Last night I attended a networking event run by Women In Technology, with the topic of Flexibility in the workplace. There were 2 very different keynote speakers, a panel debate and then a chance to eat and drink and chat.
Eileen Brown was up first, talking about how technology helps her be flexibile in the workplace. With a 130 mile each way commute, she relies on being always connected – the phone is her friend. She’s helped by a culture at Microsoft that has set up all the tech required to be able to work anywhere. She did more in a 15 minute speach to explain the benefits of the anytime/anyplace MS office than any of the poor dinosaur ads. Some great numbers in explaining the reach of devices – MS apparently have just over 5 PCs for each employee.
Second speach was from Ray Testa of Lehman brothers. A lot, lot drier, looking at the policies and procedures the company has. Not too much that I could take from that. The following panel answered pre-submitted questions from the audience (no interaction, no chance to reflect and challenge the speakers in the public forum). The general theme was about strategies to convince the companies to do flexible working, about the change management required to adopt to a culture where there is less command and control and more trust.
One very annoying thing, picked up in later conversations was a few of the assumptions of the panel. On being asked about balancing career and child care, the answers were along the lines of get a nanny or get your partner to stay at home. One of the women from Accenture mentioned a survey of successful female Partners in the firm – the one thing they all had in common was a stay at home husband. But very few people have the salary to support a family on one income or to employ a nanny, or have a partner that would be prepared to stay at home.
This event was a completely different event from the Girl Geek Dinners. Both women-focused, both opportunities to network. But the WiT is the corporate, seminar style, controlled panel, looking at bigger business, looking at supporting in a formal way; organised through a paid team Girl Geek Dinner is your small web start up, flexible, changing organisers, locations, M.O’s. There’s very little cross over between the 2 events in terms of attendees. I definitely prefer the later way.