One of the latest social media campaigns is raising awareness about engineering fields not being just for men. If you haven’t seen it, let me explain. A 22-year-old woman, Isis Anchalee, was part of an ad campaign for her San Francisco based company, OneLogin. Some people did not believe she was an engineer when they saw the ads. And so the negative and sexist comments began. Ms. Anchalee chose the high road and started a social media campaign with hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer. Within hours, tens of thousands of women in engineering jobs had posted their own picture with the hashtag.
With the very divisive language currently dominating the presidential campaign, including negative comments aimed at women, what should we as leaders be doing? As always, we should be promoting diversity, common decency, and respectfulness in all our language, behaviors, and practices. We should expect nothing less from each other as people.
I’m pleased to see that sexism and gender disparity in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) has gotten so much attention in recent months. It’s about time. Recent articles and stories by the New York Times, NPR and ABC News on this latest social media campaign are helping raise awareness. It’s a subject near and dear to me that I’ve written and spoken about in the past year as well.
I started my career in IT as a programmer — and I didn’t look the part either! While learning programming, I got pregnant with my second child and completed the program when I was close to 8 months along. I was already in a traditionally male job at the phone company when I decided to attend the technical school part-time at night. I wanted to transition into what appeared to be a booming field — computer programming. When I first transferred from a traditionally female job into that one, my first child was less than a year old. One of the older guys on my team felt I had taken a job from a man and actually had the nerve to look at me and say, “You should be home, pregnant, and with a broom in your hand.”
When I was early in my health IT management career and the only woman on the management team, a male colleague had the nerve to spread rumors about me that I had only gotten into management because I was related to a board member. So not true. There was a board member with the same last name as my married name, Schade. But my husband and I had never heard of him and he certainly wasn’t a relative.
As a female CIO, I am still in the minority. Yet at this level there is rarely any blatant sexism. It can be more covert in ways that are hard to see.
Yes, I have been successful in my IT career. I have worked hard to deliver results and to be an exemplary leader and role model. I’ve raised two smart and very competent young women who now have little girls of their own. Will we ever reach a point where gender doesn’t matter? I certainly hope it’s in my lifetime. For all our sakes.