Friday, September 25, 2015

One Woman's Perspective

The topic of women in technology has come up a lot this year. I have never wanted to be included in any group, team, or job simply because my gender meets some diversity quota. I have always expected (and sometimes demanded) to be recognized for my unique skills and talent. What sets me apart, and I've noticed a similar trait among the other women in cyber crime fighting circles, is that I'm not just competent but also confident. I can only speak from my own experience but that confidence started with my parents. They told me - and showed me - that I could be or do anything and I believed them.

My mother led by example, breaking barriers as the first female stadium announcer in the US; she was the voice of the Reno Silver Sox, a now-defunct minor league baseball team. When we left Reno she worked as a temp in our new home town and soon rose to the executive level at that agency. In my house, gender inequity was something we saw on TV that my parents had a heck of time explaining to me.

As a little girl I broke things to figure out how they worked then I put them back together. Sometimes I made them work better than they were before or added capabilities. I started with radios and telephones, graduated to televisions and small appliances, and, ultimately, found my way to computers and software.

So, what did my parents do during my auspicious early years? My dad gave me a corner of his workshop and some basic safety instructions then turned me loose. He took me to Radio Shack to spend my allowance on electronic components when I wanted to build things from scratch just to see if I could. He gave me old junk that hadn't worked for years so I could tinker or cannibalize the parts for other projects. I have a brother who showed similar interests. My dad treated us exactly the same.

That's where the magic happened and that's where I think the we can all effect real change - if you have a daughter, feed her curiosity, encourage her enthusiasm and give her the confidence to follow her passions. If you don't have a daughter, it's a safe bet you know someone who's a parent of a daughter, whether they're your friends, your cousins, your in-laws, whatever.

Accomplishments take perseverance and perseverance requires a "damn the torpedoes" attitude which comes from within, not from someone saying "we need more <insert your underrepresented group here>." I believe I can accomplish any goal because I don't stop until I do and I now have a track record to prove it. That's the challenge I throw down in front of each of you, and will continue to tackle myself. Mentor girls. Inspire girls. Encourage girls. Be among the people they remember who gave them the confidence to keep going.