Saturday 12 October 2013

Thinking More About Women in IT

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts on WIT and now I am back from Oracle Open World I have some more.

I did attend the first WIT session at OakTable World as a panel member and although there was not a massive audience I was encouraged that over third of those attending were male. Kellyn Pot'vin who did an excellent job hosting the session had prepared some slides to promote discussion and it flowed well. Men gave their experiences of how they had seen women treated differently in their organizations but it didn't motivate me, because obviously some women, unlike me, do have a hard time. What I did like was that there was a conversation about the different roles available within IT for everyone. I don't subscribe to the idea that you are not really a Woman in IT unless you are a DBA or Developer.

I also attended the Oracle Women's Leadership afternoon at the conference and it was excellent, the speakers included Cindy L. Warner, Managing Director, IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture, PwC who told a wonderful story about bees...

Beeehive Art - ZAM
Cindy is a keen sailor, and whilst at her cabin on the lake she found a number of bees in her kitchen. Her first thought was to grab a hose and try flooding them, but they just got angry and more appeared. Being an empowered woman she grabbed a tube of GreatStuff and filled the crack she believed they had entered from. Peace and Quiet... for a while, but later the whole house appeared to be filled with agitated bees. She gave in called an exterminator who quickly solved the problem. He then told her bees hate water, get mad if you cut off their route to the hive, are very well organised and send messages to those on the outside to come help. Thinking about it Cindy decided that bees are like women in business. We work hard, we have great networks, we are determined and if anything gets in our way we will use our connections to get to the top. Bees are also reducing in number and Cindy believes women in top jobs are too, but in IT there are opportunities and we should be striving to succeed here.

Cindy believes men are listening and supporting initiatives to encourage woman and pointed at the Military who have taken positive action to encourage women officers, they make great leaders, and as the very proud mother of a female British Army Officer I agree.

I had to leave the OWL session early as I had my own presentation's to attend which is a pity as the schedule was phenomenal, but these were senior women who can take half a day out of their schedule to invest in their own networks, but how does that work for most women in IT? Then finally in her fest of inspiration Cindy talked about PwC's own WIT program, which is open to all in the orgaisation. Women are allowed to articulate a problem but must then debate ways to change it, not moan about it. That is what we need more off. Grass root initiatives that looks for answers.

In my earlier post I reiterated that I think we need to just get more girls into IT but actually we need to simply get more young people into IT. They need to know there are good jobs available and you don't need to be the next Facebook, Microsoft or Apps King. I talked about the Oracle Academy the Chartered Institute for IT (formerly British Computer Society) who will talk about their programs at UKOUG Apps13 conference. Interestingly they are speaking on Ada Lovelace Day - how fitting is that?

Whilst on the subject of Ada Lovelace Day I was honoured to be included in a list of Inspiring Women in STEM by a real inspiration to me Meg Bear.

Then on return to Northern Ireland I was asked to mentor a new initiative called Go-Berserk around social media. I went to meet Ian Simons an academic who is passionate about getting students not only to start IT degrees but also to finish them. He has along with a friend written the first in a series of books for schools to encourage children as young as 8 to have fun coding. The first book teaches them html and they build a website based on their history assignment. Really encouraging is the character teaching the coding is a girl. The have won many awards and have interest from all over the world and ideas for another 10 books, what they need now is the funding to get on with it quickly. They also have an iPad app to go with it - Relive Amelia Earhart's historic solo flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland, while learning how to build websites in HTML and CSS. Ian is also publishing a paper on the shortage of graduates in IT and with this empirical evidence I am sure will attract the funding he needs from the industry.

So have I changed my mind about women in IT? No, I still believe the main issue is to get more into the industry in the first place, but then we need to mentor and encourage those who are in the industry to fulfill their dreams.

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