Sunday, 24 April 2016

C16LV - Celebration of Motivational, Strong Women

As is traditional at every IT conference now, Women in IT was featured at Collaborate.

At the WIT lunch session Heli Helsakyo gave an impassioned story of success in a country that the very next day was shown to be in the top countries for women on IT (all 4 at the top are scandinavian). It was very inspiring. So many people came up to her afterwards and throughout the rest of the event, saying thank you and sharing their POSITIVE stories. The lunch she spoke at was over subscribed and had a good number of men attended.

Michelle spots her name in print
The Women in IT panel was hosted by Michelle Malcher and she was a fantastic host, she kicked off the event by telling the audience to celebrate what they had achieved so far. She then led a panel of strong women, Helene Abrams, Janis Griffin, Megan Rae and Laura Ramsey, who shared experience, tactics to achieve more success and obvious passion. When it came to question time Michelle showed her skills to moderate fairly and never once took over the answers for herself, letting many from the considerable audience add their experience.

Some amazing women
Both these sessions were so positive and the attendees were motivated and energised. Well done Collaborate, and throughout the event many people were recognised for their contributions and many of those were women, so I was really disappointed when all that work appeared to over-shadowed by discussions around the suitability of a few dancers at the event party.

As a user group leader myself I know just how difficult it is to pull off an event that pleases everybody within the venue and budget constraints you have. At my first Las Vegas Collaborate the event was a pool party, and the weather let them down, although as a european I thought it was great, a nice breeze and a break from the incessant air conditioning. Coming indoors the only option is the keynote room which is basically almost an aircraft hanger so you are limited.

Vegas is a show town and I think looking back they have had many events looking back at different eras, the 80s, the 70s and this year it was Vegas now and then. I thought it was authentic and the dancing go-go girls would have been part of the era.

Having Fun at the party 
I didn't see a mass exodus, I did see a lot of women go to the dance floor and dance to the band, and enjoy themselves. I myself danced on a podium with a friend and someone from OAUG Japan I don't know, and it was fun. 

I attended along with Heli a private gathering with a number of SIG leaders after Collaborate finished. It was mainly women, and their discussion was about the positivity and not one comment about the party. 

Coincidentally I was offended at the event but by an individual delegate not by the dancers.

But I want to suggest there is a double standard here. It is no secret that I don't really like Vegas, I don't gamble and hate the fact I am in an overly expensive hotel that forces me and every other guest including children to walk through the casino to go anywhere. When the rest of the world has moved on from smoking in public here it is encouraged. And the women providing drinks, hosting the tables, selling the cigars are all dressed with far more intent to titivate than the gogo dancers that started this debate. I have always personally found Vegas uncomfortable, but Vegas is the conference capital of the world and events from all industries are regularly held there.

I don't blame the Collaborate organisers for being in Vegas and certainly not for the party. The event itself delivered the networking, education and encouragement required to a lot of delegates; their talk on the last day was all about the content and new networks.

At the Wednesday keynote Boris Brott spoke and played the audience as an orchestra, and that was the best Collaboration I have ever had at any conference. Let's remember that a fully inclusive exercise is doing something together.

Please don't let this debate overlook the good work the user groups did here.

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