Sunday, October 3, 2010

Enlisting Male Advocates in the Workplace

Moderator: Caroline Simard, Anita Borg Institute
Skits: Patty Lopez, Intel Corporation

Panelists: Colin Bodell, Amazon | Gabby Silverman, CA Technologies | Will Allen, HP | Bruce Bigler, Intel Corporation | Luis Recardo Fraga, University of Washington

This all-male panel moderated by Caroline Simard included skits by Patty Lopez of Intel Corporation and offered the audience a fun poke at all too real situations that still occur for women--sometimes obvious messaging, sometimes subtle language--but the results are the same; behavior that can undermine a woman's personal power and confidence.

The male "actors" were good sports about offering before-after versions of themselves with female advocate Colin Bodell of Amazon, at one point during a skit, stating that he felt he needed a shower after playing the "unenlightened" manager.

The ability to collaborate across gender boundaries for enlisting advocates while in school and later in business is instrumental to your success. Female technologists who develop effective communication and relationship management skills will find the path to enlisting and engaging advocates easier to navigate.

However, it's just as important to recognize early on the potential barriers to your success and to speak up and challenge others when a situation warrants it.

"Faculty and students need support at every stage of their career. Gatekeepers can be biased and too many companies don't double check or validate. Find the person who will give you the straight scoop. People who shut you down shouldn't be considered as an advisor or mentor," said Luis Fraga, University of Washington.

Advocate or Mentor?

Amazon's Bodell described the difference between a mentor and advocate as the former being more of a 1:1 confidential relationship, whereas an advocate will work externally on your behalf as your champion.

"Mentors know how the system works--they have knowledge beyond your experience. Advocates can serve as a mentor, but not necessarily vice versa," according to UW's Fraga.

Why They Became Advocates for Women

What motivated these men to become not just supporters of women but true female advocates?

HP's CTO, Will Allen, hopes that his own daughters will have an easier path. Finding women who are "stuck" and helping them to move into and up within the organization occurs during 1:1 mentoring or as part of HP's larger mentoring community.

Bruce Bigler of Intel felt it was important to create a sense of fairness. It was Bigler's marriage to a technical woman and seeing her professional challenges, while also noting the struggles of a female mentor, which served as eye openers for him and ultimately changed his perspective.

Colin Bodell's daughter developed an early interest in technology and he wanted to continue to feed her excitement. As VP for Amazon, he asked himself, "Why shouldn't everyone have the same opportunities?" Bodell's aha moment came three years ago during the Grace Hopper Conference when he had to admit that his company wasn't as good as it could be in advocating for women. "Not recruiting and developing women is a missed opportunity."

Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at the University of Washington, Luis Fraga believes that with great power comes great responsibility in leadership. He wanted to make a real difference from an institutional level, realizing now that resistance to change both personally and institutionally has now become his responsibility.

Gabriel Silberman, Sr. VP and Director of Labs for CA Technologies attended his first Grace Hopper conference ten years ago where there were 700 women and 10 men. When he started hearing the dialogue shared by women, it forced him out of his comfort zone--understanding for the first time what it meant to be a minority.

Before - After Skits

Here are a couple of the skits videotaped on the fly...

Skit #1 - University advisor and his underlying biases (before) and how a supporting male advocate would respond (after).

Student played by Tyelisa Shields (HP)
Advisor played by Luis Frago (University of Washington)

Skit #2 - Manager delivering annual review using non-supportive language (before) and male advocate support and career development feedback (after).

Manager played by Colin Bodell (
Employee played by Linda Apsley (Microsoft)

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