By Libby Brouwer
Since establishing the Philly chapter of Girly Geeks, a Salesforce User Group dedicated to women, there’s a question I’m often asked that I didn’t anticipate: “Why do women need their own group?” At this juncture I do a quick scan of the room tallying how many women are present. By and large I can count them on one hand, five women in a room full of thirty-five people. And I think, “This is why.”
What comes out of my mouth is slightly different. No, women don’t need their own group. Nor do Developers. Nor Nonprofits. Nor FinTech. If you boil it all the way down, we don’t even need a Salesforce specific group.
But we flourish in them. Humans crave community, an environment in which our peers comprehend how we work, the forms successes take, the struggles that we might be encountering, and our specific brand of tech. These groups give us a forum to discuss what’s on our minds in a highly specific context.
But there’s another part of the story — the one that I often don’t delve into when standing in a room full of men. I still regularly find myself the only woman on a team or in a meeting. I’m not unique. This is what women in tech are used to. (I’m not about to delve into diversity numbers. Others have addressed those quite adeptly — TechRepublic, Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Apple. They all hover around a 30/70 split.) I knew what I was getting into and 100% signed up for it. I’m comfortable with this dynamic. But I know there are those who aren’t. These are the women who could thrive in the Salesforce ecosystem but don’t want to be the only woman in a room. By entering, they would bring yet another perspective to the table. One that I’m not completely able to articulate because, honestly, I’m not one of them, but that I know is important.
Sometimes we’re so busy knocking on the door, shouting, “Why aren’t there more women in STEM?” that we deafen ourselves with the noise. What if we stopped banging and stepped back and opened the door letting those on the outside peek into the room? Peering in, they would see me sitting at the table looking over to say, “Welcome. Come join me.”
As more women join us in the room, both the physical and the metaphorical one, we’ll continue to nudge our slice of the diversity pie chart until one day asking the question, “Why do women need their own group?” sparks an entirely different conversation.
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Libby Brouwer is a consultant at roundCorner and works with clients in the nonprofit landscape on a daily basis. Having always had one hand in fundraising and the other in technology, she has a passion for helping clients realize the benefits of one educating the other. Libby established the Philly chapter of Girly Geeks in January 2015, hosting monthly gatherings in the Greater Philadelphia area.