Monday, July 29, 2013

Give Them the Friggin' I-Pad

Many of you know that I'm the mother of three, very bright, "equally ADHD as their mother" children.  As I've been tasked with a number of interesting challenges with both RMOUG's and ODTUG's WIT, (Women in Technology) events, I've started to investigate how, no matter what we do for women today, unless we start focusing on the women of tomorrow, we are lost.
I spent some time the last couple weeks investigating the offerings by my local school districts for technical education and am alarmed for both genders.  There are "Technology Plan Templates" that detail out the dismal specifications of what hardware will be provided in the classroom, but no mention of what to attain with it.  No one lists out what educational goals, what students hoped to achieve with the said technical hardware.
Now what were these marvel in educational opportunities offered in the way of software?
  • Windows XP.
  • Tutorials on how to use a USB flash drive.
  • How to "Navigate the network"
The labs were beginning classes in Microsoft Office and how to use email.  What kid, by the time they are in mid-elementary, lack knowledge in9 basic tasks in MS Office??
I looked on the clubs link, as I remember computer and programming were often found in clubs, along with classes, in my high school.  This was what is now offered:
I assumed the technical classes had to be missing from the website, (I know, seemed like an oxy-moron to me, too, but I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt.... :))  so I called the school.  I was politely informed that all classes for any student that are interested in technical educatiin are offered at Bollman Technical Education Center.
I remember this school, as it was what was recommended to my oldest when he was having challenges that were administration in nature, but had been classified by the school as "behavioral".  If this doesn't concern you right off, we'll discuss it here in a minute, but first I wanted to make sure that there hadn't been a "revamp" of the school.
No, Bollman is still considered a school that "benefits the student who is more productive when doing than learning in a more traditional academic setting."
I was less than star-struckwhen I looked at their technical career programs:
Auto technology?  Do we really even have to discuss this one?
I was more pleased by the clubs, but the ones that are heading it up are often the same teachers that are failing the students in their primary schools!  I noted the names of three teachers that aren't even technical in the three clubs that are mentioned in the image below!
One of the teachers listed as one of the sponsors teaches at my children's high school and we've discussed her "ongoing challenges grasping today's technology".  Having some of these folks heading up tech clubs seems no better than the BBC show, "The IT Crowd" character, non-technical Jen Barber's hilarious attempt at heading up IT, which is one of the consistent comedic story lines of the show.  This is what we have directing tomorrow's technical minds?
Now we're going to get into the down and dirty.  This school is an "alternative" school.  This is the school that they send the students that are not succeeding in standard, public schools.  What does this say about the future of technology in general?  What does this say for the number of folks in the industry that have a story similar to mine that started out in a VERY different field than the one they are highly successful in because they were unaware that the opportunity was even out there for them?
So, here's where I'm at-  if the schools are going to continue to fail both genders in the technical arena, maybe this is a better alternative:

The Silicon Ceiling

A male peer of mine approached me just after Collaborate and discussed this incredible woman in the Oracle community that he was trying to promote and inspire.  I had met her at a couple sessions and agreed-  I was impressed with her knowledge, energy and intelligence as well and he asked if I would assist in promoting her-  I was thrilled and agreed.  I promptly contacted her via Linked in and I sent her an invite.  She just accepted my Linked in request this month and it really had me thinking-  It wasn’t like she hadn’t been on Linked in, she just didn’t put this as something very high on her priority list.   This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.  I’ve been approached and/or asked to mentor or assist someone in the Oracle community and I’ve had a couple not respond or wait a very long time to network.  The thing is, the only time this has happened, it’s consistently been women who it happened with and I find it very worrisome.
Why, (as known as we are for our communication skills)  do we so often hesitate or pass up professional opportunities and networking?
Where a man will consistently accept an opportunity that would promote their career, I’m seeing way too many women refusing, often siting family or personal reasons.  I’m saddened by how little success I see when offering the same opportunities to women that I’ve noted were offered to men.  Most of these opportunities were to do more with the Oracle community and would have promoted them technically and socially in their career along  with networking them more effectively with their technical peers, yet they so often walk away.
Much of it appears to source from a lack of childhood risk taking and discounting one’s qualifications to contribute to the arena.   I’ve found it fascinating over the last couple years to watch male peers, even when the opportunity may have been WAY over their head, they still took a risk and jumped at the chance, where most women hesitated, took a step back  to assess the situation.  In many situations, this is a very positive trait, but when it comes to limited-time opportunities that are offered directly to that person, a woman needs to grasp onto it with both hands and hang on tight- the offer may not be extended again.  The hesitation often resulted as the women verified that they were 100% qualified to perform the task before they’d even consider it, where I’d have guys chomping at the bit with only about 10% of the qualifications.  It pains me, to see these women filled with self-doubt, torn between demands, self-imposed limits and many times feeling they have no right to feel ambition.   I watch it roll around like a storm under their calm surface and wonder why many in society continue to raise women to feel this way.
We aren’t turning down the primary work responsibilities or anything like that.  Women work hard at their jobs, but not so often at their careers.  The little things that add up to take someone from being an employee to being a brand appear to elude most of us.  When noting that women aren’t taking on those career promoting opportunities, I’ve often been told, “Oh, that just doesn’t interest me…” or “I couldn’t possible do that, my family needs me…” or “I’m sure John/David/etc. would be a better choice…”  Due to these types of responses, we repeatedly have women in the technical arena passing up opportunities to manage,  present/write technical articles/books, professionally network and LEAD in the Oracle community.  The glass ceiling isn’t the issue; it’s the silicon ceiling that I’m referring to here.
What is the silicon ceiling?  If you are an Oracle DBA, Developer or Architect, you are working in the technical world.  To participate in the upper echelons of this community, we as professionals need to start valuing our own contributions to this arena.
To be a top contender in the Oracle Community, you need to keep in mind:
  • Someone who is coding on the weekend in some game or technical challenge does not have more to offer than you technically.
  • Presenting is one of the best ways to learn to contribute more effectively in meetings and projects.  You find your voice and learn how to think on your feet.
  • If you are worried about the “glass ceiling”, presenting, blogging and writing articles in a great way to eliminate it.  If you are out there, you are no longer touchable by any ceiling, glass or silicon.
  • Taking risks demands we bluff a bit to show that we are more confident than we may really feel.  This will win us new opportunities, which in turn grants us self-reliance and personal power.  More women need to learn how to bluff a bit more.  Healthy bluffing is a good communication skill to have in most male oriented workplaces.
  • Your career is as important as your contributions to your home, you family and your salary.  There is nothing wrong with reaching out and doing more with your career.  Not only will it benefit your own job satisfaction, but also lead to you setting a more impressive example for your children and the young women around you.
  • By having our husbands be more productive partners in the home, children and family both benefit.  Men are the ones who most often teach children risk taking and by boys and girls seeing men take active roles as care givers and share in household chores, eliminates more stereotype issues in the next generation.

I see too many women saying, “Sorry, not this time…” or “Maybe when I have more experience…”  I applaud their dedication to how much is sacrificed for their families and home.  I also know that as we sacrifice ourselves, the world pays the most and husbands are quick to agree with me.   I haven’t found a husband in my generation who has not wanted to see their wife/partner achieve more.  So many are incredibly impressed by all these women contribute to everything in their lives, but are also incredibly aware of how much they should be doing for their own careers and/or dreams.
So what needs to change for women to do more for their careers?  What needs to change so women stop putting their careers second to their families and their husband’s careers?  What needs to change to make women want to step up and WANT to do more?
I so want to see the silicon ceiling disintegrate….