Did You Know?

Woman shouting

The Wall Street Journal website FINS picked up on a provocative blog post making the rounds this week, which describes how a large banking corporation apparently offered its women employees “advice” on “what not to do”.  This list, a “top ten things” that women do to “sabotage their careers,” included:

  1. Speak too softly and aren’t heard.
  2. Groom in public, which “deemphasizes…capability.”
  3. Sit too demurely, rather than leaning forward at the table in meetings.
  4. Speak last in meetings. Early speakers are seen as more assertive and authoritative.
  5. Ask permission, while men inform.
  6. Apologize too much for every little thing.
  7. Smile too often, which can dilute a message.
  8. Play too fair.
  9. Operate behind the scenes, which enables competitors to take credit for one’s work.
  10. Offer a limp handshake.

Apparently the list was adapted from the book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, by Dr. Lois P. Frankel. Dr. Frankel, who says the list reportedly used by the bank was taken out of context, nonetheless says that it’s “naïve” to think women don’t have to adjust their behavior to be successful in a male-dominated field: “…women shouldn’t try to act just like men, or suppress their femininity, but they should be more assertive."

At NCWIT it’s our philosophy that we need to change the culture, rather than change the woman. The list above strikes us as a classic example of institutional barriers, where the majority group (men) created the culture, and then members of a minority group (women) find themselves being asked to act more like the majority group in order to succeed in that culture. Have you experienced an environment like this? What do you think?

(For more on institutional bias check out our Talking Points; and for research-based tips on how to create a more bias-free workplace, download the Workforce Alliance report, Women in IT: The Facts.)


On Monday, September 27, the Dot Diva campaign will launch its first event for college-bound, high-school girls. Dot Diva is a national initiative to attract more girls to the computing discipline by conveying a positive image of computing and computing careers, supported by the WGBH Educational Foundation, ACM, NCWIT, and NSF. This event will bring hundreds of girls from all over Massachusetts to Microsoft’s New England Research & Development (NERD) Center in Boston for activities including an interactive fashion show, artbotics, music demos, and information about local colleges and the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. We’re excited to see this initiative go live and look forward to helping elevate the “power of computing” message among girls across the country.  If you haven’t already, visit the Dot Diva website and “like” them on Facebook!


In a recent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education, M. Brian Blake from the University of Notre Dame and Juan E. Gilbert from Clemson University speculate about whether African Americans in computer science represent an “endangered species.” Citing statistics from the U.S. census and the Taulbee Survey, they point out that although African Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population they make up only 1.3 percent of computing faculty nationwide.  A recent survey from the Council of Graduate Schools reports that first-time graduate enrollment of African American students in Math and Computer Sciences increased 10.2% between 1999 and 2009, but with the overall year-to-year growth in computer science graduate enrollment up less than 1% across all populations, this doesn’t amount to a sizeable gain. 

Blake and Gilbert cite the need for more role models and mentors, increased and early access to computing, and consistent encouragement for undergrads and grad students. What other approaches should our member institutions take to attract more African American and other underrepresented populations to their graduate computing programs?


If you were a woman starting a company, would you pay to have access to a community of other women entrepreneurs, mentors, and “micro-consultants?”  A new woman-led start-up is betting you would.  Sharp Skirts touts itself as a “knowledge-based support network” for women entrepreneurs, and its founder, Carla Thompson (formerly publicist for Linux founder Linus Torvalds) says part of her motivation in starting the company was to create “an environment where women feel comfortable asking questions.”

What do you think? Does this type of segregation add to the gender issues already in existence, or is it something we could use more of?

Did You Know? is a brief round-up of news, events, resources, and other factoids that crossed our radar this week and we think are worth sharing. Got an interesting conversation-starter to share? Let us know.