It didn't take more than 30 minutes before the SBSC Diva was blogging about our session. It was surprising and yet there was a lot to be said about trying to implore information to a group of partners (90% male) and most 1-2 man firms.
That being said, it was refreshing to hear about the way so many women "fell" into technology. So many smart women who, like Karen Lay-Brew wanted to go into medicine, only to be sidetracked because her father had suggested taking 8 years to get a medical degree would hamper becoming a mother. Now raising twins, Karen is a gem in this industry, someone who not only has brought innovation but also gives back by supporting associations like the Asia Pacific women's organization and our WIL&T initiative. She has done her own share of research on this subject and makes for an excellent panellist which showed on stage last week.
What were the challenges with this kind of a session:
Demographics vs Research: Our audience was 90-95% male and closer to firms of a size that are not employing women because they run the firms either alone or with 1 partner. That means they aren't either considering growing or they have not put that on the radar yet. The research was very much focused towards larger (say minimum 25 or more employee firms and upwards. In reality the women (and a few men) polled were Microsoft industry people, but many probably belonging to, I suspect, much larger firms). It is irrelevant, however, in the fact that women are being ignored as a source of industry workers. Sustainability is the issue. We did adjust our presentation entirely from WPC in Denver but the facts are the facts. We did implore on them to think of this in terms of partnering. That was a connection they could more easily make!
Reality Check vs I'll Be Just Fine, Thank You: The audience has probably still not fully felt the extent to which they will be stretched to the limit as more small and medium businesses are getting curious about technology such as Sharepoint, Groove, Performance Point Server, Mobile 6 and that just a very few of Microsoft's new tools! So what happens when someone wants the server, the MOSS, Groove, Mobile 6, Vista and a .net solution to handle their very specific shipping and billing processes. First when the audience was polled, they didn't see any issues around this. I suspect the first thing they will realize as demand spirals upward, and it will, is that they are going to desperately start looking for help and if the decrease in skilled workers which equals less skilled partner to partner with sets in more and more, well, they just might lose precious business opportunities left, right and center, to larger firms who have the resources, well planned out, and have, at minimum, created relationships with partners/resources, women included, who they can count on to allow them to meet market demand. Now this is a point that they saw hitting them in the pocket book and they listened up.
Times "they are a changing"!: Did our audience notice the trend toward more and more women administrators who are making the final decision on the technology their firms will adopt, are female. While right now these women have very little choice of whether they have to listen to a jargon pumping, techno speaking male (a published and acknowledged tendency) or a female, who takes out the jargon and replaces it with explanations in terms of solutions and the way in which they will change and promote productivity and still be a very economically sound investment well then as more women consultants are taking to the road and competing with men, the more you will see them succeed and create a competitive situation. Even men, who would be otherwise too shy to ask for an explanation of techno geek, will gravitate to this way of selling. Products (tools) and potential solutions are getting more complex, but only if you don't have someone to guide you properly. That's where women come in. And they do it AFTER listening to the client's pain points.
How did this all turn out?
From Beatrice Mulzer of SMB Nation (and a panellist):
We had positive feedback from males and females alike, the session was well received and the data presented spurred many discussions!
I personally felt that I would have done a better job of positioning this if I knew my audience in advance a little better (you know the joke about ASSUME (ing) anything), BUT it is clear that perhaps we do , with many things, have to start at the top with making the awareness of this issue and let it trickle down as the relevant issues start to hit our partners where it counts, .....in the pocket book.
Kudos to all our panellists! Andrea, Sharon, Karen and Beatrice.
So what do you think we can do to affect the SMB market and pave the way for the future women in our industry?