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Embracing Women in Agile

How can women lean in and thrive… and how can we help others to do the same?

Takeaway points from ezTagile’s February webinar, Embracing Women Leaders In Agile: Lean In & Thrive.

As a little girl, my questions of gender inequality were often met with the answer of “it’s a man’s world.” Of course, at that time, what I thought of as gender inequality was more about who was allowed to get dirt on their clothes and less about who was represented on executive boards.

As I have aged, I have grown comfortable with the idea that it is not just a man’s world and, part of my duty as a woman is to not accept that misconception. This world is supposed to be for everyone.

It is no different in the agile community. There is room for all of us here, but it is no secret that we are challenged by a lack of inclusion. We all deserve a seat at the table and there are things we must do to ensure our voices are heard. On February 12th, ezTagile took a step forward by hosting Embracing Women Leaders In Agile: Lean In & Thrive, a webinar exploring gender diversity in agile.

This webinar was a panel discussion for agile experts to share their testimonies and tips on how to navigate gender in the agile workplace and community, followed by a question-and-answer session. I left this session feeling engaged and empowered, I hope the following takeaways leave you feeling that way too.

How Can We Lean In & Thrive?

  • Be a lifelong learner and have a growth mentality.

  • Fake it till you make it.

  • Give yourself space to fail and look for leadership that allows you to fail as well. It is important to feel safe and have room to grow.

  • Have courage and confidence, believe in yourself.

  • Network, join communities and start conversations.

  • Say yes, volunteer for things you don’t already have experience with.

Tips for Women:

  • Align yourself with others- networking is invaluable, join a community (or multiple)

  • Be persistent. If someone doesn’t listen, repeat yourself, you deserve to be heard.

  • Be open to feedback and give opportunities for others to provide you with feedback.

  • Grow individualized relationships with coworkers. This can help to make work more enjoyable and also will help you to have an advocate that will support you.

  • Help each other. Too often, women view each other as competition, but we are not each other’s enemies. Share growth opportunities with other women and back them up when their voice is not being heard.

  • If it is hard for you to find a voice in a meeting, preface the meeting with, "I plan to bring X up," that way the group will know you plan to speak on something.

  • Use quotes when confronting issues- i.e.: "When you said "X," I felt disrespected." Confront issues with a teaching mindset (if possible); some people say and do things unconsciously and need to unlearn engrained behaviors.

Tips for Female College Students or Newbies to Agile:

  • Don’t make the mistake of associating agile only with technology, remember that agile is a mindset.

  • Know thyself- take the time to learn your strengths and where you can improve.

  • Look for safety with leaders. It is important you feel comfortable in the environment you work and exist in.

  • Read free materials online, join MeetUps, attend free webinars, etc.

  • Start somewhere, standup meetings and working agreements are good starting places.

  • Take opportunities to volunteer at agile conferences.

  • Use agile in your everyday life to gain experience, you can make your version of the Kanban board at home.

Tips for Men:

  • Be encouraging, lift others, and talk about the strengths of your female colleagues

  • Create a safe place where coworkers have room to fail and grow.

  • Help create an environment where women can thrive, listen to them, support them

  • Listen to, and acknowledge, experiences that are different from your own. Advocate for systemic change, but also understand that you alone cannot fix everything.

  • Look at who is making decisions and see who is not sitting at that table. Find ways to give a voice to those that are not there, or make room for them beside you.

  • When someone asks a question regarding another person’s work, refer them to that person instead of answering the question for them.

Tips for Everyone:

  • Act and change with intention.

  • Consider your biases- i.e.: Is that woman really bossy? Or, if she were a man, would she be considered a good leader?

  • Listen to others.

  • Look at the table, if everyone looks alike, think of what voice is not being heard.

  • Provide constructive criticism.

  • Study and practice empathy.

Recommended Resources:

  • Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn

  • Agile Retrospectives: Making a Good Team Great by Diana Larsen, Esther Derby, and Ken Schwaber

  • Agile 20 Reflect Festival

  • Brené Brown podcasts

  • Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins

  • Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell

  • StrengthsFinder – personal strength test

  • Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn

  • Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

Networking Opportunities:

Link to Recording:

Additional Notes:

I’d like to conclude with a special thank you to the participating panelists, Jackie Owino, Joyce Juleau, Sally Jones, Tia DeMaria, and Rick Cusolito. I'd also like to thank all of the attendees for being so engaging. Everyone’s dedication to this event is greatly appreciated. We are so thankful to have space and capability to initiate such meaningful discussions.

As Rick brought up on Friday, we should strive to be more intentional with our changes. I agree with him- but I also have to say that I think we should challenge ourselves to be more intentional with all things. The past year has pushed many of us to become comfortable with discomfort- maybe we shouldn’t stop there. Ask the questions, confront the issues, make the changes. Let’s keep moving forward with agile.

Please click here to learn more about our ezT StandUp Initiative and future similar events.

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