A Woman Who Knows Her Place - Joining the LinkedIn Team at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

October 19, 2012

It used to be a woman knew her place if she was subservient and stayed at home. Her ability to solve problems was limited to dispute resolutions between family members and her ability to be creative was limited to a charity bake sale.

Today, women make up more than half of college graduates and 80% of white-collar jobs. We have come a long way. On the flip side, we make up only 36% of management or leadership roles, only 15% of corporate officers, and only 25% of the STEM workforce. (EEOC)

The Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing are an organization and an event designed to address this lack of women in technology as well as support women leaders in technology. This year, LinkedIn signed on to be a sponsor at the event, and sent a group of senior technical women to represent the company. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

LinkedIn booth

As a relatively new member of the organization, I have been looking to find my place in it – as a technologist and a leader. Spending a week in that environment, surrounded by fellow women technical leaders, helped me to feel a sense of belonging and empowerment.

My conference week started by attending a talk on “How to Market Yourself with a Strong Technical Resume”, which was presented by our very own Erica Lockheimer, along with Wendy Gustafson from Cisco. It was an extremely popular topic, and she received a lot of great questions about LinkedIn during and after the presentation. I followed that session with one on “What if Women Were Extremely Effective Leadership Communicators?”

LinkedIn booth

We all manned (or is that womanned?) the LinkedIn booth from 4:30 to 10:30 pm during the career fair. We had a constant stream of traffic to our booth, and met a lot of inspirational women - undergrads, graduate students, Ph.D. candidates and professionals interested in what LinkedIn is doing.

Thursday, I attended the keynote talk “Are We There Yet?” by Nora Denzel and sessions entitled “From Engineer to Executive: The Path Forward” and “Tempering the Impostor Syndrome”.

All of these sessions helped me to understand what my role should look like. From Nora Denzel, I learned how to be a career PR agent and edit my interpersonal communications. So, when someone says "that was a great presentation", I can respond with "Thank you, I worked really hard on that. " instead of "Yeah. Thanks, but my slides were out of order, and I think I could have done more with the second section, and my car broke down on the way here". The essence is to speak the truth, just less of it. From Susan Zwinger I learned to plan rather than react as I move through the phases of my career. In the communication session, I learned that leadership communication is different from management communication and stems from my values - values which I must embody and also use to inspire others. And, in the Imposter Syndrome seminar, I learned to acknowledge my accomplishments to myself first and then to acknowledge them with others. Instead of minimizing my efforts: "I just wrote a tiny piece of Javascript for that"; I can say "Yes, I contributed a key part of that release".


Friday started with interviews and ended with an after party at the Maryland Science Center. In the spirit of keeping things succinct: I came away from the week with a taste for Maryland blue crabs, memorable interactions with my colleagues, and a drawer full of logo wear actually designed for a woman’s body. …And, I can now say that I know now my place.