What do you see?

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I was recently asked a question in one of the interviews, “how do you deal with things in a men dominated profession, as there aren’t many women scrum masters I have seen. You are the second woman scrum master I have come across. I am asking you the same question I asked her”.

The later part was to cover one’s back, claiming that “I am asking the same question I asked another person”. I smiled. It did catch me off-guard, as I was gobsmacked to say the least. I pondered over in my head, while I was filling the gaps with a few words, carefully. One question that stayed in my head was that what question did you ask your male scrum masters about this “issue” you are facing? Why do *I* have to explain? What do male scrum masters explain?

Another issue the scrum master role suffers is that “developer/scrum master” or “technical background scrum master”. Typically managers have promoted developers to act as scrum masters as after all it only requires running the daily stand up and then preparing some reports. It is also helpful if they can “get” what the impediments are as after all it is the “scrum master’s job” to resolve the impediments. There are several branching issues I can dwell on in this. For the sake of focus, let us focus on who gets picked for that “promotion”. How many times a woman developer gets picked to act as a scrum master, unless the manager sees this as a “stationary maintainer” role? There gets defined when a woman becomes a scrum master – stationary maintainer, food organiser, and more importantly meeting room organiser. (There was an advert I saw for a technical scrum master with technical skills listed in bullet points with the top point being “knows how to book meeting rooms”!).

There was a guy who came to me and asked me how do I feel about working in a techy place, which is quite unusual for women, he said! I told him this is such a boring place compared to the rocket science place I used to work before. He must have thought that I was referring to my special manicure place! (I don’t do manicure. Hope my manager doesn’t send me back home for not keeping up with the standards!)

In meetings I see I get constantly talked over. Either I talk along too and then eventually it would be me who has to shut the mouth and then earn the label of being “aggressive” or shut up as someone starts talking over and then earn the label of being “lack of confidence”.

In one occasion we were in a scrum masters’ meeting. A newly recruited scrum master  and the scrum master who was involved in the hiring process were discussing about another ongoing hire. I was never included in the loop of the process nor in the discussions. I got to overhear sometimes like this. What I gathered from their discussion was that the person they wanted to hire is now declining this offer over another offer at another place. In the interest of joining in (leaning in) the conversation and to feed my curiosity, I asked whether they could find out the reason why the candidate is deciding so. The newly joined scrum master, who has not even bothered to know my name or anything about me, (obviously I must be a scrum master to be sitting in that room, unless he assumed that I was there to take “minutes of the meeting”) turned towards me and started explaining, “delivery manager role is one level up (gesturing with his hand above his head). Delivery managers usually do this.. that…..”. I am sometimes shockingly sharp in understanding where he is coming from, yet, politely smiled at him and said, “is that the role offered to him in the other place?”. The icing on this cake was that he is new to the scrum mastery himself, poor chap. May be he is finding out himself what a delivery manager role is and he is being kind to explain that to me? May be he thought that I am new to the scrum mastery as well as him, hence explaining the org structure to me?  I self-talk to myself that it is not my job to fix holes in the heads.

In the interest of equality and inclusion: It came up in my linkedin newsfeed when a woman professional was advising girls to take it as a compliment when men message the girls about how pretty they are. There have also been advises to these girls on how to behave professionally on linkedin kind of professional sites such as not to bring up such issues. I don’t see any advise being handed out to those men on how to behave professionally and not to message girls in the first place. I don’t see this person advising men on when there is a NO, it is NO. It is beyond my comprehension how it is even any of her business!

I was not going to post any of it, as I fear, as I already have so many factors stocked up against me in getting a job, remaining successfully in jobs and successfully influencing the strategies to make Agile work… I fear for my survival. I do. Just wait and see how my “hireability” goes down once people find out how *I* “feel” about this “issue”. I silence myself. I keep going. I do my job. Yet it is what they see (me as) in their visible spectrum  is what bothers them. I continue to do my job. I keep my focus.

Then I come across some well meaning folks trying to speak for the under representation of women in this profession. A picture is worth thousand words they say!

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A link to a linkedin post that addresses some relevant issues:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-one-silicon-valley-engineer-benefitted-from-tacit-faye-keegan?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like

When the work culture is not defined by those who do not have a life outside work or by those who have someone at home taking care of it, then there may be a hope that things may begin to change. When the brocutlre begins to change as family-friendly one, may be, things might begin to look better.  Albeit so many family-friendly policies sported by the companies and the HR, unfortunately they do not often extend their helping hands when “soft” things happen, such as when marking women as “under-performing” as apparently someone has to be marked in that category and that someone randomly chosen happened to be women! Not to mention some elaborate rumour-spreadings about women being “emotional” in order to kill someone’s career just because that someone rejected some advances!

Can you please stop defining me by my gender? I will let you know when my biological composition becomes an issue, such as when I have forgotten to bring the needful things on my period day that I may have to hit the shops immediately, no matter how back-to-back meetings booked in my calendar.

There!

Thank you.

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