On March 1, 2018, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the inaugural Women in Data+Science Conference at Saint Leo University.
Here's the TL; DR version
There are two indicators of a great multi-track conference;
WiD+S at Saint Leo's hit both of those points. The conference was so good that I told the organizers, they would likely have two types of feedback; everything is great or it would be really great if you could provide coffee (this makes any conference A++).
I'll share my takeaways from the day.
My Top Takeaways
1. We need to continue to raise awarness of STEM to girls and minorities at the elementary and middle school level. Get them interested in early and get them engaged since they seem to fall off in college and in the workplace. This validated what we are doing with DC Data+Women and what I'm doing with Pretty Strong Smart, and it makes me happy to know I'm on the right path.
2. Role modeling is important. When we can't see ourselves in the picture of what someone with a STEM job looks like, we're less likely to believe it. I've experienced this even with my daughter who didn't think women could be Presidents because the US doesn't have one. It was a teaching moment, but how would I have expected her (at age 6) to believe otherwise?
3. Culture and community are important. We need to have a supportive environment that we can flourish in. We had some really good discussions about STEM and Cyber programs at HBCUs and why they are necessary. This also reminds me of a talk I heard by Dr. Johnny Lake that essentially said, when the world is telling/showing you that you don't belong, it's important to have that person (that community) in your corner to say that you're smart, etc. We have a need to belong to something, so building a supportive community is super important.
4. Own your work, your youness. This was actually a blend from two sessions. In one session with Dr. Holly Adkins, she described how she was challenged on her approach for her disseration. One of the takeaways from Dr. Adkins session was this quote from Dr. Pat Jones to Holly Adkins.
Maybe she wants to see if you’ll stand up and advocate for your work.
Whoa! Two thoughts run through my head; how many times are people looking to see if we will stand up for what we believe in? and Do we expect the same for men? This question was in the context of a disseration, so it may have been well within the norms to make a statement like this. Since I'm not a doctoral candidate (though Dr. Emily Kund has a nice ring to it), I applied the quote to everyday life.
The second part of this takeaway is something I thought about in Dr. Moneque Walker-Pickett's speak up session.
Own your youness. What does that even mean? In her session about speaking up in the classroom or workplace, I agreed with so much of what Dr. Walker-Pickett said. Though one thing has stuck in my craw (as the saying goes). It was tip #2:
Keep an Even Keel. Be passionate but not too passionate. Passion = emotional
I feel like that's a bit like saying, "Change who you are so that coworkers won't get their egos hurt." Obviously, everyone needs to be professional. Busting into tears is not professional. Neither is cursing someone out. But what's interesting is that I've seen men be passionate in the workplace and it's been fine. I've seen women be passionate in the workplace and it's too emotional and not fine.
This brings me to my last takeway from the keynote, Excellence is Genderles by Sarah Mobley.
5. Change the perception, not the standard. As Sarah was going through the accomodations to the standards, it reminded me of when Tableau and the community were considering changes to the Iron Viz process. I wondered, were the changes comtemplated and made helping women (and others) or did they change the standard? (Note: I don't know the answer to this and I'm not suggesting the standard changed, it's merely a thought).
During Dr. Walker-Pickett's speak up session, I mentioned that I was in a work scenario one time where I talked and acted like the other members of the leadership team (my peers who are guys) and yet, I wasn't treated the same. Don't you know, it's not ladylike to curse? Sarah was in the session and said something to the effect of "You shouldn't change who you are for others." So as I thought about the 'don't be too passionate (emotional)', it felt like changing the standard--who I am for others--to accomodate them versus having them shift to accept me (when I acted just like them).
The Other Stuff
There was swag (which was great), there was lunch (which was nice), and it was a decent location (about an hour outside of Tampa) and the campus was absolutely gorgeous, which made me happy. There seemed to be a lot of academics and that would normally trigger my 'am I good enough to contribute' internal monologue, however, I felt very welcomed. There was also time to meet and chat with people (especially over an extended lunch), which was great and I definitely want to keep in touch with my Tampa people.
I would love to go back next year and hope to see you there!