Retaining High Tech Women Once They’re in the Door – Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

Karen emphasizes the importance of “Role Models – people I know who inspire me.”  20 years ago, Karen was considered a “mystic” and a “heretic” for speaking with customers to define the user experience.  Today, this practice is the norm.  Karen identified Supreme Court Justice Ruth Brader Ginsburg (RBG) as one of her role models.  Karen discussed role models in general:  they typically have a “zillion” children, are VP of their company and travel incessantly.  Karen has news for us:  hearing about these majestic role models doesn’t help women feel better!  Amen to that!  I remember the heroine of Allison Pearson’s novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It:  Life of Working Mother Kate Reddy” muse on this concept after reading an article about a similar “role model”.  “Name:  Elizabeth Quick.  Sister to Hannah Haste and Isabel Imperative, presumably.  Don’t these women realize how their accomplishments can be used as a stick to beat other women?” Kate wondered (speaking metaphorically, of course!).

Karen reviewed the advice generally given to women aspiring to senior leadership positions:

  • “Here’s a mentor” (Well, what if they don’t click?)
  • “Go network” (How?)

Women need local role models,” Karen stated.  “Have you been in your work over a year?” I have been in the workplace for 12 years now.  “Then you are a local role model.  Every decision you make, how you manager your home life … you are a walking, living, breathing role model for everyone a little less experienced.

This statement certainly gave us pause for thought.  Although I’m an active mentore in the American Women in Math Association, I had not thought of myself as a role model.  After this, when I hear the media bemoaning the lack of female role models in technology, I will think, “I am one and so are the other 14,999 GHC 2016 attendees!”

Karen showed us a picture of a baby carriage.  The slide read, “Nonjudgmental flexibility is the whole story for business“.  “This is really the easiest problem to solve,” Karen said.  She explained that parenting is forever.  “I still call my mom and my kids still call me.”  SHe also explained that juggling kids and work is not a distinguishing characteristic of our indecustry and re-iterated the earlier statement that women may say they left for their kids but the survey framework has uncovered entirely different underlying reasons.

“Self-confidence is a dependent variable,” Karen stated.  80% of survey resondents agreed with the statment, “Criticism is a necessary part of my job”.  50% agreed with the statement, ”



About Saranya Murthy

Writing is my life's work.
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