Women in Technology Panel – Kalamazoo

During lunch at the SQL Saturday in Kalamazoo, a group of women got together to talk about what it’s like to be a woman in the technology field. The moderator was Shelly Noll (@shellynoll).  The panelists were: Hope Foley (@Hope_Foley) – consultant and manager; Tammy Clark (@tameraclark) – Database engineer and self proclaimed XML extraordinaire (SSRS, DBA experience); Wendy Pastrick (@wendy_dance) – DBA; and Colleen Morrow (@ClevelandDBA) – DBA at a law firm. Josh Fennessy (@joshuafennesy) “accidentally” crashed the party for a few minutes – he said he’s been part of  WIT for about 3 years.

The panel had no particular agenda. They asked for questions from the audience.

The first question from the audience was: “How does the pay scale compare?

One panelist responded that she had been cleaning her office. When she moved her desk, she found review/pay stub of a former employee who was male. The other person did not have as much work to do as this panelist did, and yet, he still made $40K more than her. He had a degree in Computer Science, she has a degree in something else. The was the only factor that he had to his advantage. The audience asked: “How do you handle that?” The panel member said she discussed it with management.

Panel member 2 (PM2) then answered: She previously worked for an insurance company. She had a male co-worker with the same career path, etc. PM2 had one year more experience, but the man still made $2K more than her. She brought it up to her manager. She believes the “glass ceiling” does exist for women.

Panel Member 3 (PM3) chimed in that she previously worked for a school where salary is public. There was not much room for negotiating, because it was all out there. When pay is based on position, then you don’t have the issues of man’s pay vs female pay.

Panel Member 4 (PM4): Works with 2 other DBAs, one has more experience, one has less. She doesn’t know what they make, and she doesn’t want to know. She says as long as she’s happy with her pay, that’s all that matters.

An audience member then asked the panel: “What other issues do women face?”

PM2 responded saying that some people assume she doesn’t know anything. She “dares” them to say she doesn’t know something, and she will prove them wrong.

Question: What about training? Have you noticed differences in opportunities there?

PM3: In this economy, the training budgets may or may not be there. The issue isn’t usually men vs women, it is often the travel budget. People don’t want to pay for training. At her company, she was the only woman ever to have been sent to the PASS Summit. She had previously shown she is able to train others. She was sent with the expectation that she would go, and come back to share what she had learned. She suggested finding free training opportunities (such as SQL Saturdays). She also recommended finding things that are close. This will eliminate the need for a travel budget.

PM1 said “Show how it benefits others too. Don’t be afraid to branch out and explore groups that are a bit further. You might need to drive a bit.” She called it an easy-sell to employers “This event is free, I just need a few hours off early to drive there.

The audience members chimed in on this question too. They had advice such as, “Take control of your own career.” The audience also said that sometimes, “For free training, you don’t get the day off.” Sometimes, you may need to take a personal day. Audience members also said, “If your company doesn’t provide training, or work with you for training days, leave. Today’s market for DBAs is hot. You can find a job somewhere else, and negotiate for what you want.”

PM3 acknowledged that it’s scary to negotiate. Women in general have a hard time asking for things.

Audience members said, “Don’t be passive aggressive. When it comes to training, there’s a myth that if it’s free, what’s the value? The PASS website has a great ROI page.” As a group, we also talked about the importance of pointing out if a solution you found is related to something you learned at a training. When your employer is happy with the resolution you found, say, “Thank you, I was able to solve this because of what I learned at that training you sent me to.”

PM1 said,”Take the initiative and go to trainings on your own time. Show that you are serious about growing in your knowledge and your career.”

PM4 registered herself with the early-bird discounts. Her boss came back later, and offered to pay for it.

Question: How does your level of Community involvement reflect on your job?

PM4 said she tends to do most of her Community activities on her own dime, not paid for by her company. Her employer is very supportive of what she does.

PM1 says it’s kind of a double-edge sword. She was a top candidate for her job because of her community involvement. On the other hand, she has also run into her employer asking “You’re taking another half day?”

The audience talked a bit about how social media has been so helpful in connecting and growing the SQL Community.

PM3 said that people are asking her about the community. She’s been trying to let people know about all they have to offer, but still has people asking her, “Have you heard about this PASS, they have free training.”

PM2 said her involvement doubles as marketing for her company, so they are very supportive.

The audience members pointed out that networking is just as helpful as training. The networking can be very helpful when you need help with things outside of events.

The next question pertained to young girls – “When I was in Junior High, science and math weren’t cool, so I quit liking it. How do I keep young girls interested?”

Three of the panel members had almost the exact same response, “Bring them to things like this. Let them see there are normal women who make good money, and it’s because of things like math and science.”

An audience member talked about The Ada Project (TAP) to get girls interested and keep them interested

PM1 mentioned that the Girl Scouts have been very involved in STEM. She also said we need to keep talking about STEM related topics to keep girls aware. Less women are going into Computer Science today, than in the 60’s. She said the NCSD – just published data (I was not able to find said study to link to).

One audience member said that in the 60’s, math and science were pushed in schools. There was the Space Race, etc. Things are going away… where are women being pushed then?

Shelly (Mod) said that she has seen women being encouraged into health care if they are interested in math and science.

Question: “Is segregating girls out with other girls, discouraging them? Are they ostracized by boys?” (such as all-girls schools, or all-girls classes)

An audience member mentioned that it might be impeding on their social interaction. When girls spend all their time learning to socialize with girls, they may not know how to negotiate with boys.

PM4 asked, “Aren’t girls leaving because of how they are treated by men?”

Mod said “Girls only know how to be girls. They don’t know how to work with boys if they don’t have those experiences.”

PM1 said that the more experiences girls have with both genders, the better they get at dealing with diversity.

PM3 brought up another issue that she has run into, the issues of parents vs non-parents. Her experiences have covered both men and women. When people who are parents leave early, they often get the “Go, be with your kids” treatment. People who don’t have kids, but have put in their hours, get a “where are YOU going?” The point here is that there are inequalities in many areas, not just men vs women.

It was at this point, we ran out of time.  There was a a lot of great audience involvement and conversation throughout this entire WIT Panel. I enjoyed sitting in on it, and hearing audience members such as Dustin Mueller (@sqlcheesecake), and Eddie Wuerch (@EddieW) chime in with their experiences as well.

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2 thoughts on “Women in Technology Panel – Kalamazoo

  1. Great wrap up, Sarah! I can point people to the NCWIT website, where a lot of resources and materials are available for WIT related issues: http://www.ncwit.org/

  2. Sarah S. says:

    Thank you for linking to that site. I was looking for the study that was referred to, and couldn’t find it!

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