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Workplace Presentation

Director’s Quarterly Meeting – Nov 15th, 2011

Today, I delivered the presentation “Why So Few Women in Engineering? Change the Story!” during my Director’s 2-hr Quarterly meeting. There were 70 people in the room – a double bay auditorium with the middle folding partition wall removed – filled with 6 rows of 15 chairs theater style. The two rooms – connected to the same computer – projected from a ceiling mounted install on two separate screens. The dress was 70% blue jeans with a splattering of blue coveralls. No ties. A few heals; mine included.

The Quarterly consisted of a 60-min company-highlights video and director’s business update followed immediately by my 30-min presentation, then two 15-min overviews of 6 sigma project accomplishments*. Talking business always has the potential for droopy eyes especially after one hour in a dimmed room.  But the troops were alert as I stepped in to weave my way through the engineering messaging, tactfully breezing through stereotypes with an emphasis on workplace bias.  

As a presenter, you usually establish a visual connection with a few people in the audience in different locations. I found several nodding their heads as I presented the material – almost all of the handful of women in the room – and including a few of the men. It was a receptive audience.

The timing was very tight preventing any real opportunity for questions during the session. However after the meeting, many picked up the handouts of the WGBH, Engineer Your Life, and lesson’s learned I left on the built-in sink-cabinets-counter near the exit. Several even came up afterwards to discuss the materials – all from test. I gave one AAUW report away to a man whose niece was in college; he was going to talk with her about some of the exciting opportunities that engineering might offer after listening to the presentation. Another – a supervisor – was impressed with the Engineer Your Life handout which incorporated the essence of making engineering cool.  Then we chatted briefly about some of the successful young female engineers who rotated through the test cells under his watchful eyes.

Originally, to fit the bias test in, my goal was to strip down the presentation and only include the workplace biases. But after trying to make the material flow, I realized that it lacked purpose if I did not include the girls accomplishments and the engineering messaging especially to this broad mixed audience.  In mentioning my limited time dilemma with the director of human resources, she implored me to make sure I include the parent’s piece “you need to include the pipeline recruiting piece to help the parents”. In the end, with the feedback and warm reception I received, I’m glad I did.

Lesson’s learned:   To include the bias test to a general audience for 30 min, I either completely remove the stereotypes or ask for 40 minutes.  To remove the parent’s piece would only be appropriate for an executive audience – and only then if the timing was limited.  Even though the workplace bias messages can be tough to hear, the audience is receptive to hearing the research, building awareness, and advancing the engineering profession.  For more info, see the blog on workplace feedback or some of the parent feedback.

* Of Note: One of the accomplishments presented was the 6 sigma project that I just successfully finished the control phase as the Black Belt!  

Comments of Note: One of the managers presenting after me used the lead-in “I always liked the geeky guys, that’s one of the reason’s I became an engineer”. The director stated to the follow on presentors, “I don’t want to show any bias, you must present within your 15 min time slot”. And they did!

Director’s Invitation & Preparation for the Quarterly Meeting

Nov 9th – My Director has asked if I would like to present the “Why So Few?” to his directorate next week – on November 15th – 30 minutes during his 2-hr Quarterly meeting. Of course I said yes. This will be my first “mixed workplace” audience consisting of engineers, managers, technicians, and scientists from the development test, materials, new product introduction and product support groups.  He has 110 employees consisting of 60% test technicians, 40% engineers and scientists.  

I have a week to squeeze the presentation down. The prime theme opportunity is the workplace – workplace retention, workplace bias which is a perfect lead in to implicit bias. The sad part is I find myself having to cut out/down the engineering messaging piece and impacts of stereotypes – the pieces that parents and educators need. If I pull this off, it would be the first time I’ve included the implicit bias test within a mere 30 minutes.  Wonder how fast I can talk?!?

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