Digging diversity and trying not to harass people with food

Josh Ledgard, like many Microsoft bloggers, has a feature list a mile long he wants done on the blogs.msdn.com and blogs.technet.com blog sites. I was looking at his blog trying to figure out what he wanted from his email, when I got completely sucked into his post about diversity. (The Lack of Thought Diversity in Software) Darn you, Josh!

I've just been through both the anti-harassment, hire for diversity training classes here at Microsoft. (I've not been through the class Josh was about gender differences). In the hiring class they told us that in studies a homogenous group, when given a problem to solve, would get it done quicker and more efficiently than a diverse group. But though the diverse group was slower, since they were working with communication styles and cultures that were different, their solutions were richer and more commercially successful. And there have been many studies proving that diversity helps companies in the long run.

So it might not have been that Josh's class that's was supposed to make argument for diversity that Josh was hoping for. However, at least it pointed out that the genders may approach things differently, which is a good step toward, "Hey, everyone might think differently than you here so you have to adjust. "

I will say that I would have also lost patience with some of the pearls of wisdom from Josh's class and actually laughed out loud to read some of them. For what it's worth, I'm considered a minority and I'm the only woman so far on the GDN team.

“women aren’t direct in their communication styles”

First, my current boss Sandy - who is NOT female - is coaching me to be - well- a little less blunt in my communications. Not the guys, you realize. (From my own experience only mind you) I'm seeing this directness issue to be more of an East Coast-Northwest cultural clash than a man-woman thing. Also, I don't know about you, but doing Gotdotnet ops for a while has made me a bit crankier than when I was a happy-go-lucky site manager. Being crabby and worrying about site outages goes a long way toward making you direct.

“Learn how to use sports analogies.”

Honestly, just watch Star Trek. I've seen very complicated concepts gotten across using either the old or the new generation. :)

“women cry when they are angry”

Yes, and no. I've seen women cry when they are angry. Not actually at work (we are all Vulcans or the Borg at work, see...right back to Star Trek). But I also know that during a Model Mugging class (one of those classes where a guy in big padded suit attacks you) I managed to kick a guy back literally 6 feet while crying ( they put you through some really scary situations, including if you want, to re-live the worst attack of your life).  If I'm writing a cranky email I'm far less dangerous than when I'm crying, I've decided.

If I were a male exec, I would not see tears as a sign of weakness. I'd watch for the foot movements and be ready to run. :-)

“men talk to report and women talk for rapport”

Where does kvetching come in? Is that reporting or rapporting? And what about bloggers' whining? Is that manly or womanly? (Truly, an equal opportunity.)

I will say that I've seen some of what Josh describes as "that's just  the way software is done" thinking at Microsoft, and that's something we gotta break out of. Sexism is freakin' annoying, just like all the 'isms' and fixed paradigms that keep us from handling the chaos of recognizing the other person's differences. I'm making jokes above but there is definitely something hurtful about being thought of as "less than" or "not included" because you don't fit in.

Josh and I do a lot of back and forth about features and what can't get done and what can get done, and the debate is healthy for our blogging sites and for my general mental elasticity. I don't always say "Yes of course!" and he isn't always telling me what I want to hear (Which is: "Betsy! You are a princess; have a pony, and while you are at it, take the day off!") but that's what you do to get to the better answers.

Thanks Josh for giving me food for thought.

Live it vivid!