Category Archives: women

Miss Manners on women’s pages

I adore Miss Manners, and so it’s no surprise that I find her article looking back on the women’s pages of the 60s and 70s quite interesting.

The women’s section reported the feminist revolution of the ’60s and ’70s when other parts of the paper mentioned it rarely and then only as a joke. The Women’s Strike for Peace was ridiculed as being a bunch of housewives who should have stayed home, but we took them seriously long before their actions grew into the wider youth movement protesting the war in Vietnam.

Her anecdote about asking President Kennedy a question is an excellent one, too.

“what happened when … ” the Yahoo! board made yet another bad decision

The recent New York Times article titled “What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs” is frustrating.  It’s frustrating to watch Yahoo! continue to flounder (and oh, flounder it has).  It’s frustrating to see a new CEO come in with the goal of righting the ship, but insufficient experience to do so.  It’s frustrating to see the Times resort to a clickbait headline involving Steve Jobs.  And it’s frustrating that the Times puts the blame solely on the shoulders of the CEO, only noting that Yahoo!’s board of directors had “hesitations”: “One of the Yahoo board’s hesitations upon hiring Mayer was her relative lack of experience as a manager.”

So let me get this straight.  The board makes the decision to hire a CEO who doesn’t have sufficient experience leading an organization, and who is well-known to be extremely (one might say excessively) hands-on in an organization.  Somehow, though, her failure is solely hers.  The board gets no blame for making a poor decision.

Welcome to the glass cliff.  I’m relieved that New York Magazine also noticed that the Times story should have been more appropriately titled “Marissa Mayer and the Glass Cliff”.  The board of Yahoo! did not set up Marissa Mayer to succeed, and apparently didn’t give her the right resources where she could succeed.  And they get to blame her, instead of themselves, if Yahoo! does fail.  Nevermind all of their bad decisions long before she came on board (passing up the Microsoft offer is but one of them).  No, if Yahoo! fails, the blame will fall solely on her, and she will be pushed off of the glass cliff.

Notable Women in Computing card deck

Those of us at GHC14 got to see the first version of the “Notable Women in Computing” card deck.  The people behind it have a Kickstarter for v2:

Women in this card deck were selected after receiving multiple, high-level awards from more than one institution, such as being named an ACM Fellow, IEEE Fellow, and receiving the Turing Award. Our deck also seeks to portray the true diversity of women in computing both current and historical, showcasing professionals from a variety of nations, backgrounds, gender identities, orientations and abilities. There are a dozen or more different groupings of notable women we could have turned into this deck; you can make your own using the instructions at the bottom of [the Kickstarter] page.

I kicked in $20 for v2 (one deck for me, one deck to be donated).


this is what we face when we try to negotiate

One of the points that I discuss in “The Mid-Career Donut Hole” is that women are penalized for negotiating salary.  Women who attempt to negotiate are viewed as greedy, whereas there is no negative association for men who negotiate.  There have been many attempts at strategies for ameliorating this negative association, although the research is mixed about whether they are effective in doing so.

Today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave another example of how difficult it is for women to negotiate.  When asked at GHC14 about his advice for women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise, he said this:

It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.

According to Nadella, we can’t ask for a raise, we can’t negotiate our salary.  We just have to have faith in the system, which is the same system that has already given us a pay gap and an attrition rate more than twice that of men.

That answer is not sufficient.  As an industry, we have to do better.

Updated just after midnight: I see that, about the same time I posted this, Nadella sent an apology out to Microsoft employees.  I’m glad that Nadella, eight hours after saying such a thing and four hours after trying to pass off his original answer as “inarticulate”, apologized to his employees and acknowledged that his answer was “completely wrong”.  The apology is excellent.  

However, it doesn’t address the basic problem that women face when negotiating: the immediate gut response is “it’s not really about asking for a raise”.  It took the backlash  for it to be acknowledged that trusting the system is not the right answer.  In the vast majority of negotiations, there isn’t an audience watching and live-tweeting.  The gut reaction is the one that sticks, and results in women being penalized for trying to negotiate.  It’s still not enough for women to “just ask” for a raise.

And so, I say again: That answer is not sufficient.  As an industry, we have to do better.

Google’s Tech gCareer Program

This looks like a great program out of Google that directly addresses some of the problems that women face in their mid-careers.

Google’s Tech gCareer Program is a 3-month program open to all qualified Software Engineers who have taken a break from a Software Engineering position at a high tech company. The program will provide participants with tailored technical training to help them bridge their knowledge gap as a result of extended leave. In addition to skills-based training and programming projects, cohort members will participate in professional development and mentoring sessions aimed at supporting their transition back to work.

Knowing how data-driven Google is, I hope that they will share how many people who go through their program are successfully able to get back into (and keep) a software engineering career.  If it’s successful, perhaps they’ll extend outside of coding too, and perhaps we’ll see other companies create similar programs.

“The Mid-Career Donut Hole” references

In my GHC poster “The Mid-Career Donut Hole”, I define it as follows:

Women are at least twice as likely to drop out of technical careers after 10 years.  The Mid-Career Donut Hole is the time when women are faced with multiple challenges that make them question whether they should continue a technical career.

In the poster, I selected 5 challenges that women face in technical careers that contribute to our high rate of attrition.  In putting together this poster, I wanted to share an overview of the research that shows how common these issues are and how they impact our careers.  Part of the difficulty for us in dealing with these issues is that they can be quite subtle, so you question whether you’re really seeing it, and whether what you’re seeing is unique.


Grace Hopper sessions I’m looking forward to

Oh, the places you’ll go!


  • 9:30am: opening keynote by Shafi Goldwasser
  • 12:30pm: “Executive Presence: Making the Leap” workshop
  • 2pm: “Leadership Strategies for High-Impact Women” workshop
  • 7:30pm: poster session (come by and say hi!)


  • 8:30am: keynote by Satya Nadella
  • 10:15am: “Accountability and Metrics for Gender Diversity” panel
  • noon: “Humans, Devices, and How They Live Together”
  • 2:15pm: “What Do You Mean It Isn’t a Meritocracy?” birds-of-a-feather


  • 8:30am: keynote by Arati Prabhakar
  • 10:15am: “Designing Secure and Privacy-Aware IoT and Wearable Technologies for Healthcare”
  • noon: “Systers Creating Change Everywhere Through Community and Technology Initiatives”
  • 1pm: Systers lunch
  • 3:30pm: “Trends and New Directions in Software Architecture”

I know I’ll go to more sessions than this, these are the ones that I really want to see.  What are yours?