How keeping and hiring more moms can help the Gender “pipeline problem.”
Ignite talk given for DevopsDay NYC on May 1, 2015. Transcript of this ignite talk below (or what I originally intended to say but mumbled through it). 🙂
When we talk about gender diversity in tech, and we talk about solutions to the pipeline problem, I’d like to turn our focus to one part of the pipeline: mothers.
I want to preface that this subject cannot be discussed in a 5-minute ignite talk, it’s a very personal decision. I’m not trying to change anyone’s minds or suggest one lifestyle over another, but hopefully we can start to carry better perspectives that can help our companies and our families.
So moms- everyone focuses on the early “get more girls coding” as a pipeline solution, but where the real opportunity lies is in moms: The reality now is that 8 out of every 10 women will become a mom in their life. Statistically this means if we want to talk about the life-cycle of women in tech, talking about motherhood is very, very relevant.
Now for the majority of you here in this room, you aren’t going to become mothers, but there’s a high chance that you’re either a co-parent, thinking about parenthood, maybe even worrying a bit about it. There are also hiring managers that could benefit from actively recruiting moms.
Moms are awesome to have on your Ops, Infrastructure, and Dev teams. They can juggle multiple projects, perform under stress, create systems that work and get them OUT THE DOOR. Many moms roll with the punches, we are NATURALS at continuous integration/continuous deployment (my daily build of getting 3 kids up, ready, lunches made, and out the door to school ALWAYS passes :-)). We test in production more often than we can count, and rarely do we get down time, we deeply feel you, @sadserver!
And we can work REMOTE! One recent awesome thing that has happened is the ability to work remotely. This opens up enormous doors for moms and their families. I rarely have to take a family sick day. I can flex my hours outside of on call (#dadops, it’s ALL you when I’m on call!) and I can move to suburbia without it having to disrupt my career. I’m often shocked by how few moms are out there doing remote jobs, when the technology/tools is just… it almost is like MADE for that, right? Amirite?!
Also, one of the things that attracted me to DevOps is its inclusivity and integrative mindset. It deeply cares just as much about the people, and understands that silos and closed systems just do not work.
So WHY do we compartmentalize our lives? Why do we try so hard to keep “work” and “home” separate in every way? I’m not talking about syncing your ops pager to your baby monitor (or duct tape if you’re lo-jack… that’s cool, no judgements). But what if integrating the two was actually a GOOD thing? Our own bodies have separate systems to make them work, but they all are integrated or else we’d die, even nature understands the importance of this, why can’t we?
In re-thinking how your experiences at home inform and enrich our experiences at work, we can be a better parent/partner and colleague. And the effort and integrating the two make BOTH better. I am a much better worker post-motherhood than pre-mother. Conflict-resolution, empathy, resilience, humor, perspective, efficiency, decision-making, and especially confrontation. Sometimes there will be situations at work when you will have to confront someone. I am not a confrontational person at all, but as a mom, when someones messes with my kids… the lioness in me comes out! But I can also be nurturing as well, and this is something that has helped me at work. And between confrontation and nurturing and the spectrum in between, we will have those moments and have to be comfortable with those moments and knowing when to use them, and I wasn’t before I was a mother.
Speaking of knowing when to do what — one of the things that being a sysadmin has helped me in my #momops endeavors: wisely deciding when to invoke priveleges as root. Because in life, we will always have pick our battles and be very careful when to
sudo or not!
Often we get stuck in this “either-or” mindset. “Either I’m a mom, or I’m working, but I just can’t be both.” But we have long lives, we’re going to be living a long time, we are going to be a lot of different things in a lot of different ways and we’re going to be doing all of it simultaneously. So among the many roles we will play in our life, we will be: a parent, a partner, and we’re going to work. And if you look at this infographic, the parent timeline to be actively engaged in parenthood is a lot shorter than the worker/working timeline. So slow and steady wins the race.
I look at the (predicted) retirement age will probably move up to 70 by the year 2050. This means I have 35 years left of work, but I have maybe 10–12 years of actively being involved in my kids lives before they fly the coop.
I leave you with the regrets of the dying. I’m sorry, we can talk all about how to be awesome at work, but we’re never going to regret on our death bed that we didn’t work harder, or we didn’t have better uptime. The things that matter most will have nothing at all to do with the things that occupy our work stresses of today.
Limits, like fear, is often an illusion. We are only partial to the limits we place on ourselves.
So a gentle reminder: limits, like fear, is often an illusion. We are only partial to the limits that we place upon ourselves. If we say we can’t be moms/hire moms to be awesome sysadmins, SREs, Software Developers, Operations Engineers, etc, then we never will be. So let’s drop the fears and the illusions and make tech more inclusive.