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Women in Testing: EuroSTAR 2017 Event-->
This year at EuroSTAR, we had the very first “Women in Testing” event during the conference. I was excited and pleased to be asked to organise it, as diversity in tech is a topic close to my heart.
The format of the event was a 45 minute session with a speaker, followed by a discussion the following morning. We also asked the participants some questions that we wanted information on.
Session with our Speaker
I was pleased to be able to get Kristine Stenhuus from NNIT to deliver the talk. She has over 20 years’ experience in IT and is vice president for Microsoft solutions at the company, where 3000 people work.
Her talk was a fantastic mix of statistics and personal stories. She gave us figures for the ratio of men and women in IT in Denmark (87% – 13%), in her company (32% women) and also at the executive level at her company (4 women). She mentioned that 56% of women leave tech at the mid level point – twice as many when compared to the men.
Her case studies were profiles of three women working at NNIT and what they need to stay in IT. The main factors from the three women were: professional challenges to fuel passion, a sense of purpose – seeing the impact of the work being done and knowing it’s helping, and an environment where expressing ambition is permitted and encouraged.
Her takeaway points for improving the number of women in tech were aimed both at capturing the interest of younger girls, as well as making tech a desirable industry for women to remain in. She suggested that companies invite schools into their offices, so that children see that IT is interesting, people-centered, and has an impact on society. At the university level, she recommended having ambassadors from companies to speak to students and spark interest. One success she mentioned was an increase of 100% in the amount of women studying computer science the year after a “girls who code” initiative was started. Companies can also look to graduates from other areas such as data science – and train them in the necessary IT and programming skills for the job.
In terms of retainment, her advice was simple – as companies, we need to create environments that women want to be a part of.
Discussion the Following Day
In the early morning following the gala event, around 15 people gathered to continue the discussion. Our focus was on concrete solutions that each of us can do in our daily work to improve the situation for women in tech. The discussion was fruitful:
- Using “she” and “her” more often in examples when talking about users, developers etc.
- Always assuming that your conversation partner is at least as technical as you (to avoid the uncomfortable issues that women often face when they are assumed to be non-technical)
- Being aware that not everyone likes the term “guys” to refer to a mixed group of people
- Accepting people’s identities and the pronouns they prefer
- Women who have confidence or positions of influence can use that position to strengthen and represent others
- Requesting codes of conduct at conferences, also for example at Eurostar
- Supporting women in conversations by amplifying their position if they are being talked over
The discussion (and the talk the previous day) was attended by both women and men. It was fantastic to have everyone listening to other people’s experience, and we had an open, interesting and respectful discussion. It was also great to be able ask the men whether they had ever had some of the problems the women talked about – the general answer was no.
And some data 😊
As a part of the first session, we distributed three questions to the participants:
- What are the hurdles for women in the testing community?
- What could Eurostar do to encourage and support women testers?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
There were so many great answers that they won’t all fit in this blog, but the trends that came up frequently were:
- Women are assumed to be non-technical / their technical expertise isn’t trusted / they have to prove themselves more often
- The difference between being assertive (positive attribute – men) and bossy (negative attribute – women)
- That this issue isn’t just for women – men need to be active too
The suggestions for Eurostar were also helpful. The three main recurrences were:
- Women’s T-Shirts for attendees and speakers
- Giving the Women in Testing event more prominence (and better technology 😉 we had a few technical problems that Kristine dealt with very professionally).
- Having a balanced mix of women and men speakers and keynotes at the conferences
All the feedback about doing the event was positive – my thanks to everyone who participated!
It looks like this is something that sparks interest, and that can definitely find a place 2018 at Eurostar in The Hague– I can’t wait to see what discussions we have there.
About the Author
Alex fell into IT and testing in 2005 and has never looked back. She is now Head of Software Quality and Test Consulting at BREDEX GmbH and spends her time working with test consultants, developers and customers to help them towards great quality.
Alex is a frequent speaker at conferences where she likes to share her project experiences and learn from other practitioners.