Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for #WomenTechmakers

by Jess Samuels

March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day.  These serve as yearly reminders to honor women’s achievements and to continue to press forward in advocating for women’s rights.  A number of online campaigns have launched this year, including the #NotThere hashtag and video, raising awareness about gender inequality.  #NotThere is just one of many hashtags promoted for this important day.  Visit InternationalWomensDay.com to learn about the various campaigns and the 2015 theme “Make It Happen.”

Google promoted International Women’s Day through it’s search engine Doodle.  Doodles are a fun way for Google to raise awareness about topics, inventions or people deserving of recognition.  Unfortunately, SPARK recently documented that between 2010-2013, of the 445 people Google honored, only 17 percent were women.

Google is aware of the issue and promises to do better. Google Doodle team lead Ryan Germick reported to The Huffington Post,  “This year we’re hoping to have women and men equally represented. So far this year we’ve done Doodles for as many women as men, a big shift from figures below 20 percent in past years.”

womensday15-hr

Google is working on other ways to promote gender equality in technology, with it’s Women Techmakers global summits and meet ups throughout the month of March.  These events provide resources and visibility to women in technology. While unfortunately there is no meet up in my area this year (check their map to see if there is one in yours), I am marking my calendar to apply to attend the summit next year.  What a great opportunity to meet inspirational women in tech!

Another campaign Google/YouTube are promoting is the #DearMe videos.  They are asking women to tape themselves answering the question: “What advice would you give your younger self?”  These videos give inspiration to young women who may feel discouraged or filled with uncertainty.

What would I say to my younger self?

It’s okay to be a nerd and geek.  Embrace that identity because it will lead you to the places where you are most fulfilled.  Take it a step further and explore your creativity in technology.  Take classes in design, think about the communications field and explore your interests instead of feeling pressure to pick a major right away.  Find ways to practice what you love and you’ll get even better at it.  Find other people, other women, who have some of the same passions as you do and nurture that excitement.  Oh, and make sure to buy a Mac instead of a PC sophomore year of college 😉

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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for #WomenTechmakers

Reflections from #LeadOnCA

by Rachel Luna

This week, I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Lead On: Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women with 5,000 mostly female folks who gathered at the intersection of technology, leadership, and gender.  I attended this event as a volunteer resume reviewer and was also able to participate in the general sessions.  I’ll admit it was odd for me to be in a space so focused on gender as this is an aspect of my identity I don’t often have the opportunity to explore with as much depth and concentration.  Here are some of my takeaways:

Conversations I appreciated

Leadership as a ‘lady thing’

“We’re going to talk about lady things, like leadership and taking over the world in 2016,” said Kara Swisher as she kicked off the opening session.  The conference theme was “Lead On” and this sentiment was palpable in everything from the hashtag (#LeadOnCA), to the background music (“I’m every woman” and “You’re gonna hear me roar”).  Of course, the main draw for the conference was the keynote lineup, which included Hillary Clinton, Jill Abramson, Dr. Brene Brown, Candy Chang, Kara Swisher, and Diane von Furstenberg.  Their stories are remarkable not just because they are women but also because they are leaders.

Opportunities and encouragement to be change agents

Top: My colleague Kathryn Ward writes on the "Before I Die" wall.  Bottom: I contribute my goals to the community art installation at #LeadOnCA.
Top: My colleague Kathryn Ward writes on the “Before I Die” wall. Bottom: I contribute my goals to the community art installation at #LeadOnCA.

It wasn’t all talk at this event; leadership was in action in a variety of ways.  For example, conference participants shared goals and contributed to their own “Before I Die” wall, inspired by Candy Chang’s work.  The exhibit hall, which at most conferences is all about commercialism, featured a couple community engagement efforts, namely partnerships with Family Giving Tree (where attendees stuffed 500 backpacks with school supplies and encouraging notes for children in need) and Dress for Success San Jose (which collected donations of handbags and jewelry).  “What you do doesn’t have to be big and dramatic,” said Hillary Clinton, encouraging participants to make change.  “You don’t have to run for office,” she said with a figurative wink and nod but no official announcement about her intentions.

Conversations I wanted more of

I’ll admit I spent most of the day fulfilling my volunteer duties in the Career Pavilion, meaning I only saw the keynote addresses and attended one workshop.  So conversations like these could have happened in other spaces, but I found them glaringly lacking from the general conference dialogue and social media backchannel.

Breaking out of the gender binary

Everywhere I turned, there were examples of dualistic gender thinking.  In general sessions, female attendees were celebrated while male allies were thanked for their presence.  Every statistic was presented with just two options (ex: 70% of Google’s workforce is men and 30% women).  An announcement that some of the men’s restrooms had been converted to women’s facilities elicited a big cheer from the audience, and I couldn’t help but think why some couldn’t have been converted to all-gender spaces.  The result of these binary practices: our nonconforming community members were unacknowledged and rendered invisible.

Gender + any other aspect of diversity

I know this was a “conference for women” so it is expected we’d talk a lot about gender, but could we please acknowledge some other aspects of our identities?  While listening to the main stage speakers, I noted less than a handful of comments that directly addressed aspects of diversity other than gender.  And of those comments, most came from women of color.  By not addressing intersectionality, the female experience was painted with the same (white, middle class, well-educated) brush.  “Leaning in” and trying hard were touted as the keys to happiness and success while dynamics of privilege and power were unexamined.

Random things that got me thinking

TableTopics

  • The items in my participant swag bag included two office supplies and four body/cosmetic products, including one item for children (sunscreen). I wonder how these giveaways were determined and what conversations happened around those decisions.
  • A Nursing Mother’s Room was available for attendees.  Although I did not utilize this space, I tracked it as one of the event’s inclusion efforts and was glad to share its location with the woman who was balancing her pumping equipment and bottles on the edge of the bathroom sink.
  • An emphasis on making connections was built into conference process and content.  Intentional spaces for informal conversations were available in the exhibit hall and general session area, Twitter handles for all speakers were included in all conference materials, and almost every major speaker described women supporting women as essential to success.  In these ways, networking was framed with a relational perspective as opposed to a transactional one.
  • All the resume reviewers were volunteers from local colleges and universities.  It was nice to see higher education professionals recognized and sought out for their expertise in career support and guidance, especially in the business-driven environment of Silicon Valley.  I even consulted with someone who currently works in corporate HR and said she brought her resume because she valued the advice of career services professionals.
  • One last thing: shoutout to Kathryn Ward who also represented Samuel Merritt University as a resume reviewer and drove us both around the Bay Area that day!

Have you attended a conference like this?  What were your takeaways?  What would you like to see at a “conference for women”?

Reflections from #LeadOnCA

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

by Niki Messmore

 

For most of my life I’ve thrived from exposure to ‘strong women’ archetypes. At a young age I witnessed sexism (even if I didn’t quite have the words for it then) and I was in need of seeing someone like me, a girl, be a willful and fearless figure. It helped, of course, if they were awesome at martial arts (Buffy! Xena! My childhood heroes, forever).

As I grew older, female representation in non-stereotypical jobs and in the media became increasingly important. Our society is saturated with men overwhelmingly in positions of authority, from the leadership team of my alma mater while I was a student there to the fantasy books/films I love (…at least Tolkien gave us Eowyn…). It is sometimes very difficult  to imagine what is possible for my life when society dictates that my possibilities are limited.

Student Affairs shocked me when I entered graduate school. Surprisingly, even after being a highly involved student leader and service-learning staff member at my alma mater, I still held this lofty idea that student affairs was all about social justice – one of the core components of our field. I learned quickly that was not completely true.

That’s not to say that the field is not down with social justice, but it’s more so with words than action. Ultimately, student affairs is a profession that operates within institutions that were birthed through injustice (after all, who were the only folk to attend colonial colleges?). It’s difficult to move past that, especially when there are social attitudes that affect higher education. We don’t operate inside a vacuum. Not only does systemic oppression affect the profession, but the profession is made up of individuals who each have unique life experiences influenced by systemic oppression.

Still, I was surprised to learn that even though women make up the majority of student affairs employees, the majority of leadership positions are white and male. It’s frustrating to have this gap between our espoused goals and our enacted goals. And this is just one example of how the student affairs profession does perpetuate systemic oppression rather than tear it down.

This is a difficult truth to swallow when one desires to advance to leadership positions over time and has a love for something that isn’t always seen as women friendly, i.e. technology.

That’s why it is so important that I see other women-identified individuals who take leadership in the profession. Fearless women who challenge themselves and their peers. Intelligent and savvy women who bring new ideas into play and think outside our standard processes. Strong women who balance so much in their lives. Vulnerable women who share their successes and failures. Authentic women who call it like it is. Really, as Maggie Gyllenhall said at the Golden Globes, what is important to see is “complicated women“.

Complicated women-identified folks. (because recognition of the gender spectrum needs to be made)

I’ve had the pleasure of blogging on SAWTT since September 2013 and the opportunity to become introduced into this amazing group of women leaders in blogging and beyond. I am so excited to join Kathryn Magura as Co-Editor, and thankful for Kristen Abell for giving me this opportunity.

I look forward to working with SAWTT crew in this new role and learning more from this wonderful community of complicated women-identified folks. If you’re interested in blogging or just want to chat, tweet me up at @NikiMessmore.

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

Commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDoR

By Rachel Luna

When I write for this blog, I write from various perspectives: as a student affairs professional, an educator, a tech nerd, etc.  I also write from my perspective as a cisgender woman.  As someone who identifies in this way, I reap multiple privileges, many of which represent safety.  For the most part, I can use the restrooms where I feel most comfortable, people will call me by my preferred name, and I do not have to justify my existence or humanity based on my gender identity.  Unfortunately, for many members of the global transgender community, safety in these ways and others is inadequate or nonexistent.

This Thursday is the 16th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR).  Held each year on November 20, this day serves to memorialize people who have been killed due to transgender hate or bias.  Events often include a vigil and reading aloud the names of victims who have been killed in the past year (this year’s list is a staggering 11 pages long so far).

A 2013 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report shows increases in reports of physical hate violence in 2013 compared to the previous year, with transgender women and people of color among those facing the highest risk of homicide. Data from a national survey on transgender discrimination indicate that 1 in 4 members of the trans* community have experienced violence.  College campuses and higher education are not immune from these social realities as 35% of respondents reported experiencing harassment and bullying in higher education settings.

One way to honor the victims of transphobia is by observing this day and working toward making our campuses and communities safer and more inclusive for all people.  So on Thursday, I invite you to acknowledge and honor the victims of trans* hate, perhaps in one of these ways:

  • Attend a TDoR event – Find an event in your area (check this list of events or this one).
  • Host a vigil and/or dialogue in your community- Create space to host an event in your office, on your campus, or in your neighborhood to honor the victims and reflect on this day.
  • Educate yourself – Enhance your awareness and build your knowledge about the trans* community and issues facing this population.  Read articles (like this one) or visit your campus or community LGBT center to learn more.
  • Honor intersecting identities – I currently work at a health sciences institution, so in addition to memorializing the victims of the past year, I’m screening and discussing a short film regarding transgender cultural competence for medical providers.  You can explore available resources for a variety of intersecting identities, such as the Trans People of Color Coalition and Trans*Athlete.

Resources

Commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDoR

Why Student Affairs Professionals Should Care About #GamerGate

By Kathryn Magura

**Warning: this blog post contains content of a violent nature that may unintentionally trigger someone. Please read on with caution.**

 

I am not a gamer. I do not go online and play video games with other people. Why then would I purport to get involved with an issue called #GamerGate?

Well, for starters, women are being threatened with horrendous crimes because they have chosen to speak out against #GamerGate. Yes, you read that correctly. Women – a growing population in the gaming world – are being threatened with specific threats of violence like gang rape when they choose to speak out against the sexism in gaming. If you are not aware, there is quite a bit of overt sexism in the gaming world. Everything from female characters who are sexualized to bullying women out of the community, it is truly an ugly world to be a part of if you are a woman. That said, some women still choose to partake simply because they love to game. Something they have every right to continue doing.

Women who speak out against #GamerGate face a real threat of being doxxed (which is internet speak for when personally identifying information like address, age, Social Security Number is published) and thusly sent into hiding. Felicia Day, a famous gamer and actress finally spoke out against #GamerGate, and within minutes was doxxed. Men who speak out do not face the same doxxing threats. Why?  This is wrong, and the only way to stop it is to draw more attention to the issue.

For some more context about this issue, those who are pro #GamerGate claim that the issue is about media ethics in gaming. When I first tweeted about #GamerGate:

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.22.37 PM

I received quite a few responses from people who defended #GamerGate under the belief that they were defending the need for more ethics in gaming. While I believe these people wholeheartedly believe this version of #GamerGate, they are also incredibly naive to ignore what has happened to the women who speak out against #GamerGate. These atrocities are happening to women only, not the men who also speak out. How is this an issue of gaming ethics??

Newsweek sought out to answer the question of what the root issue of #GamerGate is, and concluded that #GamerGate is about harassing women more than gaming ethics. In 2014 we have blatant sexism running rampant without consequence. THIS IS NOT OK.

So why should Student Affairs professionals care about #GamerGate? Besides the fact that we have women being harassed and threatened, there is a deeper issue at play here. Many of these gamers who are threatening women and sharing their private information are our students. They are our residents on campus. They are the students in our first year seminar classes. They are the students who attend our events (or not).

We have students on our campuses who think it is ok to publish personal information about a woman, or even threaten to rape her, simply because she disagrees with him. This is not ok. We need to reach out to these students and help them see the true value in other human beings. This is not a game. This is reality, and people are getting hurt. The threat is real, and we owe it to these gamers to encourage them to see the difference.

Why Student Affairs Professionals Should Care About #GamerGate

I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

By Niki Messmore

I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent women mentors both as an undergrad at Bowling Green State University and during my masters at Indiana University. Indeed, I feel fortunate with how many women I’ve been able to work with in student affairs. But this summer I began to think about gender representation within higher education. Student affairs is a field that is predominantly female, yet many of our senior student affairs officers (SSAO) are white men (Engstrom, McIntosh, Ridzi, & Kruger, 2006).

So the question I have to ask is “Why aren’t there more women in senior student affairs positions?”

It seems strange, does it not? The field appears to embrace diversity and social justice – after all, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” are one of the core competencies of student affairs. So why is there a disconnect? Even from a mathematical standpoint, if there is a larger population of women within the field then one would assume that more women would be senior officers.

Is there sexism in student affairs?

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have an answer to these musings. I think this an area that we need to discuss as a field (#SAchillyclimate, anyone?).

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree with any of these explanations? Which ones would you add? How does the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities affect the promotion of women in student affairs?

Taking it further, if you identify as a man, do you think there is anything you (or your university) does that contributes to a chilly climate for women? What have you seen on your campus?

And if you identify as a woman, have you experienced any of these challenges to promotion or know someone who has?

Please leave a comment below. I welcome you to also join me in a conversation on Twitter (@NikiMessmore) under the tag #SAchillyclimate. Let’s talk this out. I’m interested in your experiences.

 

**”Winter is coming” – a pop culture reference from Game of Thrones. See the meme here

I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

Follow Friday: Fitness Edition (Plus Bonus Link)

By Brenda Bethman

Credit: spykster, Flickr (via Fit Bottomed Girls)
Credit: spykster, Flickr (via Fit Bottomed Girls)

As you know (and may well be sick of hearing) from previous posts, I recently embarked on a quest to get more fit (or, well, fit at all if I’m going to be honest). Because I’m one of those people who likes to research everything, I’ve started following some fitness blogs and am sharing them for this edition of Follow Friday:

Women’s Health Magazine:The emphasis on weight loss and getting a “hot” body is annoying, but if you can get past that, there’s some good information on nutrition and fitness, as well as some good workouts, usually with video.

Fit Bottomed Girls: A more feminist and body-positive spin on women’s fitness (how can you not love a group who titles their book The Anti-Diet?), this site contains a wealth of information on fitness, nutrition and health. They’re also funny, which is a plus.

eat, live, runIf all this working out is making you hungry, here’s a blog with some fabulous (and healthy!) recipes

Happy reading and eating!

Oh, and that bonus link? Go check out Eric Stoller’s list of 20 (all-female) SA pros to follow on Twitter. It’s definitely a “must follow” list.

Follow Friday: Fitness Edition (Plus Bonus Link)