At the recent Code PaLOUsa conference in Louisville, Sue Freas director of software engineering at Appriss, talked with TechRepublic’s Alison DeNisco Rayome. Freas offered advice for managers who want to be mindful of diversity, and women considering leadership roles in tech.
For the full conversation, watch the video above or read the transcript:
Freas: The first thing that managers need to do when they’re looking to improve the diversity on their team is to be aware of the diversity they do or don’t currently have,” says Freas. “A lot of people get into a space of it’s a later problem or it’s not that big of a problem. But it presents in a lot of different ways. Is everybody absolutely obsessed with the same show or game or movie? That can be prohibitive to some people who aren’t into that, and it might even lead to people who otherwise fit in demographically, to feel like they’re not part of the team.
Be looking at all the ways that you might actually be preventing someone from being their natural selves and then look for ways to emphasize different aspects about the team. Know who they are, what they’re interested in and help them find ways to, without pushing it down anyone’s throat, find a casual way that you can make sure that that gets surfaced in a way that is not going to get shot down or you’re not going to get a lot of blow back from, something that feels natural, and welcoming within the team.
SEE: Hiring kit: Chief diversity officer (Tech Pro Research)
Women, and this is going to be a very gendered thing, tend to be very good in management because there is a lot of emotional intelligence that we’ve been taught over the years to focus on, and so it’s actually anyone in technology who wants to go in that space needs to have some awareness of how my actions impact how somebody else feels and a lot of women are very natural at that. I would absolutely recommend that you look into it.
One of the worst reasons to get into management is because there’s a gap and you feel that you have to fill that gap. Don’t do it if it’s not what your long term career solution is, because you’re going to get stuck there. Maybe not forever, but you’re going to end up doing things that aren’t rewarding to you personally, and there’s no reason to do that.
SEE: The state of women in computer science: An investigative report (PDF download) (TechRepublic cover story)
Also, I would say for women who are going into management, be prepared to be the only woman in the room sometimes. I started Louisville Tech Ladies, specifically, because there were so many times I went into a meeting, and I would be the only woman there. You have to just push your shoulders back and smile, and pretend it doesn’t matter, sometimes, not every time. Try to be true to yourself. But I really wanted a group that I could hang out with where I didn’t feel different, where everybody had some awareness of we’re all valuable here, and can we just be people for a minute instead of being the woman in the room?