At ASUG/Sapphire/TechEd conferences, I usually write technical views, with some social viewpoints, and hopefully some humor. This year, something different.
As an ASUG Volunteer, I participate in the speaker selection process for sessions presented by members and partners; I’ve written about our January meetings in the past. The steps start in the fall, with the call for speakers closing in December or January. That’s 6 months before the conference, yet we have a short deadline to pick choices and get the gears moving.
We have ideas on specific content we’d like to see presented, and can influence which presentations are proposed. But if no one submits on a topic, we’re out of luck, unlike the SAP session tracks (I’m thinking TechEd here) where it’s a command performance. As far as which speakers we want, the bias is toward SAP customers speaking, because we’re a users group. Peer-to-peer networking is our strong suit. And if those member companies don’t have diverse tech workforces in SAP management or (like me) individual contributor roles, then we won’t receive proposals from them.
Here’s where I fail. We should be inclusive, and diverse. I think about that, more than I say out loud (which is also a form of failure). The criticisms I’ve read about in other conferences is “too many white males.” I’m one of those, by accident of birth, and it’s a struggle to get out of the comfort zone and push for inclusion. Did I review content and purposefully try to discern women and/or other backgrounds proposed topics? No, I admit, I didn’t. I just looked at the topics “300 words or fewer” and clicked through. Did I avoid “foreign names” as probably not having English as a first language, I sure hope not. That part is always tricky in the selection process. Writing a good abstract is not the same as presenting well, and having a buzzword-laden paragraph doesn’t mean someone can’t speak coherently on a topic of interest to many.
Will this be noticeable by attendees? I’m not sure. I hope I (we) can do better though. Always.
On to deeper topics, if you’ll bear with me, as I digress.
As I have been pondering this post for a while, what pushed me forward was a tweet I read today, from Frank Oz, better known as the voice of Yoda, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert, and countless other characters.
First of all there’s no “boy stuff” or “girl stuff”. It’s all just “stuff”. You can wear whatever stuff that you and your mom want. I mean, Yoda wears a necklace. I’ve never heard anyone make fun of him for wearing “Girl Stuff”. You just be who you are. https://t.co/o5yFtgDG9M
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) June 4, 2018
It’s in reply to, well, you can read the thread if you like. It originated 3 months ago, with this central theme:
… scared her classmates will laugh because she likes ‘boy stuff’.
This blog title reference Frank’s comment, though I believe his surrounding statements are the key to thinking more positively towards role models and stereotypes.
I give props to Moya Watson for being my muse on this topic, in an abbreviated way. Her advice: Tell it like you see it, Jim!!!
A few years back, we had workplace diversity training. I got a perfect score on the test. My manager at the time said, “Jim, you so diverse.” He was joking, partly, but I think my alternative thinking and actions stood out, just enough, to be noticed as a positive influence.
Further back in time, my first career job was as an engineer for the federal government. I became friends with one of my co-workers, who had a distinctive speech pattern that might have been considered a lisp. He was gay, and I appreciated his trust in revealing his lifestyle to me. He shared stories of attacks on a bar he patronized, by baseball bat-wielding cretins. While I have not been subject to that level of fear, having long hair sometimes put me near.
Way back, in college, I had a gay roommate (in case you’re wondering, I am not). He came out to me, as the saying goes, before we roomed together. He also had long hair, and I’m sure comments were made by those who prejudged by appearance. I may not have walked in his shoes, but hope I stood up for my friend when it mattered.
Even further back, in my youth, I had a relationship with a woman whom one might call a “women’s libber” if you were sticking labels on people (but don’t). She schooled me in the sexism inherent in the culture; one comment I recall when I suggested a kitchen implement as a gift to my mother was “no, don’t put another link on her ball-and-chain”, meaning Dad worked, Mom cooked. My eyes were opened, though I didn’t always follow through with principles of equality.
For further inspiration, I’d like to share links to other blogs here:
- Why Fly The Pride Flag?
- Diversity, Unicorns and maybe a dragon or two
- Diversity in Tech for Technologists: You’re part of the problem. You can be part of the solution.
And as always, I thank Marilyn Pratt for bringing in many women SAP Mentors. I also thank my ASUG BITI “peeps” whom I regard as sisters (doing it for themselves) – Kristen Dennis, Karin Tillotson , Susan Keohan and my almost Twin Gretchen Lindquist (who seems to be temporarily formerized). (not omitting Tammy Powlas from this – she’s more like a cousin 😉 Lastly, but not leastly, one of the people whom I helped to mentor Kumud Singh (who didn’t really need my help beyond introductions to SAP community leaders).
Final thought, from the Scout Vespers, “have I done and have I dared?”