Hello from Seattle! I’m excited to be sitting front and center of the 10th Women in Technology Luncheon at PASS Summit! This year’s topic is “Women in Technology: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”
We’ll be hearing from an excellent panel! Stefanie Higgins, a Sr. DBA for Disney and former PASS board member; Kevin Kline, a past president of PASS; Denise McInerney, from Intuit, who founded the WIT virtual chapter; Jen Stirrup, consultant and now a PASSion award winner; and our very own Kendra Little!
I got talking to Geoff Hiten. He attended last year’s luncheon and had a great story for me. Last year, one of the discussions we had was that women sometimes hesitate to apply for a job or offer to speak because they don’t feel they know 100%. He used that knowledge to help a client write a DBA job description – separating out the “required” and “preferred” skills. They hired a female DBA, who noted that helped her have the confidence to apply for the position. It’s great to hear how the panel lunch has helped people in the real world!
The room is filling up fast! It’s great to see so many men and women interested in the topic!
Bill Graziano is on stage, welcoming everyone to the 10th annual luncheon! He introduces the moderator, newly elected PASS board member Wendy Pastrick!
We’ve grown from approximately 60 people at the first WIT luncheon to a room for 740. That’s amazing!
Wendy introduces Stefanie Higgins, a DBA extraordinaire, former PASS board member, and WIT lunch founder! She’s talking about her reasons for starting it. She was a computer science major in college and had trouble connecting with other women in the field. A boss once told her he had a bias against women. She wanted to connect with other female computer professionals.
Next up is Denise McInerney! Her first Summit was in 2002 – she had to work to find a woman to talk to at that event. Now, how times have changed! The message she got in 2003 when she saw that there would be a WIT lunch was, “This organization cares about my experience.” I love this sentiment! Women’s presence in the community has been increased greatly, from speakers at Summit to SQL Saturday organizers.
Women leave technology careers at twice the rate of men. How can we solve this problem?
Wendy introduces Kevin Kline. He talks about how PASS can compete with larger organizations and conferences. We have the community, and we can be the most welcoming, friendly, and hospitable environment! He’s learned that it’s not enough to say, “Welcome, come in!” We have to say, “Come in! Sit down next to me! Let me introduce you to my friends!” We want to be that organization.
Kevin is the dad of one son and six daughters. Six! He knows that men and women think differently. The challenge for men and fathers is to tell their daughters, “Come. Sit down next to me. Let me show you how I pay the bills by doing this job I love.”
Jen Stirrup, SQL Server MVP and PASSion award winner, is introduced. In Europe, only 25% of jobs in science and engineering are held by women. In IT, that’s 17% and declining. This is a global problem! The government of Scotland is making a concerted effort to make IT and data available to women, to empower them and allow them to support themselves.
Jen is talking about the growth of the PASS community in Europe, and the related growth of WIT events. It’s fantastic to hear that this is growing globally! I remember that last year, after moderating the panel, I talked to an attendee from Saudi Arabia. He told me his wife faced many of the challenges we talked about, and he was excited to take all his notes from the lunch back to her. These are truly global challenges.
Kendra Little, an entrepreneur, MCM, and MVP (and my co-worker!) is talking about how things have changed for her in the last 10 years. She was great at teaching herself things, and learning on her own. She used to think, “I’m a worker, and I’m smart, and I can do things. But I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m a worker.” Now, she’s a partner here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. PASS helped her overcome her earlier thoughts. She was taught how to be a mentor, and a leader.
It’s Q&A time!
“I train people to be SQL DBAs. We’ve only had one. I tell them they can make great money doing this. Women aren’t interested. Why? What can I do?” Denise says, “Ask them, “What’s stopping you?”” Kevin says, “I was once told by a woman, “Money isn’t what motivates me. What I really wanted to do was help people.” It’s the wrong appeal.” Appeal to their values. Stefanie weighs in. She says it might help to have them talk to someone who is successful in the field.
“This is my third year. I run a user group. It’s so wonderful. I encourage everyone to share with their local chapters.” Wendy points us to http://sqlpass.org/wit to get more information to give to user groups and other interested people.
“I have daughter, and she is going into a science and technology field. She’s come to many SQL Saturdays with me, and I think that’s given her the courage to pursue it. Thank you, from a dad.”
“I have a question about work/life balance. With 40 or 50 hour work weeks, it can be hard to approach your boss and ask for flex time. How can we encourage our employers and workplaces to offer things like that?” Jen worked for a company once that regularly had meetings at 6:30 pm. She only worked their 8 months. Eventually, she started her own business, which means she can set her own contracts, work from home – and pick her son up from school. Kendra has a couple of techniques, from a boss perspective. Track where you spend your time – there are free online tools to help with this. Gather data, analyze it, and make proposals. If you’re spending a lot of time on repeatable tasks, ask how you can automate it. Use a webcam for meetings! People see you, and know you’re working. Denise says this is a major concern for employers. One of the top reasons women leave jobs is because of a lack of flexibility. Kevin says to make a proposal that you will be more productive at home.
“I don’t see a lot of young ladies going into this field. I’m lucky to have gained the knowledge I have. I’m looking to start a group to share some of the things I’ve learned.” Stefanie connects her with Lynn Langit, who started DigiGirlz. [EDIT: Lynn, thanks for leaving a comment! Lynn created content for DigiGirlz. She also co-founded the non-profit Teaching Kids Programming.]
“How do we bring girls into technology? They want to be rich, they want to be famous, they want to be cool. Bring Girl Scouts to these events and let them see that geek is cool.”
“Can we talk at a higher level about outreach programs at colleges? There are no database clubs, or sponsors. That’s a solid thing that we could do at a chapter level.” (Personally, I would have loved this when I was attending tech school. Now I run a user group in the same city I went to school in. I think this is An Idea.)
“How many of you got into computers because of video games? I have a four year old daughter, and I found out recently she loves video games. We can start early showing them this is cool.”
“I’ve been saving this question since last year! It’s about organizational dynamics. When I’m on a team and it’s mostly guys, team cohesion comes from hanging out together. Those things happen to be competitive in nature. These things make me feel at a disadvantage. What are your comments or suggestions around that?” Denise says to offer an alternative – she once had a chef come in a lead a cooking class! Kevin says, they probably just haven’t thought of this. Suggest other alternatives. Jen suggests something with an environmental emphasis – something positive, like helping to plant a garden.
With that, I need to go prep for my Lightning Talk! Thank you to the wonderful panelists for sharing your insights and suggestions. Thank you to everyone who attended, and those who asked questions! Thank you SQL Sentry for sponsoring the lunch. And thank you PASS for continuing this tradition!