[originally written on 3/25/2017, seeding content from elsewhere]
Yesterday I resigned from Microsoft. One of the last and most fun things I did was have an AMA session for my colleagues. People had a lot of fun with me but we did get a few very interesting serious questions. I’d like to share one of them with you.
I’m writing this all from memory so it’s a paraphrase, but I think it accurately captures the spirit of the question and the answer.
Julie Green asked me this question:
You’ve been a staunch supporter of women in technology while you’ve been here. Now that you’re leaving, what would you have the men in the room do to carry on your work?
In two words: mentor someone.
Not only is it likely to be very helpful but it’s pure joy to do this for someone. I recommend it for everyone.
By mentoring a woman, you will give her a chance to learn things that will be invaluable to her continued success, and if you can earn her trust, you will learn something about what women in our industry have to put up with. You will be astonished.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to mentor more than one, that’s even better, because then you will have more than one perspective. And where you might otherwise think that the issues your mentee has to deal with are unique to her situation, you will instead get a real sense of what is normal. And you will be astonished.
Armed with this information, you can help your mentee to succeed in spite of the extra challenges she faces and you will be able to spot things that can and should be changed. And then it is on you to make those changes happen. A great piece of advice I got was from one of my mentees: as an ally one of the best things you can do is use your voice to magnify the voices of others.
So let me be perfectly clear. You do not need a Y chromosome to do this job. Not at all. As I look around the room I see a lot of men with no woman standing beside them. For all those spots, somewhere, right now, is a woman that could have been there. That’s the math of it. She had the aptitude and we lost her, somewhere, I don’t know where.
This is a tough business and we need all the help we can get. And we’re not going to be achieving everything we can until our sisters are standing beside us in rooms like this.
I want my sisters.