We now break from regular programming typically consisting of boys, men, and dudes in general to talk about…women! Gasp! Those of you who are regulars here / know me personally know that I’m a dude lover. I talk about them, I talk to them, I look stare at them, I think about them. Frequently. BUT today is different, because last week I was immersed in estrogen, high heels, long hair, picture and video taking, cardigans, and giggling. And it’s not fashion week. It’s the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. So while the cardigans and shoes are so presh, there are also brains in attendance.
There were over 2,000 women in Atlanta from all over the U.S. and all over the world, to celebrate women’s accomplishments in technical fields like mine. We are nerds, we are Barbie lovers, we make more money, we’re winning awards, we’re researching everything, and we’re reaching milestones like no man. And we are looking so good being so fabulous and are so smart. If you’ve never heard of Grace Hopper and the Anita Borg Institute, do read up. It’ll make you feel good about things women across the globe are doing with and in technology. And if you’re a dude, maybe it’ll check your ego for a second.
The atmosphere there was refreshingly pressure-free and laid back, and I attribute this partially to the lack of testosterone present. The number of men I saw in attendance last week was ridiculously small, especially at a technology and computing conference. Seriously ya’ll. Google was there. Microsoft was there. Facebook was there. Bloomberg was there. USAA was there. Apple was there. And we were all there to share knowledge, experiences, successes, and failures. We were collaborating, building relationships – both professional and personal. We learned from each other and had a great time sharing everything.
There were a ridiculous number of successful and powerful women there. They have worked hard even while maintaining families, raising children, and mentoring young professionals and students. They haven’t lost sight of what’s really important. I applaud them for their success and impressive resumes full of accomplishments, but I respect them most for being so willing to share everything with the younger professionals and students. All while still saving time to watch their kids’ soccer games and even cook dinner for their husbands.
Women are amazing. And this conference has come at an awesome time for me professionally and personally. It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of work. Get up early, get to work at the same time, check emails, do the same things every day, feeling down about what I am or am not accomplishing, and letting the feelings spiral down until I am hopeless about making an improvement in my own life and career. It is one thing to feel hopeless and depressed about a man situation or my dating life. We all have our moments, and I have had and will continue to have plenty of these. But they are so easy to recover from. It is easy to pick myself up from heartbreak or rejection (post satisfactory pity party, obvs). I can put on a fancy pair of shoes, do my hair, feel good in my favorite jeans, and move on loving myself. But feeling down about my job and career path and choice is a totally different thing. I can’t just buy another job. I can’t make a project easier because of a good hair day. And sometimes it’s just freaking hard to stay positive and keep the big picture in mind. But being here has not only opened my eyes to the real breadth of the field I chose, but it’s encouraged me and reminded me I have options. Yes, my job is great and I do like it, but no, I don’t have to stay there forever if I become personally unsatisfied with the work I’m doing. I could very well work for Google some day, or Yahoo, or Bloomberg, or SAS, or Elle freaking magazine if that’s what I really want to do.
And it wasn’t just awards and success there. It was presentations on advances in technology pioneered by smart women which are helping the socially or economically disadvantaged. Socially responsible projects to help the blind, the poor, the 3rd world, the children. Technology is awesome, and video games are cool, but more than anything, the week was about sharing our knowledge so that we can help make the world a better place. Technology not just for the sake of cool technology, but for the bettering of societies everywhere.
So, key learnings I have taken back to my humble cubicle on the west coast include but are not limited to the following list.
- Every technical woman has had a time or moment when they feel out of place or uncomfortable in a field full of men [most with rather large egos].
- Every technical woman has had a moment when they felt triumphant and achieved something so great which made the trials and tribulations of working in male-dominated field SO worth it.
- There are many men who fully support and encourage women in their lives to succeed in a technical field, while there are many who are still not supportive (I mean, dudes, it’s 2010 for crying out loud…catch up).
- Women are smarter and can juggle life and work more effectively than men.
- Women are nicer and more willing to share their achievements with others for zero personal gain.
- Women are awesome and willing mentors, whether professionally or academically.
- The superior emotional intelligence of women is an asset in the workplace, not a hindrance.
The list could be much longer. And I’m stoked to be back at work with a new plan, new encouragement, new ways to deal with conflict, new ideas on how to shape my career and future, and new passion around what I do. I am a technical woman. I don’t just fix your computer, I can make your world better.