It was wonderful to have Fred Gluck as our NCWIT blog author last week. Fred is a long-time advocate for technology and diverse thought, working tirelessly in K-12 education in Boulder schools. In an odd twist of fate, just as Fred was writing to us at NCWIT about the issues he raised in his blog piece, I found the old photo above in one of my desk drawers.
This photo, taken about 24 years ago when we worked together at Bell Labs, is a shot of the planning team for the Denver Bell Labs Summer Employment Program, a program that brought women and minorities into the Labs for a summer intern experience.
My, it’s amazing what a few decades can do! Fred is on the far right, top row. And yes, that’s me in the center of the top row. Standing between us is Tony Graves; Tony is now an executive at Intel. He and his wife Lisa have been strong supporters of NCWIT since the early planning days – Lisa attended the first plenary session for NCWIT in 2003.
I love this photo. Of course we all looked a bit different then (smile), and I get a special chuckle just looking at our hairstyles. But mostly, I am appreciative of the lifetime of advocacy these folks embody – both back then and now.
However, seeing this photo also caused me to think again about the great diversity programs Bell Labs supported, including programs for recruiting, mentoring, educational and professional development, and flexible work schedules. I would never have earned my MS without these programs, nor could my husband and I been able to raise our two sons while maintaining accelerating IT careers. I remain convinced that these types of programs foster innovation in companies and foster satisfaction among employees, both men and women.
Work flexibility is especially important. Working flexibly is not synonymous with working less; in fact, it often allows one to blend family and work in ways that leave time for more cycles and more creative scheduling, while allowing employees to feel connected at home and dedicated to their jobs. If IT enables new global business models, where work can be done halfway around the world, at all times of the day and night, why can’t it enable more flexible working environments for professional IT employees, right here at home?
The fall-out from holding on to rigid work environments came into sharp focus again for me this week. I was on a phone call with employees from several different IT companies and the topic of work/family balance came up. I was dismayed to hear some very talented women, many of whom are on the fast track, talking about having to make a “choice” between two things they love: their job and their family. It’s a choice many should not have to make. And unfortunately, corporations are on the losing side of the decision almost every time.
Lucy Sanders is CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT and a Bell Labs fellow.