Tag Archive | Women in STEM

5 Questions on How to Advocate for Women in Tech

Next week I have the unique opportunity to be one of the 8,000 women and men to celebrate Women in Computing at the Anita Borg Institute, Grace Hopper conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

After much pleading and begging to my very supportive manager, Rajeev Gupta, he and the team finally caved and let me take 3 days away during our busiest time of the year.  Yes, I am one of the key contributors to our next major release of CA Service Virtualization (due out shortly) and I also own the demo stations in the ca Devcenter area of CA World 2014.  But aside from reviewing, organizing, blogging, planning, designing, scripting, testing and communicating in my day job next week, I plan to take a good look at how I can do a better job of advocating for women in the tech industry.

I’ve decided to take a different strategy at this conference than I do at others.  For one, at most other technology conferences, I go, I listen, I take notes and I hope to bring some of that knowledge with me back to the office.  I do spend a lot of time networking and promoting my products or the technology space I am currently interested in.  For the Grace Hopper conference, I’ve decided to take a different tact.  I am listing out 5 questions which I consider my goals and am going to seek answers to these questions during the conference.

Here are the 5 questions I hope to answer next week:

  1. What things can I do in my everyday interaction to help my colleagues recognize the plight of women in tech? Not that they are in denial, but I see more and more people simply not recognizing that we have a problem in this industry with supporting women. So what can I do to get others to see what I feel every day? To get them to empathize and hopefully do something? I hope to network with women leaders to see what things they have tried with their teams and colleagues.  It should be fun putting these ideas to the test.
  2. How do I talk about the women in tech issue without sounding like a whiny little girl? Maybe it’s my own lack of confidence in the message but whenever advocating for women in tech, I almost feel like I’m begging. For instance, I was staffing the booths for CA World 2014 and felt like I had to justify staffing more women in the demo area. The women I chose are exceptional in their roles but I still felt like I needed to explain why I was pulling them away from their important day jobs to help showcase our latest and greatest technology. So maybe the goal isn’t to stop sounding like a “whiny little girl” but more to hone my message AND to build up my own confidence and delivery of that message.  I definitely plan to ask the women I meet what they do to advocate for women in tech today and how they pitch this message both within their companies and in their industry.
  3. How can I recruit more male advocates for Women in Tech? It is proven that in any minority struggle, finding advocates in the majority will help the cause excel more quickly and to more impactful levels. But how do I speak to the men at my company and in my industry to get them to see this as a valuable cause to fight for?  I will be looking for advice from the current male advocates who will be presenting at the conference.  Their perspectives should be insightful.
  4. How can I hold my company accountable for hiring and promoting women in tech? Being at CA Technologies over 14 years has taught me something – I will not shy away from making myself heard because this company does listen and will change for the better. You see, I’m disappointed. My executive management recently announced an organization change in higher level engineering management. This impacted up to 10 executive “general manager” level roles. Zero of the appointed or newly hired people are women.  What should I do now? I’m obviously distraught by this fact and feel like they haven’t considered enough women for these roles but I am unable to articulate the right message to the recruiting team or to our executive team to get them to understand.  I really hope to get advice on this subject at the conference next week and look forward to changing some high-powered minds at the top for the betterment of CA Technologies future.
  5. Which women-led technology development or research programs should I begin to support? I enjoy being an advocate for the little guy/gal.  The up-and-coming startup or the inventor of a new idea inspires me.  If I can give them time, assistance, promotion or even a bit of an investment to get them started, it not only makes me feel great but helps me expand my knowledge of technology.  I hope to find at least 1 or 2 new projects to support while attending the poster sessions at the conference.

Well, I’m excited about next week. I plan on making the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing a huge change agent in my career.  I look forward to blogging about the answers I found at the conference and hearing from you all as well.  What have you found to be successful?  What have you learned at the conference in years past?  Are there other questions I should be seeking answers to?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below and if you’ll be in attendance next week, don’t forget to meet up with me at the CA Technologies booth (#418) in the career fair!

[Also published on Stefana’s CA Community blog]

Dear Teacher: Please stop telling my daughter that Math is difficult

I have a confession to make.  I lied to my daughters teacher and said that her favorite subject is Math but it is not… or rather, it wasn’t.

You see, I believe there is an epidemic of negative views that ensure certain people never have a chance to excel in subjects they aren’t supposed to excel in. So, I did a little experiment of my own, using a bit of positive messaging and good intent to see if I can influence both my daughters’ perception of and confidence in math.

My daughters’ 1st grade teacher asked us to fill out a survey for the first day of school.  On that survey were two interesting questions (amongst others) “What is your child’s favorite subject?” and “What subject does your child excel in?“.  My natural response was to simply write “Math” and be done with it.  She did great in Math last year and loved adding and subtracting on her own.  But then the guilt set in.  Her favorite subject is likely Art.  She has an artistic mind and dreams in color.  She is creative and awesome and I’m proud of her.  I can’t force MY favorite subject on her!  Or could I?

Instead of jumping to conclusions, I asked her by listing out the possible subjects.  I said Spelling, Reading, Math… and she stopped me right there – “Oh no Mommy, I’m not good in Math!

WHAT?! I was quite shocked by this statement.  For one, I want her to LOVE Math (just like me of course).  Secondly, she excelled in the subject in pre-school and kindergarten – it’s always come easy to her so I didn’t even know we had a problem.  So, why on earth would my awesome daughter think that Math was difficult for her?  I was floored.

After a brief conversation on the subject (I attempted not to make a big deal about it while I was freaking out inside), I came to the conclusion that someone told her Math was hard and she didn’t want to be involved in something so difficult.  She wasn’t confident in it and it made her nervous.  But her grades and work didn’t reflect this sentiment at all!

So, stubborn me promptly told her that she was so good in Math that she was ahead of the class (not sure if it was true but I said it) and then I told her that her favorite subjects were Math and Art and wrote them down on the paper.  She of course agreed because she believes everything I say.  If my husband knew I had done this, he would have probably said I was forcing her into “my way” and influencing her decisions too much.  “Don’t tell her what she likes” he would say “you don’t like when people do that to you“.  But I wasn’t having it and I was not at all ashamed of my actions either. No daughter of mine was going to have trouble in MATH!!!

Fast forward a few weeks into the school year, Olivia and I were chatting about school and I asked her what was her best subject.  She replied “my best subject is Math“.  I asked her why that was and she said “I’m really good at it“.  And she was… her test results were flawless and she did her homework with ease; even teaching me a thing or two.  So my experiment worked!  But my reaction was a cross between guilt and absolute joy.  My attempt at instilling confidence and a love for math has actually influenced her so much that she actually believed it.  I can’t tell at this point if she actually likes it or if it was what I said that made her think she “has to” like it.  But did it matter?  She thinks Math is her best subject.  Isn’t’ that what I wanted? Sigh… the doubts of parenting.

A few weeks later we’re completing math homework – this new “common core standard” work called “Doubles Equations” where they want you to use a doubles equation (1+1 or 8+8, etc.) to find the sum of two numbers.  For example to solve 8+7, you would add 7+7+1.  Since you memorize your 7+7 doubles equation, this is supposed to be easier than just counting up from 8 or memorizing the addition sentence itself.  It’s an interesting concept.  I don’t disagree with it but it was initially difficult for me to understand since this is not exactly how I add in my head.

While trying to figure it out, Olivia floored me again with “Math is hard Mommy, my teacher said so“.  Ugh, I thought we were over this!  I responded to her.  “Math is not hard, it’s your best subject.  You tell your teacher that you’re really good at it.”  (Am I in denial, I wondered.) She responded to me that other kids in the class don’t understand the Math and that their parents write letters saying that it is difficult and doesn’t make sense. I told her that some people don’t read the directions properly and proceeded to teach her how to do the doubles equations. (Yeah, I was a bit high-almighty but I needed to get over that hump with her!)  She got it after a few tries and now has no issue with the doubles equations that she can do them with her eyes closed.

The next day the teacher sends a note home with all the children.  It reads something along the lines of “The new math is difficult, we’re teaching your children higher level concepts and critical thinking.  Stick with it and they will learn.”  Okay Teacher, I get you.  I like that you said “we’re teaching your children higher level concepts” but really, why oh why is it necessary to TELL the children and the parents that the subject is DIFFICULT?!

I don’t walk into a meeting with my development team and tell them “I have a difficult job for you but you have to do it and you’ll like it because I said so“.  I say “Guys, I have an exciting new idea that I think you’re going to like.”  It’s a bit of positive thinking, encouragement and giving them verbal confidence that this is fun and you will love it!

Confidence in young girls is one of the biggest drivers and detractors to success; in both academics and social situations.  It is often spoken about that young girls lack confidence in their looks, their body image is off, etc. etc.; Alternatively, I think it’s immensely important to cultivate confidence in the whole child (a bit Montessori of me).  It’s not good enough to just tell your daughter she is beautiful to give her confidence.  Tell her she is smart, that she is great at what she does and pay extra attention to the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

I’m quite passionate about making sure my children have confidence in all that they do.  I recently read an article by Annie Murphy Paul where the author quoted a study in 2010 that demonstrates how teachers’ unease with math can influence the students in their classrooms.  She wrote:

“The more anxious teachers were about math, the more likely the girls in their classes were to endorse negative stereotypes about females’ math ability.”

This study focused on teenage girls.  My 6-year-old daughter is feeling this today, in her 1st grade classroom.  We need to put a stop to it now.  So, Dear Teacher: Please stop telling my daughter that Math is difficult.  Tell her she’s good in Math, that she is better than the rest and that she will do even better if she practices her work.

I’m not ashamed of my little white lie, because what I intended to happen, happened.  My 6-year-old daughter is grasping higher level concepts in Math.  She’s so excited to move onto the next chapter that she finishes her full weeks worth of Math homework on Monday nights.  She even teaches her Dad and I the new methods – as she actually is paying more attention to the teachers’ lessons each day.  She is now awesome in Math because of her confidence in the subject.

But winning this battle does not win the war.  Seemingly unaware detractors and naysayers are reversing this confidence daily.  Each day I must reiterate her love for Math as well as other subjects.  Each day I have to make sure her confidence isn’t wavering.  It is my job as a mother to make sure the confidence we built together stays within her until she is able to reassure herself.


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