Agile testing days organized this year something new: “Women in Agile Summit”. Great idea, difficult subject, wrong conference day – night after the conference has been closed. Not enough public information that without men, discussions are meaningless. And in fact, the person, who closed the conference, forgot to mention the upcoming event!
I arrived late but brought seven men with me. They had a hard time between choosing to drink a beer and guiding me to something-with-women-thingy. All of them chose to be brave and face the difficult topic. Bravo! But it is getting better – as we started our lean coffee session we got another member. We collected our topics, voted and as we just started our discussions, time was suddenly up and all teams were asked to present their results. So we did not really have a chance to discuss our topics as a team, but to our surprise, we got unexpected feedback to our presentation:
- first of all because of men: women ratio in the team
- gender of the person, who presented the team results
- discussion topic “beer bet”
- usage of the word “female”
No matter that the conference was extremely friendly and Maaret as Women-In-Agile facilitator was very inviting, the atmosphere was intense and spiky. Yes, we were late and yes, we did not have a lot of time, but as I talked to Garreth afterwards, we both had a feeling that no matter what would our team present, we would do it “wrong”. Even during open discussion about women role in tech, we still try to mould participants in old stereotypes.
Before I continue to share my personal views about this difficult topic, I need to share some background facts:
- I am a woman
- companies where I worked and work, male are a majority. In two companies I was the only woman with ratio 1:15 and 1:50.
- the most terrible thing what can happen to a woman in tech, that she is invited/promoted because of her gender, not because of ideas she present
For example, my personal aim for this year was to become a testing conference speaker. I accomplished it with the talks at Belgium Testing days and Agile testing days – both are women friendly conferences. I am very proud of myself, but in the same time, because I know about women-in-tech-promotions I cannot be sure that I got my chances because of my stories or because of my gender. My hope is that time will show what is what. But for now, for 2017 I set another aim – to talk in non-testing conferences. Till now – only rejections.
The thing about diversity is the same with excess weight, you close the eyes and hope that one day it will disappear just like that, without any effort. But deep inside you know that if you want a real change, you will have to work hard and disciplined. And it will take some time until first results become visible.
Conferences are mostly organized by men and mostly men are invited to present. They speak in one language and have a similar set of values. But men are not only one to blame. Women need to lean in more and not get scared by the first decline. I know what I am talking, I heard a lot of NO’s. But the only way how to keep going is to keep going.
This is my pattern how I do it:
- do not wait for permission
- do not think what others will think of you/your work
- do not give up
Some of the companies, where I worked, had no-feedback-is-good-feedback policy, in other rules of procedures. In both of the cases you can get old while waiting for permission to work on something. So I started the following pattern: inform the manager about solutions or ideas and if there is no immediate feedback, like “NO, DO NOT DO IT!”, then I proceed with implementation. With a time I learned that that was exactly what was expected from me after informal part. No feedback is approval!
Other two things mostly are supporting the first one. To imagine what others will think about my actions takes too much time and energy. Time and energy which I need to proceed with my aims. Reduce the waste, get rid of everything what is holding you back. And just keep doing what you love to do.
At the end, dear men, do some fact checking from your past and present and recall when did you last time thank or praise your women colleagues for a good job?