Archive for February, 2010

Maybe It Really *Is* You

Most of us have that person (or persons) that we just can’t seem to work with — a fellow student, employee, colleague, faculty member, administrator…you get the picture. “Oh that so-and-so, s/he’s just a complete [insert favorite adjective here]. S/he’s impossible to work with; everyone says so.” Sound familiar?

So here’s the thing — if you want to change that dynamic, perhaps the person that needs to change is *you*.

I met someone recently who does mediation for a living. When I asked what was new in her profession, she started talking about “narrative mediation.” The basic premise is this: conflict is derived from how we perceive the situation or person we’re dealing with. In the case of personal conflict, we create a narrative for the person based on some limited set of interactions and/or events, and then filter all subsequent communications and interactions through that narrative. We may even completely filter out some things the person says or does because it doesn’t fit our narrative.

So, if you want to change the interactions, you need to change your narrative. Or, alternately, change *their* narrative of *you*.  Or both.

Of course this is easier said than done. It’s hard to see past an initial impression, or an early slight, to conceive that someone’s actions may not be driven by the things you perceive them to be. And then there are subtle external influences that help to shape our narrative about people, groups, or situations.

Take, for example, the IT-faculty relationship. Ask an IT person about faculty and you may get a roll of the eyes and a comment like “oh, you know those faculty…they’re a different breed.” Go to an IT conference and you’re likely to hear a crowd giggle and clap for statements like “faculty, a thousand points of no.” (Yes, this really, truly was said by a very prominent speaker at a conference I attended).

With this type of priming, it’s no wonder that even the slightest negative interaction with a faculty member — who may be completely and rightfully upset about malfunctioning technology in his/her office and/or classroom — feeds a narrative that serves to perpetuate the bad IT-faculty relationship many have come to accept as “normal.” And it works the other way, too, with narratives that faculty have created for IT folks.

A colleague wrote an article recently that referred to faculty as “a thousand points of know,” which I thought was a rather clever reshaping of the original quote, and, perhaps, the narrative that goes along with it. Would your narratives (and the relationships that go along with them) benefit from some reshaping, too?

Diversity in Desktop Support, The Sequel

On February 5, I launched a job search for two, part-time technical support specialists to join our user support team (see 2/9 post, below). Two weeks later the search is completed, technicians hired, and the gender diversity results are in — over 115 applicants and fewer than 10 women in the pool, total (as low as 6, with a few not clearly identifiable as male or female). That’s less than 9%, folks.

Our search netted some amazing candidates, and we were lucky enough to hire two of them. No surprise — both new hires are men.

It saddens me that there were so few women in the pool to begin with, and even fewer who came anywhere close to meeting the minimum qualifications. But diversity comes in numerous forms, and gender is only one of them. This hiring experience has caused me to reflect on the overall diversity of my team, including direct staff, student workers, and the extended team we outsource our infrastructure services to.

  • 4 staff members (including me): 3 men and 1 woman; 3 Caucasian and 1 African American
  • 6 student workers: 4 men and 2 women; 3 Caucasian, 1 African American, and 2 Asian
  • 4 extend team members: 3 men and 1 woman; 2 Caucasian and 2 Asian

So, in total, my team consists of 14 people, of which 4 are women (29%) and 6 are non-white (43%). Not great, but all things considered, not terrible either. When I think about the diversity trends in IT, I feel proud that we’ve been able to pull together as diverse of a team as this in such a short period of time (I’ve been here 6 months, and at the time of my joining there were no women on the team and only one non-white).

There’s more we can (and *will*) do, of course, but isn’t there always?

Only 6% Women in Desktop Support?!?

I posted a job announcement for 2 part-time technical support specialist positions on Friday evening, and by this evening–72 hours later–had over 80 responses, with more coming every minute. What was astounding to me wasn’t the overwhelming response (okay, maybe that was a little astounding), but the complete lack of women in the applicant pool.

Of the 80+ applicants, only 5 were easily identifiable as women. That’s 6 percent!! Even factoring in the couple of Asian names that I am uncertain about, the applicant pool is less than 10% female. Why?

Are women not suffering the same unemployment rates that others are at the moment? Are they less interested in part-time work? Or are women simply not well represented in the desktop support area of IT? Let’s hope if this is the case, it’s not reflective of IT overall. I know at my previous institution, there was only one woman on a desktop support team of ~13 (not including the female manager of the team).

I’m disappointed, and disturbed by this response. I’m a woman. I’d love to hire more (qualified) women. But with only 5 in the applicant pool, what’s a diversity-loving CIO to do?


Update 2/10/10: I now have more than 100 responses to the ad, and no more women. So now the numbers are looking like 5/100+. Geesh!

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