Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Outstanding Females in Technology Are Exhausting

I belong to organizations that support and promote women in technology.

There are not that many of us.

Some of our challenges concern achieving our goals in an environment where style, cultural values and norms created by our male colleagues are not comfortable for us. We try to bridge the gap through discussions, workgroups, presentations, etc. Our goals are diverse, but we generally want to help each other. I have met many fine, brilliant, and highly ethical women in these organizations.

Then there is the annual honoree dinner.

Many organizations have their "Outstanding Person of the Year" dinner. I know there is a "Realtor of the Year". I suppose there is a "Mayor of the Year", "High School Teacher of the Year", and so on. The women in technology organizations also have an annual honoree. The dinners are generally upbeat, positive, and fun.

Having attended many of these dinners over the years I have made some observations.

The master of ceremonies reads a long list of the honoree's accomplishments. The honorees have advanced degrees, multiple offspring, professionally successful husbands, track records of successive advancement in their professions, and high level positions demanding 60+ hours per week. Then there is always the quirky component. For example, "Rebecca creates jewelry in her spare time." "Sara is an avid sky diver, placing first for women over 50, in the national competition." "Leslie's water colors have been featured at the Met."

Not only have I not accomplished these things, I feel exhausted listening to these long lists. Then it seems that whoever has the longest list wins.

At one dinner, I talked to the honoree, Peggy Taylor. People were in line taking turns to chat with her for a few minutes each. I told her that I admired and was impressed by her many accomplishments and the number of people who said she was their best friend. I asked her where she got the energy to do so much and to invest so much time in maintaining so many close friendships. To my amazement, she replied that she was very fortunate to be a high energy person who got by with only five hours of sleep a night. I was impressed with her directness and honesty.

What is wrong, though, with just living your life and making one contribution to your community? Isn't it enough to work at your job and then maybe volunteer at your church? Why does the woman who has the longest list win?