Today’s focus was how technical women can drive forward and the keynote was “A Case for Diversity”, by Dr. Valerie Taylor from Texas A&M University. Valerie Taylor was one of the 600 women attended the first GHC in 1994. The conference was held every 3 years back then. In 2000, the conference started to be held every other year and in 2006, it started to be held every year.
In 1994, Valerie visited Anita Borg to talk about work. Anita suggested, “Let’s go for a hike!”. While hiking, Anita asked Valerie about her family and upbringing, which made Valerie feel strange. She later realized that Anita was taking time to learn about her, so that she could have a better idea on what to bring to the table. Anita was using this approach to handle diversity:
- Engage: Take time to learn about others. Learn about their background.
- Embrace: Embrace the background and allow it to come to the forefront.
- Enhance: When you engage and embrace others, you end up with something better.
Engage needs mediation and mediation is not making a decision for the parties in conflict. Rather, it is navigating people in conflict so that they solve the problem themselves.
One of the examples Valerie gave was that a team meeting may include people from varies background, some could from “not to question elders” background, others may be opposite. In this case Valerie would engage everyone talk first, she would be the last one to embrace a common ground and then use what she could learn from engage and embrace to enhance.
Everyone brings something unique to the field of computing! “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”