Here’s Why Men Should Attend Women in Agile 2017

I would like to think I’ve always supported people that look and sound different than me. One of the friends I enjoyed most in high school was the only African-American kid in my class. I supported my mom’s desire to run her own business, knowing she would do well. When one of my best friends from college came out of the closet, we all hugged him for his trust in us.

Wasn’t until recently I realized I was only implicitly supporting women and minorities.

In journalism school, I was taught the difference between implicit and explicit wording. To explicitly express something, it has to be directly stated. I can’t stand bananas because of the awful combination of funky smell, mushy texture, and a taste that makes me barf.

Implicitly stating something sort of does the opposite. By not stating something to the reader, you assume they will figure it out on their own. If I state I like most fruit, you might not know to never buy me the curved, yellow pieces of disgusting.

Yes, in my head I supported those around me who were different. But in 2017, it is not enough to silently support anything. We must be explicit.

My first protest ever was when I joined the women’s march in January. It solidified many of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had over the past few years. I even participated in some of the chants, which at times made me giggle inside.

The same feeling came over me at last year’s Women in Agile event before Agile 2016.

I’ve known Natalie Warnert for a couple years, and she asked if I would come participate. Was already intending to attend the main event as a speaker, and thought it would be cool for some men to show up. Even though I was unsure how much value I could add, I wanted to support my friend so I came.

After all, it was only $50 extra and move my flight up by half a day.

So I showed.

When I showed up, some butterflies crept into my stomach. What would women think about me showing up? Would I be able to be encouraging? Would they even feel empowered from the event overall?

The event started with an intro from Natalie to the event itself and then the keynote speaker. Cindy Morse, who’s VP of Ops and Engineering at Salesforce shared some of her career journey and what’s she’s learned as a woman in IT. We then broke up into lean coffee groups to discuss a few topics and see what happened.

With the experience in this space, I chose the blogging table and introduced myself. Funny as it seems, I wasn’t sure if I would get the “what are you doing here?” looks.

Which brings me to the first thing I learned. Turns out, the only person that was nervous about me being there was me. Attending a Women in Agile event is really just a normal Agile event. We just celebrated women being a part of our community and wanted to support each other on the journey.

We chatted about our work. On our conference speaker abstracts. How our different roles gave us unique insights. Women and men celebrated the unique perspectives we all bring to teams. In the end, we all exchanged Twitter follows and the promise to chat more as Agile 2016 progressed.

Which brings me to this year’s event.

This year promises to be even bigger and better. The keynote speaker is none other than Astronaut Abby, who from all appearances seems to be one of the most driven people I’ve ever seen. Natalie has also set up some time workshops, networking, and even a chance to deliver the closing keynote if you’re up for it.

I want everyone to come, mainly because it’s going to be a fun opening to what promises to be a fun week in Orlando. You’ll meet some of the luminaries in the industry, and you’ll for sure get your quota of hugs and smiles.

Specifically, though, I want to ask men to come to Women in Agile.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I didn’t understand that implicitly supporting women and minorities was not enough. By not saying anything overtly sexist, I thought that was enough to support women in their goals.

I also haven’t had to deal with less pay for the same work. With coming back from maternity leave. For being seen for how I’m dressed rather than the work I do. All that and so many other challenges women face in our industry.

By showing up and just participating, I’m explicitly stating I appreciate the work women do for the Agile community. Some of my best friends in the Agile community are women, and I’m proud to celebrate them.

  • Natalie helped me first understand how to work with UX team members.
  • Allison Pollard knows exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it and is brave enough to deliver it.
  • Billie Schuttpelz has facilitation skills that run circles around me and is walking caffeine.
  • Colleen Johnson taught me how to measure and experiment better within organizations.
  • Stephanie Ockerman has more discipline in her pinkie than I have in my whole body and scrums the whole world.
  • Pradeepa Narayanaswamy coached me through an extremely difficult time in my life, and you should all go see her for coaching.
  • Jess Long taught me how to gamify my standup and that redheads truly have more fun than the rest of us.

They and many more amazing agilists walk amongst you at conferences every year. I met them all along the way and am a better person as a result.

Who are the women in your journey who should be celebrated?

Empowering the Changing Face of Agile: Women in Agile will be at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel on August 6 at 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

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