Women Engineers Show New Confidence About the C Word

I’ve been spending quite a few evenings of late at the Girl Geek Dinners, the Women in Technology events and various women leaders in technology things. The generation gap between the older girl geeks who fought for equal treatment and the girl geeks coming through now who thankfully don’t have to see or do the things we oldies saw or did back in the day is fascinating to me, and worth a post in its own right, but today I’m excited about something else: the ‘C’ word.

Until relatively recently, the women engineers that I’ve worked with have been very careful about mentioning their children (the ‘c’ word in question, in case any of you thought it might abbreviate something else). As a general rule, I’ve seen secretaries and PAs put pictures of their children on their desks, chat openly about their children’s development, take time out to look after them as a right. But female engineers. Photos were rare, talking about kids restricted only to close friends, time off always accompanied by embarassment. And never, and I mean *never*, did anyone have that conversation about relative priorities, about the real work-life balance. And even considering it in front of the men? Noooo.

But this week I’ve seen a senior woman engineer do just that: tell everyone that her priorities shifted for a while when her kids were young. And she did this in front of her (male) boss. And nothing exploded. This past year, I’ve seen several women presenters list their children amongst their significant achievements (and we are talking some very senior women indeed), and professional women out and proud of their side-by-side roles as both professionals and mothers. And this is so wonderfully refreshing. I never became a mother myself, but I am proud that we have grown up so much as a profession that women don’t have to choose between images any more. I couldn’t be part of this particular movement myself, but to those women who did have the courage to say “I’m a mother too”, I salute you.

Meanwhile, on a slightly less historical note, I’ve found and signed up with an interesting volunteer effort – IT 4 Communities. It’s a place that puts geek and charities that need geek skills together, and as such it’s much to be encouraged.

2 thoughts on “Women Engineers Show New Confidence About the C Word”

  1. I think this one is very hard. On the one hand of course it should be acceptable to have changed priorities, to be open about the fact that you are a breeder, and so on. But changed priorities should mean changed promotion prospects, changed compensation and so on. It is simply ridiculous to claim that a woman who makes her children the priority can do as a good a job as the best candidate without that constraint. She can do a good job, sure – she might even be able to do a better job than her peers (depending on the peers). But to claim that making your children the priority is not deleterious to your work is absurd.

  2. I do have to admit to having a slightly annoyed moment (though just a moment) this past week when the company announced that it was okay for parents to take paid dependency leave because of the snow, but everyone else had to take an annual leave day instead. As with many things, it’s not necessarily the parents, but the separate and apparently preferential treatment of them that’s really the problem. Which is not me grudging anyone parental leave; is just a little difficult to swallow the disparity sometimes, is all.

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