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The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest

Women in Technology Luncheon

I've never attended this in the past, but I've wanted to. As the father of young girl I want to be sure that my daughter has the same opportunities as my sons in the career world. Supporting other women in technology just feels like something I should do.

The luncheon was a panel of 4 women, moderated by Wendy Patrick. Kathi Kellenburger, Jessica Moss, Cathi Rodgveller, and Lynn Langit participated, sharing their stories and backgrounds. From Kathi's inspiration from her own daughter to get started with Active Server Pages to Jessica providing a roll model for a friend's young girls, it's inspiring to hear them talk with a passion on how to interest young women in technology.

Cathy Rodgveller has started IGNITE, a group looking to inspire young women in the Seattle school districts. I think that exposing children to options, and getting them to just consider alternative careers is something we need to do more of.  Cathy has also created other groups that help other minorities, empowering them to open their minds to other

We already have less math, science, and engineering students in the US than in the past, but the percentage of women is declining. That's disconcerting to me. I've enjoyed seeing more and more women coming to the PASS Summit every year, and becoming a larger proportion of the data professional population. I hope that it continues in the future.

Lynn Langit, author and BI professional, gave us ideas about how to grow our efforts. She asked everyone to tweet or text someone and show support for women in technology. Brian Kelley was my tweet since he's not here, he has a daughter, and I think he'd like this. Lynn donates a portion of her royalties from her BI book to DigiGirlz. If you need a BI book, that's a good reason to pick Lynn's among the others. Put your money where you mouth is.

Use your voice, engage with girls, is Lynn's message.

If there's one thing I'd learned in my life, it's the power of words. I write on a regular basis, and he feedback I get from so many of you is how I make you think. I hear how I inspire others to reconsider their viewpoint, to stop for a moment and think about things in a new way.  Take the time to talk to a women, a girl, a minority and show them that they can do succeed in technology if they want to.

There is tremendous power in just talking about possibilities.

Breaking Stereotypes

How do you break the image? Cathy sees young women stuck with myths about working in technology. You have to work alone, be super smart, long hours, etc. They are misconceptions. Young women don't know what is involved, and we should get involved. Share your story.

Q&A

A few notes from the question and answer time.

Men constantly ask for things from Lynn, women don't (time, money, freebies, etc). Why? Women need to speak up and ask for help, support, etc.

Why women's participation in technology has fallen? Girls are not inspired by technology. They are not encouraged or supported in schools to get interested in technology. Is that true? I wonder. My children have had a number of "technology" teachers, though it was not programming or technical work. Cathy says IGNITE is very inexpensive to run, so it's worth bringing up to local schools. I'll pass it along to the technology teachers in my school district.

How does a man inspire a girl in technology? The panel talked about the importance of men participating, but it's sad that they didn't give any ideas for men.

That's true, and different groups need to help other groups. Women should focus on women. Minorities on minorities. Technologists focus on technology. It takes a small effort from many people, each of us focusing in our own area, the effect changes. If we say that everyone should focus on everyone, there is no focus.

Education is the key. Teach young people about many ideas, a variety of thoughts, teach them to think for themselves.

Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 4 November 2009

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Posted by denisemc on 7 November 2009

A few of my thoughts on what men can do:

weblogs.sqlteam.com/.../61046.aspx

Posted by Anonymous on 7 November 2009

Pingback from  Women in Technology Luncheon | tech-gals.com

Posted by Brandie Tarvin on 9 November 2009

Here, here!

One thing I noticed last month was the increase in the number of female attendees at SQL Saturday in Orlando, Florida. I was thrilled. Andy Warren didn't know what he did different this year, but I wonder if it isn't a result of so many people in Florida simply being out of work and looking for options.

One thing we could remember is that women think different than men do. While there will always be the divas on both sides of the gender divide, women tend to work better in teams and seem driven to find solutions that are not always obvious. This attitude comes from centuries of having to find "work arounds" to family problems that don't always have logical resolutions.

Right now the female component in my office contains one DBA (me) out of 4 DBAs, one developer out of 7, one report writer (the only report writer), and 3 testers out of 5. That's a pretty "heavy" female contingent for an IT department, which doesn't even count the business analyst / project management team. Each one of these women is more than capable in her job and the men here don't seem to have issues dealing with them. In fact, our workplace is fairly close-knit. And the things we produce from the confluence of so many different-minded people are just amazing.

Posted by Steve Jones on 9 November 2009

I have been pleased over the years to see more and more women at the PASS Summit every year. I think we are making changes, but it's slow, and we can do better.

Posted by vickiy on 9 November 2009

I fell into IT, did not pick it as a career.  That makes me self-taught, but, also, extremely lucky to have had mentors who wouldn't give me the answers, only ideas on how to find the answers.  I also was brought up by parents that told me I could be Anything, but just Be Happy.  That is the single best thing they did for me, as I floated from career to career until I found something I enjoyed, and was good at.

Other women my age (40s) were programmed by their parents to FIND A HUSBAND, which is a major disservice.  I hope those attitudes are GONE, and if a man finds himself passing along that expectation to his daughters, he needs to Stop It.  Assume your daughters will go to college and have careers and encourage them in that direction.  They can be self-supporting.  Teach them the facts of life correctly - give them financial management skills, Life Skills, Confidence in themselves.  Don't ever avoid teaching them something because 'your husband will take care of that.'

I have mostly been the only femaleon the job and that's ok. Usually.  There still are some men who consider IT Their Turf and while it's a pain, I manage ok in those environments because I ignore that crap and do my job.  I consider it Their Problem.  Men's clubs will probably always exist so a lady must be prepared to not be included and be ok with that.  Or, keep looking for an environment where you are included, nurtured, given same pay/opportunities as the men.  While I'm mostly One of the Boys, some of them are way too immature to handle that.

Current job, I'm the only female and the lone data/software person, so it's levelling the field, as they have no clue what I do (they are all hardware/networking/AV) and zero aptitude for it (reverse is also true - I can't do their jobs except the very basic pc support).

I really don't think this is a male/female issue so much as it's about finding a career that interests you and performing your best.  Any young woman who is motivated to have a career owes it to herself to talk to people doing those jobs and not just settle for the stereotypes.  "IT" can mean different things to different people and there are more roles in one IT shop than one may expect.  

Sure, I'm more intelligent than many people, excel in math, do work alone a lot (tho I share an office with 4 others and interact with my 'internal customers' frequently), but a HelpDesky job would be much more interactive, as would Biz Analyst, consultant, etc.  There will always be Lone Geek jobs but there are too many shades of gray to assume that All DBAs go solo, ALL software engineers live in their cubes, etc.

I would strongly suggest non-profit IT in the early career because there are more hats to be worn, in order to find one's niche.  Few in IT can Do It All (and well) so specialization is almost essential.  Internships, Take Your Daughter to Work, etc., are all avenues for exploration.  Encourage testing out any career they may be interested in and allow for them to change their minds.  

As a free spirit, I can tell you that it can take many false starts to find the right fit, in profession and employer.  But had it not been for the women before me that knocked down the barriers, the door to IT might have still be locked to me.

Posted by dgould on 9 November 2009

There may be one exception to male-dominated IT Departments and that would be in healthcare.  I, and many of my office mates, fell into IT due to our roots in traditionally female-dominated professions, such as Medical Lab Technology, Nursing or Health Records.  There are 8 women in our 15 member IT Department.  

I was also raised by parents who told me that I could achieve anything in life and they'd always be proud of me, whatever choices I made.  I believe it is this positive attitute that gave me the confidence to take on the challenges that IT, and life, throws at us.  

Posted by Stephanie J Brown on 9 November 2009

It always amazes me that IT is considered a "man's field" when the original programmers were all women.  They were the only ones who knew how to type.  According to Commodore Grace Hopper, none of the men were interested in doing anything so "demeaning" until they saw the attention and respect those women were getting.  Then they had to jump on the bandwagon, and the women got relegated to "data entry" - since they were still the only ones who could run those old key-punch machines.

Exposing the history of programming might be one way to "motivate" young women, and give them some role models.  In my years at college, I never once heard about the early women programmers.  I had the good fortune to attend a seminar by Commodore Grace in my early years of programming, and I still have the nano-seconds she gave me.

And for you youngsters in the crowd, she's the woman who, along with the team she always gave credit to, invented the COBOL programming language.

Posted by jcrawf02 on 9 November 2009

COBOL? I couldn't find that in the index of my C# book...

Posted by jcrawf02 on 9 November 2009

Great post Steve, I think one of my new reasons to attend PASS Summit is because everything is considered so thoroughly, and the impact/presentation evaluated. I hope this topic returns at future events, as it seems to have generated some vibrant discussions and actionable take-aways.

Posted by Dan Guzman on 10 November 2009

A reason men need to be involved with this 'push' to support women in Technology is for the perception.  If it's only women seen at these events to promote women, it can be perceived that this is more of a revolution, than support. in a sense "We are doing this in spite of men!"  There are places where sexism still exists, and was even mentioned in the luncheon (Yes, I attended as well).  Male support helps show that sexism is wrong, and only held by few, not most, men.  But also, as Lynn mentioned, it cannot be a panel of men only talking about how important it is and how much it's supported.  The panels have to show role models for these young women/girls.

For me, I think the 'Support for Women in Technology' will be helping start an IGNITE program in my city, perhaps making phone calls and such. 'Supporting' women who can be role models.

Posted by Pinal Dave on 10 November 2009

Steven, This is really interesting way to look at PASS Summit.

I love all the encouragement and healthy environment at PASS summit.

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