Women in Agile?

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by Natalie Warnert on December 19, 2014

Angela Johnson, PMP, PMI-ACP, CST is a founding member of Collaborative Leadership Team, a Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Transformation Coach who is passionate about changing the world of work.  She seeks to help people and organizations to break down their barriers and work together in a collaborative way.  Angela brings 20+ years in the information technology space and real world client case studies to her presentations.  She is a mom, wife, sailor, reader and lifelong learner living in Minnesota.

As a recreational sailor and a woman, I do not think of myself as a Woman in Sailing.  I think of myself as a sailor.  The most common phrase uttered at the yacht club where I learned to sail was right from Woody Allen “80% of life is showing up”.  If you want to sail, if you want to race, if you want to be put into the game “you have to show up”.  This phrase was not used with the females interested in sailing, it was shared with anyone interested in sailing.  So what is up with “Women in Agile?”

In my 20 years working in the male-dominated Information Technology field and the 11 years I have been involved in Agile and Scrum communities, I have never thought of myself as a “Woman in Agile”.  I view myself as an Agilist.  A Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).  Not a Female CST.  My belief has been you have to show up to play.  If women want to be included, where are they?

And today, instead of asking “Where are the women in Agile and Scrum” I find myself asking “Why aren’t the Women in Agile and Scrum showing up”?

Perhaps I am asking this after reading what happened to Adria Richards at the Open Source Conference PyCon, also known as donglegate:  http://tinyurl.com/ob8ez34

When women have shown up to Agile or Scrum conferences, user groups, online forums, etc. have they been treated the same way that their male counterparts have?  Maybe some had experiences such as Adria Richards and rather than say something, they simply stopped showing up?

In May I looked around the Scrum Trainers and Coaches retreat I was in and only saw 1 other female.  The remaining 50+ participants were men.  As I participated in discussions, I was talked over, disregarded, turned away from and angrily responded to if my response differed from some of the participants.

Kudos to the male participants there who intervened and asked that everyone involved be respectful of one another and not to interrupt, talk louder over someone to drown them out, etc.

In an online forum of Scrum Trainers and Coaches that I subscribe to, my posts are repeatedly disregarded or in many cases hijacked and turned into something I did not intend.  As a result I have ceased my involvement in that forum.

The Scrum Values we teach in Certified ScrumMaster training are Focus, Openness, Respect, Commitment and Courage.

My appeal to the Women in Agile or Scrum and to the Men in Agile or Scrum is to view us all as People in Agile and Scrum.  We ideally are all trying to promote a different way of doing work that is value and principle based.

Let’s encourage each other to be Courageous.  Let’s encourage each other to be Open.  Let’s Focus on outcomes and not who or where the idea originated.  Let’s be Respectful of each other.  If we all Commit to living the very values that we teach, perhaps more women will feel like they can show up.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky Moshenek June 18, 2015 at 9:30 am

Why did we quit showing up? For me it’s almost too easy to answer. We’re tired. After 15 years working in the tech world, I’ve seen the numbers of women around me shrink constantly. When I ask why the women were leaving, they responded that they were tired of fighting. Tired of arguing and not being heard, tired of being dismissed, tired of working harder, for less pay and respect. Tired of being thought of as “too emotional” when arguing the same point a male coworker is making. The downside I see to many women leaving, is that it means those of us left come across even more desperate and loud.

Growing Truffles June 16, 2015 at 11:28 am

Bummer. When I typed all those +s and 1s in the previous comment, they made a giant +1. Alas.

Growing Truffles June 16, 2015 at 11:27 am

“My appeal to the Women in Agile or Scrum and to the Men in Agile or Scrum is to view us all as People in Agile and Scrum. We ideally are all trying to promote a different way of doing work that is value and principle based.

Let’s encourage each other to be Courageous. Let’s encourage each other to be Open. Let’s Focus on outcomes and not who or where the idea originated. Let’s be Respectful of each other. If we all Commit to living the very values that we teach, perhaps more women will feel like they can show up.”

+ 1
+ 1
+++ 1
+ 1
+ 1

Sally February 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Very well said. Being the minority should be inconsequential. What matters is that everyone is given an equal “seat at the table”. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, but sharing them hopefully helps some people think a little more about how they treat others.

Ryan McKeen January 15, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Excellent words from the CST who I earned my CSM from. I’m glad to see that you’re continuing to show up wherever and whenever possible, including on this blog where I was pleasantly surprised to see you featured. Keep fighting the good fight sister, and keep showing up.

David Koontz December 31, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Here, here! I agree that it’s about showing up. I can relate to the concerns many women have with male dominate organizations – my wife tunes me into these subtleties all the time. Like in the sailing community. My experience is that the Agile community is much better, yet can continue to improve.

A great article on this topic had a powerful graphic depicting the drop off in the 1980s of women in tech… it’s a great article at Planet Money. They just quit showing up… but WHY? Obviously the problem is not easy to solve. I believe it’s a cultural shift.

http://agilecomplexificationinverter.blogspot.com/2014/11/when-women-stopped-coding-planet-money.html

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