Genii Weblog

Live blogging the Nerd-Girl session

Tue 19 Jan 2010, 11:11 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Refresh frequently if you want to se my new comments.

It is Tuesday, so I decided to go to my first session.  I chose NERD101 "Nerd Girl": The Panel's Revenge, partly because they are giving out buttons and partly because I know most of the women on the panel.  I will say that, despite the irony, I cringe a bit at the term Nerd Girl.  I have fought most of my life for women to be called women.  Sigh!

NERD101 "Nerd Girl": The Panel's Revenge (web link)
Speakers: Sandy Carter, Mary Beth Raven, Akiba Saeedi, Eileen Fitzgerald, Marie Scott, Gabriella Davis
SW Mockingbird - Tuesday  11:15am - 12:15pm

Anyway, I am sitting in the middle, wondering if any Disneybots will come in to escort me out for not having a badge.  My guess is that now that I am in, I am safe.

11:20 - Gab starts the questioning by asking why we need this session.  Isn't it just women deciding not to go into the field?

The answers are generally that women feel shut out by being the "one woman at the dinner".  It all starts in 5th or 6th grade when boys don't think "nerdy girls" are cool.

11:27 - Global implications of women in technology and business?

Some cultures have long histories of being male dominated (e.g., Latin America)

Francie talks about her process of starting a technology business on a small Caribbean island where the traditional culture doesn't encourage women-owned businesses.  The panel encourages women to blog and hold panels where they live to encourage and support other women.

11:35 - The strengths women bring to the technology business?

Communication skills, collaboration skills, social networking, conflict resolution, etc.  Panelists relate stories about how many men in tech companies are not really "customer-facing-ready", but also that as one of very few women in a company full of awkward men, it is hard to collaborate internally.

11:40 - What to do as a woman working at home with kids and no other professional women close by?

Advantages of blogging, Twitter, Facebook both for communicating with those far away and discovering those close by.

11:42 - Mentoring?  How to find other women mentors?  How to encourage mentoring?

Sandy Carter talks about having multiple mentors, often one or more women AND one or more men.  This gives different perspectives to help you understand how to deal with things.  She also talked about sponsors as well as mentors.  Mentors will spend more time working through things for you, but sponsors are more like advocates.  It is often helpful to have a male advocate or a higher-up woman advocate so that when opportunities and promotions are suggested, there is somebody to say "How about Mary Beth?  She might be perfect for this."  This helps break through some of the old boy's network.

Other panelists encourage people to ask, ask someone to be a mentor, ask for a seat at the table, etc.

Successful men and women treat networking as a priority.

11:50 - Finding the backbone?

Susan Bulloch talked about having female bosses vs. male bosses.

Woman from the audience asked about the difference between women in management vs. lower down.  Panel says that even high up, the rules feel different.

Gab talked about not being afraid the "B" word (as she put it)

11:55 - Find ways to challenge the tendency to ask the man, even if the woman knows more.  It is important to make it explicit if tis is going on.  Sometimes the man has to support the woman so that it is clear that both agree the woman is more of an expert.

The pre-talk off-line back conversation and agreements which makes going into the meeting work.

12:00 - Being part of the team.  

12:02 - Marie Scott talked about the power of finding her voice, writing her blog and learning to get out there and share her knowledge.  This year it led to speaking at Lotusphere, a book offer, etc.

They encourage women to blog, whether they are super technical or newbies or marketing or whatever.

12:05: Kristen Lauria talks about formal vs. informal mentors.  Finding people who are very different than you serve as good informal mentors.  Gab talks about the "voice of reason"

12:08 - Sensitivity to joking, teasing.  How to react when people make fun of women (or this session).  How to deal with "It was just a joke."  Gab talked about having long conversations about having Nerd girl sessions and how some meen found the whole thing silly.

12:11 - As a woman in IT, do you need to turn into a man?  Woman from the audience says No and that she is a speaker here now because she stayed true to herself.  Kristen Lauria says "You can't be successful if you are not true to yourself."

12:15 - Akiba - You can do anything you want to do.  Encourage your children, encourage your daughters.  Believing and communicating that belief is critical to womeen (or anyone) believing they can do it.

Respectful disagreement and debate are critical to getting a better result.

Somewhere in there, Sandy Carter talked about showing the practical, proven results of having women on the board.  Since results are what count, proving that having women improves the bottom line helps convince people.

And we're done.  Thanks for tuning in.

Copyright 2010 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

892.1. Jerome
(01/20/2010 02:00 AM)

My sister was still paranoid of those little apple mac word processors when she was 20. However, a college mentor (male) communicated a lot of faith in her ability, and she overcame all fear of anything computer-related only a couple years later. She still groans when she has to learn a new one, but she knows more scripting languages than I do, so some of this rings true for me.