Confessions of a female head of technology.
I was recently notified that I was selected to be a recipient of the travel grant to the LTG Summit. What an honor it was, and such a surprise! I was asked to reflect on my participation in the Summit and to share some thoughts from my personal experience; to talk about how my voice can be a part of the conversation to tackle the issues of sexism and gender inequalities in the profession… so here goes!
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Ginny Boyer and I serve as the head of the web/application development team for the East Carolina University (ECU) Libraries. In addition to that, I’m also the Libraries’ Discovery Services librarian. I am one little lass in a department of males and the singular female head of technology for the Libraries. It’s challenging and exciting, but equally stressful, overwhelming, and oftentimes lonely. I’m a lucky gal. I recognize this. I have a good job that offers me challenge. I’m able to affect positive change for the Libraries by working with my team to develop innovative solutions that benefit the Libraries and our users. I’m good at my job and pour all of my effort and energy into it… but man, is it an uphill battle most days.
Serving in a prominent position of leadership in the technology arena for my Libraries often puts me in the cross hairs of many different stakeholders. I’m exceptionally lucky that within my own department I work with an incredible group of men that keep me sane most days. I’ve always been a confident woman, with a strong work ethic and proactive attitude; wrap those qualities up in a female head of technology, prioritizing project requests and leading a talented team of tech professionals and you’re asking for trouble. Having worked for ECU in different capacities for a few years now, men and women perceive and interact with me differently in my technology role. Why is this? I have a few ideas:
1. I’m a woman in a particularly male-dominated facet of librarianship. Perhaps I’m expected to be a push-over. To be less-than as a leader. Since I am not, I pose a threat.
2. I’ve risen up through the ranks at my institution. I’m fairly young, mildly attractive, with adequate social skills. Perhaps some attribute my role to these base qualities. It’s hard to imagine that I could actually be qualified for this role based on my education, experience, and knowledge of my institution.
3. I’m a petite little lady. A southern gal who knows her manners. It’s assumed that I should always smile, say nothing but sweetness, and conduct myself in a ladylike manner. Or at least that’s what I’ve gleaned. Bring assertiveness, opinion, honesty, or grit to the table and it’s off putting. Somehow I don’t think my male colleagues have to bother with misrepresenting their gender…
There are probably many more factors that contribute to my woes, my personal flaws not withstanding (yes, I acknowledge that I’m not perfect!), but I have to imagine that many of my struggles are directly related to my being a woman in a position of leadership in technology. It’s quite unfortunate that this is so. We’ve (women) gained access to the workplace, but still have to battle these base stereotypes and have them mar our success, our satisfaction with our jobs, and our potential.
I’m looking forward to the conversation at the LTG Summit to see whether or not I’m operating in a vacuum, or if others in similar roles experience this too. I want to hear Why we think this is still happening. I want to talk about What we can do to fix it. I want to be content in my role, confident in my accomplishments, valued by my colleagues and my institution, and not fettered by societal constraints. And I imagine that others want the same. I hope that I can lend my voice and my personal experience to the conversation to raise awareness about these issues and to work with others to affect positive change. I think too often we assume that our struggles are just the status quo. We’re not encouraged to think deeper and to try and attach meaning to these experiences. The LTG Summit offers the opportunity to do just that, and to encourage a sense of community that can proactively work to establish all genders on equal footing and to normalize treatment of all in the profession.
Here’s to a productive and energizing Summit! See you all in Austin.
Also, here’s the only selfie I can profess to have taken in my life… just in case you want to find me at the Summit and chat: