Posted in WIT

Thoughts for Women’s Month, 2020

Since I started this blog, I thought it was important that I have a blog post every March in honor of Women’s Month. My goal was to publish it on March 8th to coincide with Internal Woman’s Day. I’m a little bummed that I didn’t make that happen on that date this year but as long this gets published in March, I’m doing OK, right?

I was fortunate to attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women that was held on December 12, 2019. My company bought a table for 10 women and I got offered one of the spots. All of us who went were so inspired that day. There were many things that struck me about this event.

Walking into the Exhibitor Hall. Still not sure if shows the enormity of the space.
One angle of the room where the Keynotes and lunch were held

The scale of this event was unlike one I’ve been to before. There were over 10,000 attendees. The vast majority of attendees were women but men were also in attendance. The event sponsors included national and international companies from a variety of industries. The exhibition hall had everything, from nonprofit foundations to a bookstore to career training to education to retail.

The next thing that struck me was quality and visibility of the keynote speakers – and there were many. In the morning, we heard from Amanda Southworth, an IOS developer and mental health activist, and Yara Shahidi, an actress and activist. (Simon Sinek, leadership expert and TED talk speaker, was another keynote speaker in the morning.) Our lunch time keynotes were Malala Yausafzai, the Nobel Laureate and co-founder of Malala Fund; Tara Westover, historian and author of Educated: A Memoir; and Megan Rapinoe, US Women’s National Soccer Team star and gender equality advocate. We were at an event cool enough to have someone (Kara Swisher from NPR) take this picture backstage:

Megan Rapinoe and Malala just hanging....
Kara Swisher’s Tweet

The breakout sessions that they had were also informative. I came away with several books on my reading list. One of my favorite sessions was still the first one of the day, “Communication: Speak Up, Stand Out”, led by Charmaine McClarie. She had a great quote (that I hopefully copied down correctly) as part of 3 “must make” points that still sticks with me:

Don’t “audition” for the part. You already have the job – don’t ask for permission.

This hits home to me in so many ways. How many of us are waiting to be noticed or to be asked to do that next big project?

The biggest takeaway is that the women from my company were so inspired that we’re starting a group. Starting something like this isn’t an easy task because not only do we have to find our focus but we have to figure out how to encourage others – not just women but our allies – and make everyone feel welcome and participate. It’s definitely a challenge but we’re looking forward to taking it on. But I feel extra lucky because I have an example for us to build on.

We are very fortunate in the SQL Server community to have such an active Women In Technology group. I attended some of the workshops at the MA Conference for Women and heard the same information that we’ve been talking about as part of PASS WIT sessions and luncheons for years. But for a broader community, this was brand new information. As I shared with some of the other women in my company, I’ve been so inspired by what I see by PASS WIT and the ways that we try to inform, encourage, and support other women in our community and engage the community at large. I know that I’ve definitely been able to find a network here. And I’ve been grateful for the support I’ve received in return. I hope my company’s group is able to become as successful.

While I like staying on the positive side, I am a realist. (I always worry that my optimism could be confused for ignoring the negatives.) I don’t want to forget that there’s still work to be done and we have a long way to go to make sure we’re an inclusive community. I was disappointed to hear, as many in the community were, that a transgender member was made to feel unwelcome at the events she attended and spoke at. Even at an event like MA Conference for Women where there was so much positive and inspiration, there were still some reports that certain groups of women felt un-accommodated and unwelcome. I always worry that I don’t do enough and I need to look for ways to be a better ally for everyone. But even in communities that are open and welcoming, it’s a reminder we need to always be conscious that our work to make everyone feel included and welcome is not done, no matter how far we’ve come.

An inspirational quote seen wandering through the Exhibitor Hall

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