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Why You Should Ban Bossy

Folks, today's the one year anniversary of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, LeanIn.Org. For the anniversary, the Girl Scouts are launching a public service campaign to Ban Bossy, an effort to encourage all girls to lead.

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Over the past twenty-eight years I've been quietly supporting women's groups, just proceeding on what feels like the right thing to do. And this campaign seems like the real deal.

Sheryl Sandberg explained the campaign:

"When little boys lead, we call them 'leaders.' But when little girls lead, they risk being labeled 'bossy.'  These negative messages have a real impact; by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys – a trend that continues into adulthood.

Ban Bossy aims to change this by generating the awareness we need to stop discouraging – and start encouraging – girls to lead.  Please join us at BanBossy.com."

As a nerd who also has (insert some large number) nieces it’s real important that young girls are encouraged to take on roles of leadership. It's really all about fairness. Treat people like you want to be treated. Personally, I feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things.

Sure, life isn't fair, but that won't slow me down. A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Here are some ways you can help support the Ban Bossy campaign:

    • Pledge to Ban Bossy by hitting red “I will Ban Bossy” button on the homepage.
    • Use the hashtag, #banbossy, to talk about the campaign on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Follow @LeanInOrg and @GirlScouts for more info. 
    • Check out these tips – just a few everyday things we can do to support women and girl's leadership.
    • Share the Ban Bossy PSA: 

As Charles Malik said, "The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world."

Best Advice: Choose Your Fights Carefully

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Confrontation is a natural mode for many humans, even nerd-variants like myself.

It's a useful emotional vent, but can also be quite profitable by polarizing interested parties, and then selling one's services to one side or the other. Lobbyists and consultants in Washington generate a lot of billable hours that way.

Me, well, I've learned the hard way that confrontation frequently fails, and that I lack the motivation and skill level to render it effective or profitable.

Over decades, I've learned that sometimes I want to stand up for the right thing but that it's a bad idea to do so. There are situations I just can't win, due to lack of resources or skills. There are situations with unintended consequences which I can't anticipate or handle.

For that matter, some things really don't matter. To take a trivial case, at heart, I'm a grammar thug. I hear me some bad grammar, and I want to fix it. However, that's rarely worth doing; maybe only if I help a friend avoid some embarrassment. Nowadays, I suppress that urge, or channel it through my sense of humor, using phrases like "I hear me some bad grammar" or works like "gotta" or "shoulda."

The first battle where I remember consciously thinking about this was in 1977 at IBM Boca Raton. Bell Labs wanted Unix (Linux/Android precursor) on the Series/1 minicomputer. I figured that porting Unix to S/1 would be fairly easy, fast, and cheap, resulting in far superior software. After suggesting that, I was informed that it didn't matter, since it was an unwinnable effort. I made a stab at it, didn't go anywhere.

In retrospect, I should've fought anyway, along with others with similar opinions. The whole industry would be different.

Down the road a bit, at IBM Detroit working with GM Research, manufacturing customers told me they wanted Unix on IBM systems. While considering suggesting that, I was told to pick my fights carefully. I tried gently suggesting the idea, and accomplished nothing but pissing people off.

Later, when a traditional system was proposed for a big dealership application, I quietly suggested a Unix system, and was told that would piss off people even more, so I held my tongue.

Nowadays, there are many opportunities to confront people—for example, public agencies whose role is to help vets. I just don't confront people; I'd prefer to show respect to the participants and work with the people who want to get stuff done. Turns out, that's what they want, and the whole thing gets results.

(If my approach works, you'll hear little from me, and a lot from other people who I want to get the credit.)

Other situations include press involvement; I'm often in situations where bad actors fake the news, including making up quotes or selective editing.

Sometimes correcting a lie just repeats it and makes it worse, so I'm just avoiding fights altogether. That's too bad for the publication, since it provides an illustration of untrustworthy behavior which will return to haunt 'em.

So, sometimes fighting is the right thing, if the cause is right, and you have a shot at winning. You don't want to make things worse.

More frequently, you show respect and work with the people who still believe in what they do, and that works for me. You can try that also.

Photo: Johan Swanepoel/Shutterstock

Glasses, philanthropy, last week

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Hey, this guy knows Leonard Cohen (my rabbi)! We were just talking about how to better seriously share power and resources with people who need it, particularly in India and Africa.

I've now gotten interested in that, and would love to work with people who really have their boots on the ground making a difference.

The whole deal with craigconnects is using tech to give a real voice to the voiceless and real power to the powerless. Do you have any suggestions?

A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

 

Will women dominate the tech field?

Hey, big news: for the first time, women outnumber men in a UC Berkeley Computer Science course. Could this be a new trend?

Stats are a little wavering and it's unclear. Mike Cassidy at Mercury News says that after Harvey Mudd College began emphasizing coding instead of siloing it, and started paying for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, "the percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10% before the initiatives to 43% today."

Cassidy also thinks that the number of women in the computer science field is getting worse. He said that "in 1984, more than 37% of computer science bachelor's degrees in the US were awarded to women. By 1995, the figure had dropped to about 28.5 %. The latest U.S. Department of Education figures from 2011 put the number at 17.6%."

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From my perspective, it seems to be improving overall. Folks, there are more female computer science grads at Stanford than ever before, women are outnumbering men for the first time ever at a UC Berkeley Computer Science course, and the number of Harvard sophomore women who are declaring their major as Computer Science has increased over the years. It seems to me that it's the little things that are increasing, and those things really add up.

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2012 Infographic from Women Who Tech

What have you noticed about women in the Computer Science field? Do you think that gender equity's on the upswing?

 

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