Posts Tagged ‘Gender Differences’

Boyfriends and Boy Friends

My sister was visiting this past week/weekend.  She brought her boyfriend out to visit and we ended up having a conversation about boyfriends and boy friends.  My sister is also an engineer and works in the construction industry- a male dominated place, especially when you include all of the sub contractors she deals with on a regular basis.

I think it takes a very secure guy to become be the boyfriend of an woman engineer working in a male dominated field.

As that woman engineer, you’ll be surrounded by guys all day.  They will like hanging out with you, in the midst of all the men they work with, you’re a nice change of pace.  (chances are you dress better than most of the guys too).  You will have alot of guy friends.  These friends are not just from work, but from college too.

When I was in college I purposely joined the society of women engineers and even a sorority to try and get some more girl friends.  I seemed to have just good guy friends.

That takes me to the boyfriend part.  When you are starting to date a guy and you are always surrounded by other guys, it is hard for them.  You have to build some trust quickly so he doesn’t think you are dating other guys or attempting to cheat on him.

Not long after I started dating my husband, he got pretty upset that I appeared to be flirting with another guy.  I told him that I had guy friends, I was always going to have alot of guys friends, and if he had a problem with that, then we probably weren’t going to work out.  Good thing he got over it…we’ve been together for almost ten years.  (He’s also gotten back at me a few times by leaving me stranded in corners at social gatherings with some guy who won’t leave me alone and not saving me 🙂 )

My advice to all you other engineering gals out there searching for boy friends- let them know up front that just because you have a lot of guy friends, doesn’t mean you want to date them all.  And just because you have a new boyfriend, doesn’t mean you’ll ditch your friends.

5 Women Leaders to Follow on Twitter (or Blogs)

I’m not big into Twitter yet.  My husband is, but even he will admit it is somewhat of a time waster.  I’m not big into following celebrities and my family isn’t really on twitter (although that would cut down on the number of phone calls from my mom 🙂 )

That said, I read this earlier today and I think I might need to get on the twitter train.  At least to see some of these ladies’ thoughts.

I also appreciate that Jo points out their blogs.  I’ve now got some good ones to add to my feed.  Hopefully  you’ll enjoy them too.

Here is a repost from Jo Miller’s column on the Anita Borg Newsletter.

5 Women Tech Leaders You Should Follow on Twitter

Ever wondered where the interesting people are hiding on Twitter? Here’s some dynamic, interesting women to follow.

1. The CTO
Cisco’s Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior tweets with news from Cisco and industry, daily replies to her followers and the occasional Dr Seuss quote.

Recent tweet:
In my home no two things are the same, nothing “matches” that’s what makes it cozy. In life, each different moment is the beauty
Jan 31st

2. The Business Strategist
CEO & Founder of Rubicon Consulting Nilofer Merchant is an authority on creating business strategy to win markets. A prolific user of Twitter, Merchant’s tagline is “solving toughest business problems with strategy”.

Curious — has anyone seen a company do SOCIAL as a core part of their business strategy (not as an add-on or just marketing) #ask
Feb 2nd

3. The Fashionista Technologist
Dr. Umit Yalcinalp is a former Software Architect turned Evangelist with a Ph.D. in CS, and a self-described “seasoned technologist, fashionista geek and web technology veteran”. Dr Yalcinalp’s blog is WS Dudette.

Getting ready for the Developer Meetup on for Thursday. Will be covering “Data Modeling, Queries, Feeds”. Oh my.
Feb 1st

4. The Women in Tech Expert
In her Twitter bio, ABI’s Director of Research Caroline Simard lists areas of interest including “organizational behavior, tech human and social capital, retention, diversity”. Her tweets provide a constant stream of facts and information on all the above. She co-authors a blog on Fast Company on the issues facing women in technology.

Report – companies losing out from org structures reflective of a 1960s workforce and not of today’s diverse workforce.
Jan 26th

5. The Emerging Leader
One to watch! Gail Carmichael is a PhD student in Computer Science at Carleton University, focusing on educational entertainment and augmented reality. She has a passion for encouraging girls to enjoy computer science. Carmichael blogs on The Female Perspective of Computer Science.

Blog: Game Day at Carleton University: Game Day is an annual event at Carleton University. It’s a day full of …

Shoes of Confidence

I wonder if this is a girl thing….

I just finished up a presentation I’ll be giving tomorrow morning to my General Manager and his staff.  It’s going to be contentious.  I’m speaking the truth, but there are emotionionally charged comments and face-saving words that will be hurled my way.

I’m now thinking about what shoes I’ll wear tomorrow.  You see I usually where practical shoes- cute, but comfortable wedges.  I can walk fast in them and they are closed-toe lab appropriate.  However, tomorrow I might wear heels.

Why?  Because there is a certain confidence that always comes to me when I wear heels.  Maybe it’s the click they make when I walk across the floor.  Maybe it’s the way they make me stand up straight and take deliberate steps.  Maybe it’s just the nicer clothes I’ll wear with them.  I am not exactly sure why.  I do know that when I walk down the hall towards a my meeting in those heels, I’ll feel like I can take on anyone.  I’ll already feel successful and put together.  It’s a power rush…and one I’ll need to take the world head on tomorrow in my 8am throwdown.

Stereotype Reminders

I spent Tuesday this week at my alma mater doing some recent graduate recruiting for work.  Unfortunately, it also ended up being a reminder that gender stereotypes continue to exist- even with those in college today.

The career fair lasted for 5 hours and I was talking to people non-stop.  I would guess I talked to about 75 eager job hunters.  Three people out of those seventy five assumed that I was an HR person.  They were somewhat suprised when I responded that I had graduated with a degree in electrical and computer engineering from this very school and had a very technical job at work as an engineer.

Now I’ve never been a man.  But I would venture to guess one of students approaching a guy standing in front of a technology company booth at a career fair  would not immediately assume he was with HR.  I can hope that the other 72 people I talked to thought of me as an engineer and did not immediately categorize me as probably being with HR.  But I’m really concerned that here in 2010, where women have been pushing to break down those stereotypes for over 60 years, 4% of the engineering population at a very established, highly regarded school, still verbalized the stereotype.

In fact, just last week we had a senior women’s lunch at work.  I was chatting with the most senior technical person in my division.  She mentionned that a few weeks prior she was doing interviews for an open position.  She walked into the interview room and the young man vying for the position said “hi, nice to meet you, this must be the HR interview”.  She nicely put him in his place and replied with “no this is a harder technical interview than your last one with the most senior developer on the team”. 

Just typing this takes me back to one more story.  A few years back I won a very presitigious achievement award at my company.  There were just over one hundred winners from around the company.  They flew us and our spouses to San Diego for the weekend to accept the award and party with management.  As my husband and I mingled, person after person walked up and congratulated him.  Each time he would smile and say, “no I’m just the husband, Allison won the award”.  Needless to say, there were a lot of red faces and “sorrys”.

Sometimes when I hear all the push about increasing diveristy and breaking down stereotypes I start to wonder if there is too much hype.  Maybe we’ve been talking about this all for too long.  Maybe women have gained enough of a footing in the technical space that we don’t need to keep pushing the equality.  Then I have an experience like this week and it reminds me- there has been progress, but there is still a way to go.

Was there a woman in the room?

Last week Apple unveiled the iPad.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only women who heard the name and snickered.  I mean it’ a personal computing device called the iPad.  I couldn’t help but think, was there a woman in the room when they decided on that name?

A few years back Mad TV did a spiff on the iPod on a product called the iPad.  Turns out they were way ahead of the curve.  Here’s a link to the skit.  Trust me, after you watch this you’ll laugh/smile every time you see the iPad too.

I’d like to think of this as a good example of ensuring you have diversity represented in the product requirements and name when coming up with a mass market product.

No More Ms. Nice Gal

Depending on who you ask, I think people would say I’m a nice person.  (My sisters would label me as bossy before nice.) As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a eternal optimist.  I smile alot.  I also think that most of the time people are just doing they best they can at their jobs.  I always default to trying to work with and partner with my stakeholders.

I have read and heard generalizations that women are too nice.  That they bend and give in too easily.  That they avoid conflict to the point it becomes detrimental to solid forward progress.

I do not believe that I bend or give in easily.  I stand up for what I believe in and voice my opinions- even when they are in contrast to the rest of the room.

After some introspection this past week, I realized that I am much stronger in meetings and in front of a group, than I am in a one-on-one negotiation.  Why?

I think I want to work constructively with people.  As a result when we get together one-on-one in a room or over the phone, I usually start by opening up about myself or my time.  For example, I might say “I know I am responsible for some of the communication breakdown, I could have done this or that better.”  Then I would wait for the other party to open up and make some concessions about their own communication breakdowns.  From there, we’d talk about how we could work better together, improve communication, etc.  It always feels like it worked well.  Typically I’ll see results.

My last discussion which followed the script above, did not quite achieve the result I expected.  Let’s call this teammate Bob.  I left my conversation with Bob thinking we had made some good progress.  We admitted there were some big communication gaps and had a plan for closing them.  A day later I got a phone call from a fellow team member who had just talked with Bob.  It went something like this:

Teammate: “Hey Allison, I just got out of a meeting with Bob.  Bob claims that you and your team are responsible for most of the communication breakdown.  He said you admitted there was alot more you should have done.”

Me: “Wait, that’s not true.  Sure there is more I could have done, but Bob was mostly to blame.  I can’t believe he just sold me out like that and blamed it all on me!”

Teammate: “Allison, I need you to be strong.  Bob will run you over if you don’t stand up to him and make him clean up his act and get his team in line”

Me: “Thanks for letting me know what Bob said.  I’ll be more careful about what I say and how I talk to him in the future.”

I thought Bob and I had a good working relationship.  Sure I’d seen him run over other people.  I had even called him out in meetings before for not telling the truth about what was really going on.  I didn’t think he’d turn on me.  I should have known better.

I value teamwork.  I want my team to do well and look good.  I want to work with my teammates to create successful products.  There are people out there like Bob who put themselves first.  Bob has different values and different priorities that me.  He makes sure that he looks good and successful, even if that means making his teammates look less successful.

Maybe women are too nice.  In this case, I certainly was.  I know some men who have been too nice too- I’ve watched Bob run over them.

The key to success is learning from your missteps.  I let Bob throw me under the bus in front of my manager when I wasn’t there.  He used my openess against me.  I’ve learned my lesson.  No more Ms. Nice Gal when talking to Bob.  From now on, when he and his team are in the wrong,  I’ll let him know- without admitting any faults on my side.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for other Bobs.  When I spot them, I’ll know to alter my normal working style- take away the nice and turn up the bossy.  It was a good lesson in situational awareness and adaptation.  Watch out for those Bob’s in your world!

Empowered American Engineers

I saw this cartoon the other day and it totally reminded me of my time in Israel.  For a few years I worked alot with a team in Israel.  Israeli’s do not have the concept of being “politically correct”.

When I went to Israel for a business visit I was chatting with a co-worker during the work day.  He asked about where I was staying.  Then he volunteered to take me out sight-seeing for the day.  He suggested we go to a beach, “since I would look good in a bikini”.  In the US, that’s sexual harassment 101…in Israel- he was just offering me a compliment.  I just smiled, shook my head, and told him “No thanks.  I’d rather see something cultural.”