I attended Grace Hooper Conference 2012 in Baltimore. And this year, there are more than 3400 attendees with mix of industry professionals, students, researchers and faculties.
First impression after I got into the conference – I have never seen so many females in one place in my entire life. Since I chose to study IT, my world has always been unbalanced. Currently, I work in Windows Azure Media Services team in Microsoft as a Program Manager and I am the only female PM in our team. However, I was lucky that for the first project I worked on, there were a female test and female developer in the team. I was depressed for almost two months when I just arrived Seattle – a city without sunshine. Without them being my trash bin, I would have left the company by that time.
However, maintaining good ratio of male/female in IT company is nearly impossible. As mentioned in this conference, women holds only 5% of leadership role in this industry and 52% of them drop out within 10 years. I would never admit that guys are naturally better than girls in this area but as one of the presenter mentioned, it seems girls are less confident for advocating themselves. I reflect this point on myself and I have to admit that I don’t want to appear to be too agressive when it comes to advocate myself, though in fact, I do think I deserve that chance to shine.
It is a deep problem for this industry as a whole. I rarely see any female leaders in my company meeting. Not saying I want to become Marissa Mayer one day, having more female IT celebrities like Marissa encourage female engineers greatly. At least I get to know, it is possible to make a great impact in this men-dominant industry. It would also inspire young girls when they choose who they want to become one day.
Nonetheless, there are many IT companies presented in this conference. In job fair in B1, many companies have female employees standing by the booth and recruit female engineers. I am very proud that Microsoft has a very strong presence in this conference. Meanwhile, I also spent sometime by the booth and talk to students. Some of them are very confident but some of them are shy. There was a girl I knew if I didn’t smile to her at the beginning, she would just pass the booth quietly. But end up she has a very strong technical background as a PHD candidate and she could be a great fit for my company. I enjoyed a lot while communicating with students and I hope by telling them my own experience could inspire them staying in this industry.
Lastly, Microsoft has two sessions for internal employees. I didn’t have chance to raise this comment but I want to write it down here. When I just moved to our Redmond office, I saw someone’s office room has a green color wall. Afterwards, I got to know, there are four colors you could choose from to paint your office wall to reduce dullness, since a lot of office rooms don’t have windows. I requested “light pink” immediately, and I was told that color (or any girly color) is never on the list. Great disappointment!
I know it may not be a good example. But there are many other little things affecting me. For many technical conferences, the attendee gifts are always a laptop backpack, usually black color. But I never carry a backpack… and most of my gal-friends don’t… Preparing special gifts for female attendees doesn’t justify the economic scale, but money doesn’t have to come first always. In a successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention. And I think this applies to all IT companies.
At the end, I want to say I appreciate all the efforts my company put in and the whole industry put in for promoting female in IT. Otherwise, it won’t be this nice conference here and I won’t get the chance to come here. Especially in the executive panel, I felt company from top level is aware of the problem and is putting thoughts on that. And company is willing to listen to our feedback. I think that’s a great start. Though there are still a lot of problems, I feel great of being part of this amazing industry.