Why the Women in Technology thing matters…to Men

I sent my RSVP last week to attend the Women in Technology (WIT) luncheon this Friday at SQL Rally.  I’m really looking forward to it.  There have been WIT sessions taking place at most of the conferences I’ve been to lately, and while I’d been curious to hear what the conversation was all about, I hadn’t made the time to attend.  I finally made it when I spoke at the Orange County SQL Saturday in early April and I’ve been paying more attention to the topic since then.  Last week I came across another thought-provoking blog on the subject and it made me think more about the importance of participating.

The truth is that I was a skeptic.  I started working in the corporate IT and software development world in the mid-80s and spent 15 years with 4 different companies.  By memory I can remember 11 bosses, 7 of them female.  I won’t count the number of co-workers (and don’t want to remember some of them), but it seemed to be a fair distribution among men and women on my development teams.  Women were in every position too, as DBAs, Tech Leads, Analysts and Coders.

I then moved on to a technology startup for 3 ½ years, and the principal investor in the venture was a woman.  She also headed our marketing efforts and along with the woman heading up sales, gave us a gender balanced leadership team.

My experience led me to believe that technology was a fair place for women, and it was easy to explain why it was fair.  I worked in a modern field without the history or old traditions of other careers.  We were younger, open-minded, and more enlightened.  We didn’t think of what we did as a man’s job in the way people thought of nurse as a woman’s occupation, or surgeon as a man’s profession.

It’s disconcerting that there are significantly fewer women in tech in 2011 than there were a quarter century ago and I can’t tell you why.  I’ve heard the rationale, been involved in the discussions, and read the blogs, but the analytical mind in me says we haven’t discovered the source of the problem(s)…yet.

For the men in tech, I strongly suggest you make yourself part of this conversation.  Attend the meetings.  In some ways I feel they are meant more for us than for women.  Volunteer to help with the teaching, training and mentoring efforts that are out there.  If you don’t want to be a hands-on teacher, give the instructors and mentors material they can use.  Provide sample coursework, code, or demos that you have.  Give them a presentation that gets people excited about the work you do.

It matters.

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