I was invited to assist in facilitating the Womenbuild session at the Microsoft PDC conference 2008 on 26 October this year. I was privileged to co-facilitate at this most incredible event – particularly as it is an issue that is close to my heart. The purpose of the Womenbuild session was to find ways to attract women into technology fields and to create avenues for them to harness their talent and innovation when developing software.
The 5 hour session was formulated around the principles of LEGO Serious Play and the group was challenged to build a whole range of different models, all relating to the theme of what it would take to create a more vibrant network of women and how the message could be spread at further conferences to be held in the future.
The recurring theme from the WomenBuild day was about establishing relationships and connecting with others to form stronger networks. Participants also spoke about how vital it is to commence working at school level to encourage younger generation girls and show them that bridges can be built and obstacles to entering the profession can be overcome.
The group also discussed establishing a mentoring program where young women are ‘buddied’ with those who are more experienced in the profession.
About 20% of the group was made up of men. They made some interesting comments - some had specifically come as they would like to ensure that their daughters have every opportunity available and that there would be no glass or concrete ceilings in their way.
The WomenBuild program incorporated the powerful LEGO Serious Play hands-on process that draws on the power of creative thinking to shift group conversation from talking heads to focused minds. Each table was run as a facilitated conversation with physical LEGO brick constructions that ensured that the diverse wisdom within the group was tapped into.
The participants certainly left the room with a clearer shared understanding of the inspirational career paths for women in the IT profession.
Well done to Microsoft for stepping up in a proactive way to encourage a diverse workplace and to ensure that the software development industry has pathways and possibilities for all who wish to enter the field of software and product development.