based on potential, but women only apply and are hired when they meet all the qualifications. Even in high school, differences in what we are truly best at shape our career choices. Also, Dr. Sherbin thinks that, in our effort to address some of the industry challenges, we paint an overly negative picture. She has a point. Who wants to work in an industry where our voices aren’t heard, promotions aren’t fair, we’ll always be the minority, and harassment seems to runs rampant? Or, for example, when telecommuting is positioned as a solution for working mothers who “can’t handle a fixed schedule” as opposed to a productivity booster for all.
I countered that we aren’t necessarily complaining all the time. “We’re sharing! We’re trying to fix what’s broken.” This is true. But maybe the image is out of whack. We know that more diverse teams have higher return on equity and higher innovation. So I hope that men and women, together, can fix these challenges. Many of the summit attendees were happy we were talking about diversity in the keynotes (see attendee Hank Weaver’s post); others were not.
Here is what I can tell you. I love the work I do. I feel challenged every single day. I have an amazing team of colleagues – male and female, young and old, multi-cultural, laissez faire and OCD and ADD. As an analyst, I get to check out so many cool vendors and disruptive technologies. I am inspired by the impact data and analytics has on companies to perform better and to use data for good. I have seen some amazing places around the world (including Manly Beach this year!). I am grateful that my male colleagues are partners in addressing some of our challenges—whether it’s Merv Adrian being the minority male to join us for breakfast or James Richardson inspiring his daughter to participate in Accenture’s Girls in STEM event – just two examples of so many bright spots.
The tech industry is a wonderful place to be. For everyone.
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