I believe the very best thing my parents ever did for me was getting me a ZX Spectrum (and moral values along with everything else). I was already a self-taught guitar player and I fell in love with that tiny little BASIC manual the second I laid eyes on it. Soon enough, while everybody was playing their computer games, I was building my own.
It was no surprise that before completing my management degree (in fact, when I had just started the 3rd college year) I began working with a management consulting firm, building their HR system. The BASIC language was long gone and I was now playing in premier league! My boss at the time, an amazing woman in many aspects, was my first female role model in this newly-discovered tech world, and she is still today one of my strongest role models ever. She put together an all-female consulting crew to work with a newly-created, men only, financial institution, implementing a new methodology for requirements analysis and implementation. It is not hard to imagine that wherever we went, whatever we did, every single action was under fierce scrutiny! Eventually we got the job done and not long after that we heard they started hiring women.
Some years later, on the turning of the century, my team and I at a small software company were the first to implement an e-commerce solution for the male-dominated public administration. And in the beginning of this millennium, when I arrived to the biggest telco company in Portugal, the scarcity of women in management positions was overwhelming. There I was, leading a team doing high visibility projects (corporate e-mail, internal network for the group, the first e-business and e-commerce initiatives, etc) meeting with more than 20 people coming from all PT companies, where I was more often than not the only woman in the room.
During all this time I heard all kinds of things, like "honey, get us some coffee" or "are you here to take notes? please do not interrupt" when I actually was there to lead the meeting. It also was not rare to walk to other tech companies and realizing that the woman behind the receptionist counter was in fact the only woman in the company. So when my team and I started adopting agile and DevOps principles I thought maybe this will be different, because most women are keen on empathy and empathy is one of the keys to DevOps. Actually, according to a 8-year study developed by Google, it is one of the most important keys to building effective teams. Effective teams run on TRUST and trust is built by listening (asking questions, seeking to understand the other party opinions and behaviour out of curiosity), by being authentic even when you're imperfect and vulnerable, and by practicing cognitive and emotional empathy.
You can automate and improve processes without empathy but you cannot run a blameless postmortem without it, without believing nobody wins until everybody wins!
But not only did the numbers not increase, they decreased! So I went to study Puppet's State of DevOps Report 2017 and I realized that only 6% of the respondents were women, against a stunning 5% in 2015! One third of the respondents even mentioned working in teams with no women at all! What has became of the female STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) graduates? The Portuguese Comissão para a Cidadania e Igualdade de Género recently issued a report where we can see that, aligned with the western tendency, female graduates on computer science are less than 20%. And those numbers have been falling for 23 years. Twenty-three years!
Doesn't that bother you? Are we building a world where boys go to computer science and girls go to life science? It surely bothers me, especially because I can't think of a definite reason for this. Is the male computer geek stereotype of the 80's still stuck in our minds? Do we still lack solid female role models? Is the cultural assumption that computer science is a 24/7 job killing any girl's aspirations, especially when they are thinking of maternity? Whatever it is, we need to change it! Not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is more profitable. McKinsey's study on diversity from 2018 clearly shows that top quartile companies on gender diversity are more likely to present 21% higher than average profits. When it comes to ethnic diversity, the numbers increase to 33%! On the opposite side, bottom quartile companies for both gender and ethnic diversity are 29% more likely to experience below average profitability, and 7% more likely to experience below average value creation. And also because technology is better for everyone when it is designed by everyone.
So where do we begin?
At home, educating our sons and daughters, showing that emotions matter and must be dealt with.
At school, where us women can volunteer to speak and present our jobs, providing girls with female role models and enabling their experience with all kinds of technology.
At work, partnering with those who get it and challenging those who don't. Partnerships and referrals are of extreme importance. And please women do not try to behave like men!
We need to start crafting a world of equal opportunities for our sons and daughters.
Because the future is not a place where you get to go, it is a place we get to create!
Cristina Moura Rebelo has more than 10 years of experience in complex project management. Cristina is passionate for project management, especially using agile approaches as a means to optimize time and resources. Currently she manages a team of 20+ developing Meo TV. With a degree in Management, a graduation at Universidade Católica Portuguesa and two project management certifications, blogger and writer (both professional articles and poetry books), married and mother of two, she often participates as speaker/host in tech and leadership events and is often involved in volunteering activities.TV Manager at IT, DevOps evangelist; team coach; speaker, blogger, writer, women advocate.