Tag Archives: women

Keep your Hand up to Get Ahead…

18 Jun

There are more and more women dropping out of the IT workforce, and since the 80’s peak of 1/3 women in computer science, the statistics are at an all-time low of less than 20% of students being women in computer science programs.

In 2011, an all male team of university researchers published studies and held symposiums aimed to increase female participation in the technical engineering and computer science fields.  The answers are as complex as the questions – with no ready one-size-fits-all solutions.  Is it women not supporting women?  Is it a workplace and environment that does not allow diversity?  Is it an old-boys club that excludes women?  Do women have different needs?  It is all and none of these, but without work and interest to change the future, we will be destined to repeat the past.  Change starts with me and you… and I’ve got lots of ideas (hmmm… a book?)

Here’s a link to an interesting TED presentation on the topic – what do you think?

I LOVE the concept / quote from this video: People (especially Women) need to Keep Our Hands Up to Get Ahead!

(This was in reference to a story she tells where she told an audience she would take 2 more questions.  Once the two questions were posed and answered, most people put their hands down – but not all.  She then proceeded to take a few more questions from the persistent few who had kept their hands up.  Her advice is to Keep your Hand up to gain a step ahead.  Too often, women (especially!)  quit too early (and follow directions too readily) – just because it seems like the game is over!)

Watch and comment (please!)

Here’s the URL: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

Have a great week!

Carol

IWF… the Forgotten Demographic

14 Mar

I  W  F

Invisible
White
Female

I will be the first to admit that I did not see it coming – the slow slide into invisibility that comes with being an over-40 female in America.  My first recognition came when I joined an online survey group offering to pay me for my opinion on a variety of social and retail trends (I quit after the first 20 surveys excluded me for not being in the 20-40 age bracket – the important demographic group).

Next came dining out alone at restaurants where maitre d’s look completely through me to seat couples or families in line behind me (perhaps I should tell him about my 20-30% tipping practice?)

Now I can add craft beer establishments to the list, where if I do not overtly flag someone down, I am unseen for at least 15 minutes (despite empty tables around me).  As an aside, craft beer is also a topic of a blog I write.

The media are no less kind to single white women (age is less relevent here) – especially if we are single mothers (a new target for a senator in WI), or ovulating (note to Rush Limbaugh and elected politicians:  why do we fund Viagra and not birth control?)

  What Happens when Women Age?

Have you heard the Hollywood saying about gender and aging?  Men become “distinguished” (think Sean Connery) and women just grow “old”. Perhaps a distinguished beard would render me less invisible?

Perhaps the invisibility comes from other characteristics?

Could it be that I am independent (my children are grown), or confident (talk about an intimidating trait!), or attractive (I stay in shape!), or financially stable (I pay my own way), or knowledgeable (I write several blogs – one professionally)? No, the people who do not see me do not know any of these things.

Yet, somehow, despite arriving at middle age with status, stature and bearing, these are not enough to ward off Invisibility… (I know it is not “Rejection” because I have not yet met the people to whom I am invisible!)

We are so politically correct in North America so as not to disenfranchise any minority group (if you are disabled+female+veteran+Asian descent you can write your own ticket) or god forbid, offend a member of any minority with a misplaced word – yet a huge majority group – Invisible White Females – is largely disregarded and forgotten.

(It is interesting to note that the average age of women in the US according to the 2010 census is 38, with a life expectancy of 80+ years.  We have a long time to be an IWF!)

What is YOUR Experience?

Certainly males are overlooked, disregarded, or downright ignored at times too, but in talking to colleagues, nothing quite compares to being an Invisible White Female as far as being a non-entity.

I feel like I am fading into the woodwork as I age… what is your experience?  What do YOU think?

Carol

Women who know too much…

20 Feb

On Valentine’s Day I listened to a radio poll stating that most men find intelligent women attractive.  Perhaps this is true in some markets, but the places where I go it seems to just the opposite.  What has been YOUR experience?

As a confident female with good communication skills, I find that I need to “dumb down” most conversations when meeting men for the first time.  When I neglect to do so, men walk away as soon as they find out I “know too much” (in their opinion).  Whether the conversation is about travel, work, or beverages, women who “know too much” often find themselves alone with their thoughts.

I often see attractive, confident, smart women doing this same thing – pretending not to know about common topics of conversation simply to keep a man’s attention for any length of time.  (Note, that inebriated men don’t seem to care if a woman is intelligent and don’t seem to be intimidated.)

Intelligent women may be attractive to others, but only if they keep their real IQ a secret.  Simply talking about foreign travel or world events (non-politically charged!) seems enough to intimidate most men.

Does it make sense to do this; to dumb down conversations and mask the real you?  Is it worthwhile to forego intelligent conversation to adopt people-pleasing behaviors just for the sake of meeting new people?  Having said this, men still pay more attention to “dumb blondes” than smart ones.

What does it say about equality when we have to pretend not to be smart if we want to be noticed?

I spent my high school years lying to classmates about my test scores (lopping off a full grade to fit in).  At home I met with an opposite reaction when my father chided me for missing an “extra credit” question and getting too low a test score.  It seemed (and seems) like being educated just doesn’t pay off for women when it comes to men.

Referring back to my opening statistic, I agree that men probably like to know that women are intelligent, but only to a certain extent: there’s too smart (a turn-off) and too dumb (also a turn off) and everything in between.  Regardless, I contend that cosmetic beauty still wins over smarts in terms of attractiveness.

Conversation starter

Knowing a bit about a subject can be a good conversation starter, but to keep the flow of words going, women need to step back and allow men tell us how much they know (even if it is made up crap!)  Sweet smiles work far more magic than trying to add to the conversation, especially if it is something you know.  Here’s a case in point:  if you talk about a traditionally male subject, such as microbrew beer (confession: I know a fair amount about craft brews), men will feign interest for 30 seconds and then turn to talk to someone else.  The choices are: 1. Dumb it down or change the subject; 2. sit facing the guy’s back; or 3. Talk to someone else.

Perhaps women do know too much… but it does not seem to take much to intimidate a guy these days. What is YOUR experience?  How do you react when you meet a woman who is intelligent and confident? ?  Half of the world would like to know.

Have a good week!

Carol

Tolerance for Divas? Not on my watch…

23 Jan

Is it just me or are there more “diva” women around than ever before?  I am noticing that there are more “women behaving badly” who act like spoiled two-year olds with their women friends.  Often, such women attribute their abhorrent behavior to “going through a divorce” or “I’m in a bad place” as rationale for mistreating tolerant and giving friends.

I do realize that men treat women badly, and women treat men badly, but today I want to talk about women who treat non-romantic, purely platonic friends poorly – just because they can get away with it.   This came up on my radar again today when one of my best  friends called me to talk about a situation that arose over the weekend.  One of her women friends yelled at her in a parking lot and she wanted my opinion on whether she deserved it.  After listening to her (the story follows), I realized that she was subjected to “diva treatment” at the hands of said-friend and it was totally unwarranted.   As I listened to her relay how she was embarrassed, amazed,  and ultimately saddened by the way her friend treated her, I thought about how I have endured similar treatment by women who at one time I had also considered friends.

Here’s the story:

  1. Jess (my friend) went out with Tracey (the one I’m calling a diva) to a beach bar for a drink before going to a party, and after ordering a drink, Tracey decided she was bored with the selection of men and wanted to leave. Jess had just started to enjoy her drink and told Tracey that she wanted to finish it first. (Diva infraction #1: Jess didn’t immediately follow Tracey’s request to leave.)
  2. When they got to the party, Tracey got a phone call from her boyfriend who wanted to meet her at another place, and Tracey told Jess they had to leave immediately. Jess told Tracey that they had just arrived at the party and she wanted to stay for a few minutes to talk to a few friends they had come to see.  (Diva infraction #2: Jess asserted her right to talk to others.)
  3. When they left, (Tracey stood by the door pouting until Jess was ready to leave 15 minutes later), Tracey blew up at Jess in the parking lot yelling that Jess was self-centered, selfish and really didn’t know how to be a friend!  Classic “diva” behavior!

Now if these were middle-school pubescent teens, one might forgive such an outburst, but these were mid-forties women dressed to the nines going out for a couple of drinks on a Saturday night.  If it was an isolated incident, maybe one could attribute it to an error in judgment.  But this isn’t isolated behavior – it is classic, spoiled, mid-life diva-esque behavior on the part of those who never grew up.  Unfortunately, those of us who were taught to tolerate others often forgive this type of behavior until it spirals out of control.  As a result, we end up having to release such toxic friendships, with the result being a smaller and smaller cadre of friends to hang out with.

In the end, my friend Jess was disheartened and asked what it was she did wrong; what had she done to incite Tracey’s outburst?  She even pondered what it was she did to “deserve” such treatment. (Jess is one of the most tolerant, and giving human beings I know!)  The answer is that it was not Jess’ fault for Tracey’s bad behavior and there is little she can do to prevent a future outburst (aside from trying to talk to Tracey about how she feels.)  More than likely, Tracey has always gotten away with such tantrums and sees her behavior as “normal”.

I had a friend Lisa this past year who was just like Tracey – she would leave any occasion the minute that she was not 100% entertained or if the men in the room did not adore her “accoutrements” (she used to tell me that “any guy who does not stare at my chest must be gay”). It became too much of a burden to tolerate her diva behavior: she bored way too quickly, was entirely self-absorbed, and she would abandon me the minute a good-looking potential boyfriend walked into the room.  I realize that there are simply too many middle-aged “divas” looking for new friends they can abuse and I am simply no longer up for it.  Saddly, there are others like my friend Jess who are finding out the same thing (even though this was the first major blow-up at Tracey’s hands.)

It occurred to me that women often treat their “friends” much worse than others would tolerate, and it is those of us who are givers (and over-givers!) who suffer the most at the hands of these “divas”.  We misguidedly take responsibility (and blame) for the bad and immature behavior of others – and it has nothing to do with us!

As Jess and I talked, I thought about a stand of trees in a forest – some trees tall and strong, others tall and brittle, others large and looming.  The trees that are strong and tall simply bend and sway in strong winds without complaint. The tall and brittle ones tolerate minimal wind with branches snapping at the slightest breeze.  Jess and I and Tracey and Lisa and other women are all part of a similar forest.

Some of us have grown up to learn to tolerate the tirades and verbal abuse of others – and we learn over time that wind and storms are not about us – they simply surround us.  Others, have somehow grown up to feel they are privileged to deserve special, sheltered treatment and who blow up at the slightest breeze.  Most often, these “divas” justify their right to snap and behave badly by blaming others for even the smallest breeze.

Going forward, I believe that as women, we need to stand up for the givers among us and say “no more!” to the divas who treat us poorly. Slowly we can hopefully change the world…even if it is one diva at a time.

p.s., Here’s a link to the Self-esteem: Personal  bill of rights – a great reminder that we deserve great treatment from others – especially ourselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Zw99gPKvs

Have a great week!

Carol

Overseas news: quotas for female executives…

29 Jun

Parade.com featured an article in the Economy section on June 13, 2010 (excerpted here):

A Quota for Female Executives

“A full 40% of board members at major Norwegian companies are women—they have to be, by law. In 2002, the Norwegian parliament gave companies six years to comply with the new mandate. Spain has introduced a quota requiring that women comprise 40% of boards by 2015. Italy, France, and Belgium are considering similar bills….

Today, 15% of board members at top U.S. companies are women, compared with an average of 9.7% in the European Union and less than 5% in Asia.”

Given the success or lack thereof with affirmative action in the US, I cannot imagine any sort of quota being imposed here – ever.  In past business discussions, when the topic of “8A companies” (minority/veteran/woman owned-businesses earn a 5% government work set aside if they are an 8A company) arises, it’s not uncommon for men to admit that they’ve used the 8A route to gain advantage for their own companies by placing their wife in a leadership position with more than 51% of the privately held stocks.  I have never seen affirmative action programs or minority programs succeed in the way they were intended. Instead they seem to foster jealousy from excluded groups, who then try to exploit the “opportunities” for themselves.

I wonder what happens in Norway and other countries when the quota can’t be filled with qualified women (or perhaps they can?) Scandinavia ranks up there as being the most equal of all nations (maternity and paternity leaves exceed a year!) so it surprises me that these nations have to impose legislation to increase the women on their boards instead of it happening naturally.

I suspect that if they have to move a female into a board position solely on the basis of gender, it will likely backfire (unless a glut of qualified women blocked by the proverbial “glass ceiling” are readily available ).

There has to be a better way than for government to pass legislation to mandate corporate structure!

I don’t think there will be any quotas for female executives in the US in my lifetime!  According to workplace expert, Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum:  “Companies should be free to make decisions on their own, and the marketplace will reward or punish them based on those decisions.”

I hope that companies choose to promote or demote based on merit and accomplishments and not one’s gender.  While it may be true, it seems that legislation should be overridden by sanity in business.  People who achieve deserve to be promoted – regardless of gender, ethnicity or culture!

What do you think?

Have a nice weekend!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

Women in Technology – Novelty or Mainstay?

19 Apr

I attended a unique conference on the weekend for techies (our name badges had the slogan “You might be a techie if…”) called Barcamp – and sessions were ad hoc for the most part and arranged depending on who attended. The concept of creating a conference on the fly might sound disorganized or unplanned, but it was one of the most innovative and educational days I’ve spent in a long time.

One of the reasons I attended was that I was invited by the Barcamp Sarasota lead organizer, Sara Hand, to be on a panel of Women in Technology.  It was a great discussion involving both men and women that spanned generations (all five generations now in the workplace were represented) and included multiple ethnicities.  Students from the Sarasota high school where it was held joined in to talk about their experiences in technology and seasoned veteran business owners in their 60’s (and younger) were also involved.

We talked about the challenges, opportunities, strides, and experiences that face us all today regardless of race, gender, creed or culture with the ongoing “flattening” of the technology world.

It was interesting to find the following NY Times article link in my inbox this morning on the very topic of Women in Technology — describing how a seasoned and highly qualified female technology company owner in Silicon Valley faced serious and biased discrimination when she sought financing for a start-up business.

Titled Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley – the article provides an up-to-date and somewhat disappointing report on how gender inequality still resides in technology.

What’s your opinion?  Have you seen, been a part of, or experienced such a situation?  I know that the percentage of women entering engineering and computer science is as low as its been for decades, but somehow I “assumed” that things were changing.  Do you think that women in technology are still a novelty or are we a mainstay today?

Let me know what you’ve seen!

Wishing you a successful unbiased week.

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

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