Mind the Gender Gap

Session type: 45 minute talk, English

Speaker: Maryse Meinen

Target audience: Men and women

Where are the women? Women are underrepresented in IT! We either don’t enter a career in software, or we leave early. We experience a hostile environment, feel we need to keep up with an unsustainable pace (that will also clash with family responsibilities), experience a diminished sense of purpose and also get paid less than our male peers and advance with more difficulty in our career. We miss peers and / or mentors.

This gender gap is a material burden to the software industry and a lost opportunity for our workforce. The relative absence of women in software teams contributes to software and solutions that underserve women, while women are significant customers and buyers. So it is also simply a competitive advantage to have women on your teams, to collaborate and share their tacit knowledge (based on the excellent 2012 article by Ken Judy: Agile Values, Innovation and the Shortage of Women Software Developers).

In this session, Maryse will explain why the software industry needs to make an effort to educate, recruit and retain female developers. They are a welcome additional resource but also valuable for the diversity of experience they bring to teams. So we need more women, but what can we do? Using our Lean/Agile values will really make a difference!

Nonaka and Takeuchi already emphasised that a team made of members with different backgrounds, perspectives and motivations is critical for organisational knowledge creation to take place. Agile/Scrum values help addressing the impediments women experience when pursuing a career in IT. For example, the heart of Agile principles is the primacy of team – in a well-performing Agile team, a hostile environment (as experienced by many women) will not be tolerated. The typical ‘alpha male behaviour’ that many women, including myself, find so difficult, is not tolerated in a real team environment. There’s other stuff in Lean and Agile that makes a difference to many women. Stuff like collaboration, sustainable pace and collective ownership.

If you work in a Lean environment and are wondering where the women are, do step up. Share your Lean experiences with women, at work, at the rugby match or maybe at your kids’ (primary) schools. Go tell what it is all about, help create a realistic view of work in tech for young people – including women. We need to educate girls and women on programming and IT subjects. And we need to do that early on (as is already happening with the coder dojos around the world).

For the women that actually do start a career in STEM, we need to offer support and mentoring (by men and women alike, by the way), and we need to offer role models to young women. There’s a lot more to do. But mostly we need to show off our Lean principles and way of working. Because that will really, fundamentally make a difference to a lot of women.

Some of these actions are already put to use at the company Maryse works at, so she will share some up to date real life experiences on how this works out.

Help create an IT environment that women can flourish in. It will make a difference, for all of us.

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