Sometimes IT is hard to be a woman

The fight for the right to be measured, recognised and valued on equal terms is far from over.

OPINION: I've done my best, during my 14-year career as an IT journalist, to avoid writing too much about Women in IT.' My thinking largely being continuously pointing to us as a minority and different' only furthered the divide between the sexes.

I've kept my mouth as firmly shut as one can do (which for anyone who knows me is a big ask) but after attending Salesforce's Dreamforce event in San Francisco last week I feel the need to speak out. 

Former supermodel Petra Nemcova was there talking about the good work she is doing in terms of disaster relief. I listened intently to her story but I fear most of the other delegates were too busy ogling her. Yes she is beautiful. But she was also telling a beautiful story and is a serious businesswoman albeit now in a non-profit context. There's a time and a place for everything. 

Everywhere in the world we believe men should be assertive, aggressive leaders. Everywhere in the world, we believe women should speak when spoken to, raise their hand and give to others.

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Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!'s CEO, was also on stage. After talking about how much he admired her, Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff proceeded to detail about some of her past achievements. 

Alas, her presence was largely overshadowed by protestors who broke into the conference to show their discontent about her involvement with Walmart and the way in which the company is alleged to treat workers.

It's good to share

But it was Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's talk that really got me thinking.

"I just finished writing an entire book telling women they should be more self-confident. Telling men and women that we all should stop underestimating women," said Sandberg, whose book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead tackles this very subject.

"I wrote this because, no matter what progress women have made, we're still really far from getting our share of leadership roles in any industry, in any country, anywhere in the world. That means when the decisions are made that most impact our world, our voices aren't equally heard. I wrote Lean In to try and tell women to sit at any table."

Sandberg says she still struggles today. She cited an example at Facebook of a project she supported (alongside one of the company's male technical leaders) but no-one else did. A little while later once it finally got the green light, Sandberg repeated somewhat apologetically - how grateful she was to be at the meeting, how much the project meant to her and so on. Whereas, the technical lead just stated outright that he knew they were right and it would happen all along.

"Cultures are so different - within our country, within the world. Except for one thing: our stereotypes of men and women are actually exactly the same. Everywhere in the world we believe men should be assertive, aggressive leaders. Everywhere in the world, we believe women should speak when spoken to, raise their hand and give to others," Sandberg added.  

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