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From Telle: Why We’re Inviting Men to the Table at GHC 2014

This week, 8,000 people descend on Phoenix, Arizona for the 14th Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC). Of these attendees, 483—or approximately 6 percent—are men. While the conference focuses on celebrating the achievements of extraordinary women in computing, this year we’ve incorporated our first ever male keynote and plenary Male Allies panel. What is going on?

Let me share my thoughts with you.

We are proud to highlight the extraordinary women changing the face of technology. And one of AnitaB.org’s most important goals is to make sure women are equally represented at the table of technology creation. In order to achieve this goal, organizations need to look squarely at their cultures and reshape them to ensure women can thrive. It is critical for organizations to effectively engage both their female and male leaders—many of whom are well-intended, and help them understand how to create these changes in their own cultures.

I have worked at organizations where I was one of very few women, and have experienced the isolation that is rampant for women in the technology sector. I have experienced the microagressions, intended or not, from male colleagues that at times made it difficult to do what I loved.

But I’ve also witnessed incremental change. Over the last 10 years, I’ve met with male colleagues who have attended GHC and transformed their thinking after experiencing what it’s like to be a man in a sea of women. They’ve taken their experiences home with them, and many have continued to apply these lessons in the workplace with their female colleagues.

This year we are pleased to welcome a number of male CEOs who are participating in GHC sessions. Crucial to the transformation of culture is having support from the top. Organizations often embark on this journey not when their culture is already welcoming to women, but when change is needed. Yes, they also need to listen, not just explain how women should be different.

How does AnitaB.org decide when to partner with companies that are in the midst of change? It is when we see the commitment from the top, and when an organization embraces practices that we know work.

I will also tell you that transformation is a bumpy ride. And I admire and support the CEOs and CTOs that have joined us in Phoenix, and I look forward to working with them on their journey.

People have asked me about GoDaddy, or have complained that they would even be included. In the past, GoDaddy has used branding and messaging that was offensive to women, yes. They’ve also changed CEOs since then, hired an extraordinary female CTO, and sought out the counsel of AnitaB.org and many other thought leaders in this area—and actively listened.

I’ve met with their CEO, Blake Irving. I’ve met with their executive staff. I’ve heard from many of the women who work there. They are embarking on a journey of change, and my experience is that changing culture takes time. We will work with any organization that seems committed to change, for real. This is at the heart of AnitaB.org’s work—not just to work with organizations with a stellar reputation for women, but to work with those willing to seriously embark on change.

We love hearing from our community members, and encourage healthy dialogue. We regularly meet to discuss messages we receive from our community. Tell us your thoughts. Join our #MoreThanWords Twitter conversation or email us at community@anitab.org.