Recognizing Women in IT: a paradoxical co-existence of celebration and discomfort

Last Thursday I had the privilege to attend the 2013 CDN’s Women in the IT Channel Recognition  lunch.  This was the third annual event for women in the industry – indeed a lovely celebration, attended by over 100 women from the industry.   Lots of great networking and engaging learning for all of us from the workshop sessions, panel discussion and luncheon speakers.

A couple of things I noticed about the event – first, was the edging toward mid-life average age in the room.  Of course this is a celebration of achievement and as such the honourees and panel have careers with achievements that by definition are mid-life. That said – wouldn’t it be inspiring to have more young women at the event in future?

The other thing I noticed, is the co-existence of celebration and discomfort for some with the idea of a women’s celebration.  Why this co-existence?

Let me start with the discomfort. I think it stems from not wanting to be “singled out” as women in a male-dominated industry.  In a conversation with one of the 2013 CDN’s Women in the IT Channel Award recipients, she built a career based on her technical education, navigating and working with many men as peers, colleagues and now subordinates.  Perhaps as she notes, she’s been “head’s down” about doing her work well, and not really noticing the broader industry – but the recognition in the award really brought it to her awareness. In my observation, when women are pioneers in a field, we mostly just get on with the work, not drawing attention to the fact that we’re women.  And so a “women’s” event is both a welcome recognition, and still a bit of a discomfort.  And that’s ok – it’s just where we are, at this moment in history.

Which brings me to the celebration.  Anne Sado, of George Brown College spoke about how we have been in what she calls a  “Gender Adjustment Period” (GAP) for about the last 50 years. And we haven’t arrived yet at the place where women take their place in enough significant leadership roles, for integration and balance of men and women in leadership to be achieved.  Particularly in the IT and technology sector.   And that’s why we need the celebration!

To encourage more women to take on leadership, we must acknowledge the courage of those women in the room, and those in the industry who have taken on leadership roles.  We can learn from their paths.  And we celebrate their achievements as a stepping stone toward a day when the “GAP” will close.  Even if it’s a little uncomfortable, it’s worth celebrating!

Kudos to IT World/Computer Dealer News and industry sponsors for recognizing the need and creating the celebration.  And so to the next generation, let’s encourage our companies, industry partners, clients to fund a place for these young women to join the celebration next year!

Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester is a Leadership Coach, Brand Communications consultant and W100 Business Owner. A perpetual idea generator, entrepreneurship cheerleader, and wanna-be geek, her clients include Novell, PlateSpin, Mozilla, HP, Tenscores & Polar. She writes about Leadership, Communications, Entrepreneurship and Women in technology.

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