This past week I had the chance to participate in our Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT) forum, which is a part of our MN High Tech Association. Before this, I had admired WLiT from afar and the mission that they had of building up a community of women leaders within our technology eco-system. While I knew their events were open to all, as a man I felt intimidated to participate. As if I would be invading the space of this community. I feared that I would make the women uncomfortable and take away from their mission with my presence.
“Think of your career as a lattice vs. a ladder. It is ok to go up, back and sideways.”
What occurred could not have been further from the truth. This community of women was welcoming, sincere, direct, empowering, passionate and curious. I grew up in a house with a very strong mother, who taught me from a young age that everyone on our planet is equal. That anyone can do whatever they want. That we all deserve respect. From this, I married a very strong woman, who is independent, successful, passionate and together we are raising a daughter whom I hope is as strong and independent as her mother and both of her grandmothers. Throughout my career I have had the pleasure to work alongside, for and with many women. Each of whom has taught me valuable lessons, but for some reason, as I observed WLiT from afar, I had felt that it was a special place that created a safe zone for women leaders to express themselves and learn from each other free from men.
“Most decision making meetings are decision ratification meetings.”
WLiT not only is focused on empowering women and changing the trajectory of their participant’s personal and professional lives, but also educating all of us. Engaging us as men and women to lift up those around us from our daughters and young girls to the mothers and women professionals around us. At the forum, I learned how women perceive themselves, how they perceive their interactions with others and men specifically. I also learned what we as a whole community can do to open doors, build confidence and let women soar in our work environments. What I walked away from WLiT is that by participating as a man, I can learn how women have to navigate our professional world and what I can do daily to help educate my male peers on how our conscious or unconscious bias’ can impact our women peers. I learned that women want to learn from my experiences and through those conversations, we can shape our approach to lifting each other up in the workplace. I learned that the community WLiT is as diverse as our world and that each of these amazing individuals is thirsty for knowledge and eager to share their experiences with others.
“Find mentors who can tell you about the things you can’t see in yourself”
Thank you to Robin Brown for inviting me out and to my fellow panelists, Priya Senthilkumar, Michael Connly, and Anne Finch. As well as a huge shout out to Women Leaders in Technology and the Minnesota High Tech Association