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Diversity in Agile – Women in Agile interviews available

by Shane Hastie on Aug 09, 2010 |

 The Agile Alliance sponsored Diversity in Agile program launched the first set of interviews from the Women In Agile series at Agile 2010 today.

Mike Sutton and Lisa Crispin have taken the lead in identifying some “awesome women” from Agile teams around the world.

The driving motivation for the program is the low ration of women in IT in general and in the Agile space. As Lisa says “when I started in this industry in 1982 there were as many women as men, but today that has changed radically and there are far fewer women than men in the field”.

Asked about why this might be she said “there might be a misconception about what information technology entails – the stereotype of the lonely geek with poor personal hygiene who doesn’t want to mix with people could be putting people off the industry. The reality is that software development is a creative, people oriented activity but this message hasn’t been conveyed well”. The Diversity in Agile program is trying to identify women who can be role models and tell their stories. They are deliberately not looking for the high-profile people but on-the-ground team members who can tell their stories and serve as an inspiration for women to come into the profession, and to stay in the profession once there.

So far the program has published a call for introductions  asking people to “tell us about an awesome women you know” in an Agile team or working in the Agile community. So far they have 17 women from all over the world who have been nominated. Some of these have been interviewed and their interviews are available online here the first four awesome women are:
• Marlena Compton - QA engineer with Equifax in Sydney, Australia
• Sharon Robson – trainer, coach and consultant with Software Education in Brisbane, Australia
• Ashley Wali – CEO of ClearGears in San Francisco, USA
• Daniella de Leon – ScrumMaster and Agile Project Manager, USA

The remaining interviews are underway and will be published on the website as they are completed.  

The intent of the program is to celebrate and publicise the diverse roles that many women are taking in the Agile world, raise awareness and encourage more to enter this workforce and stay in it, especially in view of the major skills shortages that are predicted for the future.

According to Crispin, women bring particular skills and perspectives to an Agile team.  Talking about the interviews she identifies some common themes that the interviewees talk about:

  • The nurturing (mothering) perspective to smoothing team interactions
  • Good listening skills
  • That women are still carrying more of the burden of home life and child care then men (in general) and how important a supportive family is to enabling success
  • The interviewees talk about how they are able to use their work-based skills in managing their home and extra-mural activities. Some even have Kanban boards for family activities!
  • All of the interviewees love their jobs because of the people that they get to deal with
  • The convoluted path that they have taken to get into the roles they are currently in. None of the interviewees started their career with any intention of going into IT – perhaps because the university training programs don’t resonate and they only realised what fun IT can be until later in their careers

Crispin is at pains to point out that this is not intended to be any sort of an “affirmative action” program – it is simply about celebrating some great people and the great things they are doing, and hopefully encouraging other women to consider a career in Information Technology.


In the Open Space at Agile 2010 there is a suggestions board where they are asking for ideas on how to encourage more women to get involved, and to stay involved in the Information Technology field.  What advice can you offer?

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