The Women in Tech Lunch at Mix11 generates action


The first-ever LEGO Serious Play event at the WiT Mix11 luncheon hosted around 100 attendees, both women and men.  I co-led the event with LEGO superstar, Thomas Mueller (shown below leading a LEGO Mindstorms event at the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo, CA).


Thomas graciously lent us over 8,000 bricks from his personal collection for this event. Participants were invited to build models using LEGO bricks to reflect their answers to the statements listed below about the problem of too few women in technology.  We used LEGO bricks to stimulate creativity, add fun and increase communication!  Thomas and I showed example models that we had built in advance to get the attendees started thinking.  For example, for the first question, Thomas built a model which reflected one of his considerations about having too few women in technology.  This model, shown below, represents the idea that technology is boring and implied the need for us working in technology to help to change that false perception.


We gave the groups a short time to build, 5 minutes and then asked table leads to get feedback from each participant on his or her model in the next 5 minutes.  We had 3 build events around the statements listed below.  The goal of this event was to get each participant thinking deeply about the WiT problem and his/her own personal connection so that he or she would commit to doing at least one micro-action within the next 30 days.

1) Describe one aspect of the problem (i.e. too few women in technology)
2) Describe why you are here (i.e. what is motivating you to work on this problem)
3) Describe one area of the solution, as you see it and one action that you can take within the next 30 days to work on this aspect of the problem).

Everyone was eager to build, so they opened the containers and bags of bricks on the tables (shown below) and got started…


It was fantastic to see what people built and even more, to walk around to listen to the conversation.  Everyone got into the spirit immediately.  Most people seemed proud of their models (shown below) and eager to share…


I loved seeing the creativity and ideas flowing.  Here are some of the models…


Another great aspect of this event was the large number of men that chose to participate (around 25%).  The guys shown below were having a great time building and sharing…


If you’d like to run your own version of this event, ping me via this blog and we’ll let you know how we set up the LEGO brick bags.  In particular, we included a large number of LEGO people.  Participants used those pieces very frequently in their models, as shown below…


Special thanks to volunteer Thomas Mueller for making this event happen.  He selected the brick types, packed most of the bags himself (over 100 of them!), hand-carried them back and forth to Las Vegas and was his usual great and hugely helpful self.  Thomas has been volunteering for YEARS with me at kid’s events.  Despite being very busy at his ‘day job’, as a SQL Server DBA, he always makes time for educating people with LEGO bricks.  At the end of the event I finally got him to sit down and eat lunch (of course he was the last one!), shown below…


Participants did have fun, while sharing great conversations, while building their particular LEGO models and deciding on micro-actions.  Many 'tweeted' out their actions using the #WiT and #Mix11 tags.  Below is part of the tweetstream:

--I commit to : spend time telling my younger sister about mix by Elenaa Salaks #WiT Lego build #mix11

--I commit to : encourage designers to be more technical by @christurvey #WiT Lego build #mix11

--I commit to : get 5 women to apply for jobs at our department by @onnij & Gunnar Hoffman #WiT Lego build #mix11

--RT @DanweiTran Attended #WiT at #MIX11 and promised I will show my cousin how to make a #wp7 app

--I commit to : write a blog so I can be a lighthouse about WiT by @davidhernie #WiT Lego build #mix11

--I commit to : write a blog about WiT by @tdelplace #WiT Lego build #mix11

--I commit to : install a CMS system for a tech girl by @joeldart #WiT Lego build #mix11

--Lots of people volunteering to get involved. Im gonna get with my daughters' girl scout troop and get them coding ^dr #WIT #MIX11

--Inspired to teach programming to middle schoolers at #WIT at #MIX11, especially as a side trade for girls looking to be full-time mothers.

-- In the next 30 days I will use my blog to write a positive post to motivate & inspire women. #mix11 #wit #wt

--After attending #WiT my micro action will be to discuss with my 13yo niece how we can show cool technology to girls in her class #mix11

--Attended #WiT at #MIX11 and promised I will show my cousin how to make a #wp7 app

-- #mix11 #wit take Lipsticks & Laptops outreach to a larger platform to spread the message encouraging girls in science & technology

--Tell your students, friends and family about #WIT #MIX11

--I will take a lead. I am speaking on Facebook dev in a month. I will personally invite 3 women to attend. #wit #mix11

--I will create a blog that girls can say why they can do anything they want. Requested for #wit #mix11

--Need to volunteer with young girls to teach them about technology before it is too late #mix11 #WiT

--Building prototypes with latest technology to encourage women to play more with technology #WiT #Mix11

--I ll write an article about Women in Technology #mix11 #wit

--I'm going to bring in technology to my school of religion class so that the students can understand techology and not be afraid #WiT #MIX11

--I will push a designer into programming this fall... #wit #mix11

--I plan to work with my 7 year old daughter to get her back on TKP and make a new recipe of her design #WiT #MIX11

--I'll ask a woman to help on an open source #WP7 app. #WiT #MIX11

--I will share reosources related to #WIT through my blog by May 13th #WIT #MIX11

--I will do a LEGO Mindstorms workshop at DigiGirlz in Irvine, CA. #mix11 #wit #tkp

--I will write a new recipe for #TKP using Mad Libs by May 13 #WiT #Mix11

Thanks also to the following 'Table Leads' for helping to make the event a success!  Thanks as well to Mix11 event lead Jennifer Ritzinger for the invite to host this event. 

David Robinson -- Microsoft - SQL Azure PG / Redmond, WA, USA
Jason Ward -- Microsoft - Visual Studio PG / Redmond, WA, USA
Layla Driscoll -- Microsoft - . NET CLR PG / Redmond, WA, USA
Laura Neumann Wyant -- Microsoft - Developer Evangelist / New York City, NY, USA
Guadalupe Casuso -- Microsoft - Architect Evangelist / Argentina
Katrien De Graeve -- Microsoft - Developer Evangelist / Belgium
Olga Londer -- Microsoft - Developer Marketing / UK
William Bartholomew -- Microsoft - Visual Studio PG / Redmond, WA, USA
Tom Lindeman -- Microsoft - Patterns & Practices / Redmond, WA, USA
Gina Johnston -- New Horizons - Adobe Instructor / Anaheim, CA, USA
Llewellyn Falco -- Spun Labs – Developer / Irvine, CA, USA
Raj Das -- Microsoft – Services / Chicago, IL, USA