Tag Archives: Geeks

Being the Only Woman in the Room

TAB, Sun Microsystems Technology Advisory Board, Greg Papadopoulos, Steve Ward, Ivan Sutherland, Danny Hillis, Dave Patterson, Mike Splain, June 2008

This week I met the Rev. Liz Milner, new CIC Chaplain for Elmwood Jail where I hold a weekly Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in a men’s medium-security dorm. During this introductory conversation, I mentioned to Liz that I was comfortable working as the EfM Mentor in a men’s facility. After so long working as an executive in Silicon Valley technical companies, I would have to be comfortable being the only woman in the room!  NCWIT reports that only 25% of US professional computing jobs are held by women, with numbers much lower at senior levels.

For decades I designed and managed programs for Sun Microsystems such as the TAB – Technology Advisory Board, pictured above. It was an honor to work with world-class innovators and leaders like Ivan Sutherland, Greg Papadopoulos, and Danny Hillis, but with very few exceptions, they were all male.

Women in technology meet each other at conferences, like the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (over 15,000 attended in 2016 – about 90% of whom were women), or in professional programs like TechWomen or Technovation.  We keep aware of our accomplishments as a group by means of projects like the Notable Technical Women cards and posters, and by awards such as Women of Vision. Women geeks are often the only female in the room – but there are many rooms!

EfM at Elmwood Jail, Katy Dickinson, Patrick Ryan, 4 inmates, Milpitas CA, Aug 2016

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Images Copyright 2008-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Community Cycle

Mai Temraz and Katy Dickinson at Cal State San Bernardino August 2016

The TechWomen mentoring program has been since 2010 a big part of my annual planning. 90 Emerging Leaders from 19 countries in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East will arrive in the San Francisco Bay Area in about ten days to start working at local STEM companies.  I am already working with the 6 ELs from Tunisia as one of their 3 Impact Advisors. Our Impact Advisory group has been meeting remotely every Friday – I look forward to meeting the Tunisia ladies in person soon.  The 2016 Emerging Leaders will be in the USA until mid-October, returning home after a visit to Washington DC.

I am also enjoying supporting one of my 2014 mentees, TechWomen Fellow and Fulbright Fellow Mai Temraz from Gaza, who will be starting her MBA at Cal State San Bernardino next month.  Several of us visited Mai and her family in Gaza City earlier this year.  The Temraz family is staying with us in San Jose while Mai goes through orientation at UC Davis.  Last weekend, my daughter Jessica, Mai, and I did a road trip to help find an apartment in San Bernardino and to see the Cal State campus.  In a few weeks, the Temraz family will move to Southern California.

TechWomen is more than an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, it has become a beloved community and extended family for many of its participants.

Walaa, Mai, and Yazan Temraz in San Jose, California, August 2016
Walaa, Mai, and Yazan Temraz in San Jose, California, August 2016

TechWomen Eileen Brewer, Erin Keeley, Aliya Janjua, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Mai Temraz, Katy Dickinson in Gaza City February 2016
TechWomen Erin Keeley, Eileen Brewer, Mai Temraz, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Katy Dickinson, and Aliya Janjua in Gaza City, February 2016

TechWomen Seham Al-Jaafreh, Mai Temraz, Katy Dickinson, San Bruno Park, California, October 2014
TechWomen Seham Al-JaafrehMai Temraz, and Katy Dickinson, San Bruno Park, California, October 2014

TechWomen in Tunisia with Impact Advisors in California August 2016
TechWomen in Tunisia, with Impact Advisors in California, August 2016

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Images Copyright 2014-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Sharing Space

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Current news about Bathroom Bills and silly videos like “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People Ep. 1” reminded me of how the Silicon Valley company where I worked decades ago managed the bathroom question.

Our company loved to dress up for Halloween. One year, Angel*, a very tall Hardware Diagnostics staff member came to work on Halloween dressed as a woman. Up until then, we had thought of Angel as a man, so when he loomed over all of us wearing platform shoes and a dress, it was considered a very good costume. The next day and after that, Angel continued to dress as a woman. For most of us, this was our first experience with a Transgender person and there was initial confusion; however, we had work to do and most of us ignored Angel’s transition as being none of our business.

Then, we noticed Angel using the staff break area sink for tooth brushing. When I asked why not brush in the bathroom, Angel said that the men in our building objected to sharing the Men’s Rooms and had forbidden her access.  Angel said she waited until she got home to use the toilet but that she wanted to brush her teeth after meals.

The next week, the women staff (Engineers, Managers, Support, and Administration) went to lunch together to discuss what to do. A few days later, several of the women met with Angel and offered her use of the Women’s Rooms.  Angel agreed.  The only real change in behavior was after that, the women used bathroom stalls for privacy when changing clothes.  The men continued to be rude to Angel but at least she had a place where she could brush her teeth and use the toilet at work.
Be Smart! Treat! Others da Way U Want to be Treated

*name changed

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Understanding Gaza

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In the month since I was in Gaza City, I have been thinking through that journey. Living in East Palo Alto for 20 years and teaching in a prison are two experiences that have given me some perspective on Gaza. I lived in EPA when it was named the murder capital of America. (EPA was where I could afford a house as a single mother working in the Silicon Valley – lower house prices being one of its virtues.)  I recently started mentoring an EfM seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas. Both EPA and jail can be dangerous and depressing places, but they can also be home and a ground for community support, growth, laughter, and love. When we visited Gaza, I saw devastation, poverty, and political anger but I was warmly welcomed by hundreds of locals who are building their lives and working to raise their community from the ruins.  Five of us went to Gaza together: Erin Keeley, Eileen Brewer, Aliya Janjua, my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and me.  It was the first visit by a group of executive technical women ever hosted by MercyCorps and Gaza Sky Geeks. Ours was also the first group visit by TechWomen mentors to our Palestinian mentees.

When I got back from three weeks in the Middle East and Africa, I briefly described Jordan, Israel – Palestine, and Zimbabwe to the men in my class at Elmwood. Trying to explain Gaza, I compared its twenty-year siege to lockdown, when inmates are immediately locked in their cells and all jail visitors must quickly leave because of an emergency situation.  While we were with the TechWomen Delegation in Jordan and during the two days we toured Israel before going to Gaza, we often heard deep surprise that we would be allowed in at all.  While we were in Gaza City, people on the street were very surprised to see us shopping and eating out.  We were told that many outsiders who visit Gaza drive through quickly, surrounded by guards.  We did follow MercyCorps’ rules to only go out during the day and early evening and always to be accompanied by a MercyCorps staff member but we were treated with hospitality and respect whereever we went.  Of course, I mostly was with my 2014 mentee Mai Temraz and her charming family!

Although Gaza is primarily Islamic, we visited the 50-bed Ahli Arab Hospital (supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem) and the Church of Saint Porphyrius (Greek Orthodox) between giving presentations on mentoring, venture capital, design thinking, crowd funding and other professional topics.  One effect of the long siege of Gaza is that the small Ahli Arab Hospital treats tens of thousands of patients per year with a mortality rate for diseases such a breast cancer at about triple – partly because of a lack of local medical facilities and the difficulty in getting patients out of Gaza promptly for treatment elsewhere.

One of the most difficult conversations I had several times with professional women in Gaza was whether they should stay or go.  Gaza is blessed with many talented and educated people whom it needs to rebuild after each conflict ends.  However, those are the people who can most easily qualify for graduate school, jobs, and programs elsewhere – which may be the best choice for them and their immediate families. My prayers are with the people of Gaza every day.

 

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing

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Last week, Dr. Telle Whitney (CEO and President, Anita Borg Institute), Dr. Susan Rodger (Professor of the Practice in the Computer Science Department at Duke University) and I gave talks on the “History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing” – as part of the Microsoft Research Gender Diversity Lecture Series, in Redmond, Washington. We were joined at the event by Jody Mahoney (of ABI, who lives in San Francisco) and my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, (who lives in Seattle). We were invited to speak by Dr. Rane Johnson-Stempson and Dr. Jaime Teevan took good care of us while we were at MSR.

Susan, Jessica, and I have been working together since last summer on the Notable Technical Women project but (even though we created a successful Hopper Conference October 2014 Poster and Kickstarter together) we three had never met in-person before.  We had great fun talking and walking around Seattle together after the Seminar.  We are looking forward to getting a link to the video of our talks.

19 June 2015: Microsoft Research posted the video with Dr. Telle Whitney, Dr. Susan Rodger, and me speaking: “Microsoft Research Gender Diversity Lecture Series 5: History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing”

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman

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TechWomen at ABI Women of Vision

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At least 12 TechWomen mentors -Hoda Eldardiry (Xerox PARC), Meredith McKenzie (Juniper Networks), Shalaka Prabhune (Symantec), Shawne Van Deusen-Jeffries (Juniper Networks), Rekha Pai (Juniper Networks), Claudia Galvan (Anita Borg Institute), Myra Nawabi (Lockheed Martin), Ruth Davis (Santa Clara University), Lisa Ramirez (Juniper Networks), Erica Lockheimer (LinkedIn), Audrey Van Belleghem (Anita Borg Institute) and I – were in the audience for tonight’s inspiring Women of Vision annual awards gala by the Anita Borg Institute, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the Silicon Valley.  5/15/2015 Thanks to Jeannice, here are more names of TechWomen mentors who attended: Jeannice Fairrer Samani (AACSB University), Felicia Mayo (Juniper Networks). Please send more names if I have missed anyone!

2015 WOV Awards honorees were:

  • Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO, Drawbridge – for Technology Entrepreneurship
  • Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experience Officer, Applications and Services Group, Microsoft – for Leadership
  • Camila Fernandez Achutti, University of São Paulo, Brazil – Student of Vision Award

Student of Vision Award Finalist Julia Edwards (of Smith College) was also acknowledged. It was a pleasure to see so many of my remarkable and accomplished sister mentors present to honor our technical community leaders.

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Photos Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Mentors and Role Models – Voices 2015

As of 11 March 2015, the recording and slides are available for viewing on Mentors & Role Models – Voices 2015.

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Please Register to join Voices 2015!

I am honored to be celebrating the week of International Women’s Day 2015 as one of the Global Tech Women Voices virtual conference speakers. My topic will be “Mentors and Role Models – Best Practices in Many Cultures”.  My talk will start at 8:30 am on Wednesday, 11 March 2015.  I will present many illustrations from the Notable Women in Tech project!

The week of International Women’s Day, March 8th 2015 technical women from around the globe will convene virtually and in-person, following the sun, across every continent. Representatives present individually and collectively to discuss, collaborate and celebrate the contributions of technical women.

Last year over 26,000 people visited the Conference or the conference recordings.

Benefits of attending:

  • Participate in technical discussions
  • Network with technical women on a regional, national and international platform
  • Be inspired by women like you, who are changing the world.

Thanks to my friend and role model Deanna Kosaraju (Global Tech Women – Founder and CEO) for her inspiring work – and for including my voice in this exciting conference!

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