April 25, 2010

Bulk view

Women and technical leadership

I’ve read enough books to understand that when it comes to rapid career growth, family, and personal happiness, I can’t have it all, at least not all at the same time. I collect role models and goals anyway, just in case it turns out to be possible.

I think about the choices I make and try to project the consequences decades down the line. Do I look for a role in a growth market, and can our relationship thrive despite the distance? Do I focus on becoming an individual contributor, or do I prepare for people management? Do I focus on Canada or find a global role?

This profile of senior technical women from the Anita Borg institute helped me understand a little bit more of the road ahead. For example, if three out of four senior technical women have a partner or spouse who also works full-time, then maybe W- and I can balance our careers. If half of the single senior technical women surveyed have children, then people can lead even in a difficult situation like that. If senior technical women are more concerned with professional development than with work-life practices, that tells me that work-life practices and the need for flexibility probably won’t be limiting factors. Senior women in management roles think more about new opportunities outside or inside the company than senior women in technical contributor roles think of these things, so senior women in management may be at a higher risk of turnover. This reminds me of a mentor’s advice to stay technical, because strong technical contributions are a way to stabilize your position.

A recent IBM feature highlighted a few female IBM Fellows, the highest technical rank in the company. I’d met a couple of them already, thanks to my passion for collaboration and Web 2.0. I’m glad to work with a company that cares about diversity, and I’m looking forward to learning from everyone’s inspiration.