Top Three Lessons from TechCities Women in Technology

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Last week I attended a TechCities Women in Technology panel discussion titled “Finding the Talent to Win” at the Carlson School of Management. Women from some of Minnesota’s fastest growing tech companies shared their perspectives on recruiting, hiring and retaining women in the high tech market in the Minneapolis St. Paul region.

The conversation was stimulating and fast paced and, as any good panel discussion does, included many questions and contributions from audience members (including men).

Here are my top three take-aways from the discussion:

1. Learn the language of the space.

Caroline Karanja, Senior Manager at LeadPages, emphasized that organizations have their own language and that’s it’s strategic to learn the language. Speaking to others in their native language is how you get things done.

Caroline shared the example of how she’s transitioned from the turn of phrase “I have have a gut feeling” when working with male co-workers to “I have a hypothesis.” Why the shift?  Intuitive hunches are ideas likely to be dismissed by analytical colleagues (male or female) but hypothesis are ideas to be tested, ideas that data-driven decisions can be made around. The idea has not changed. What has changed is the way she frames the idea.
Frame the idea in the language of the space.

2. Don’t advertise for ninjas.

Vocabulary draws people in or turns them away. Emily McAuliffe, VP Strategy & Account Director at Clockwork Active Media, skillfully moderated the discussion. As she transitioned the discussion to attracting more female employees, McAuliffe aptly noted, “Companies are advertising for PHP ninjas. No one but my ten year old wants to be a ninja.”

How the role is positioned says a lot about the culture of the organization. When organizations actively seek out MySQL “warriors” or PHP “ninjas,” those for whom the ancient art of Japanese warfare don’t resonate are not likely to apply. The functions of the ancient ninja included espionage and assassination. Not typically the things that women, who lean more toward collaboration than annihilation, are looking for in their next career move.

Word to the wise: If you want to attract women, write job descriptions that resonate with women.

3. Speak up.

Angie Franks, Chief Marketing Officer at Sport Ngin, stressed that women in technology often don’t use their voice. “I can’t tell you how many times a woman has come up to me with a great idea – after the meeting,” she remarked. “Use your voice,” she implored the women in the audience.

Speak up, even if you aren’t sure if you’re right. Taking a stand for something will help to develop the confidence to speak up again the next time. Contribute to the discussion, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

 

All of these top lessons come down to one theme: effective communication.

>> Culture is expressed through communication (and everyone insisted the right cultural fit between employee and employer is critical).

>> Effective communication is paramount in attracting the right employees.

>> Confident communication is imperative in ensuring that all the best ideas are put on the table – during the meeting.

 

Question: What are some of the worst examples you’ve experienced – where the words/language/culture did not resonate with you?

Share your answers on Facebook.

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