Women in Agile and Tech: Building a Network of Support, Learning, and Growth

by Deepti Jain

This story originates sometime back in 2013–2014 when I started my journey to become an Agile Enabler in India.

  1. Training: Taking up training(s), but that’s such an expensive way of learning. After all how many training(s) can you take?
  2. Meetups: Meetups are good places to go for learning what’s new, what’s happening, and learning from peers in the region, but after a certain point it’s all same set of conversations and challenges with no answers to them. This made me realize that every region has its limitations.
  3. Conferences: From meetups, I got to know about conferences, and definitely going to conferences (mostly of 2 days) gave a lot of information about what’s happening and what knowledge gap we have. But then again after a few conferences, I found out that learning was not great, maybe a limitation of my region.

In 2015 I started feeling that I should not wait for someone to solve challenges I am noticing, maybe it’s time to take the matter in hand. I started my own Meetup, I had enough awareness of global Agile leaders and contributors (that said, there is a vast sea of unknown out there which can be a great help to us).

As the first step to finding solutions to all challenges, I started a Meetup group, supported by Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. With this Meetup group, I started organizing sessions and events for different kinds of learning, collaboration, and co-creation.

I was the first woman organizer of Meetups in the Agile space in India. This encouraged more women to come forward and meet me and speak to me about their needs and challenges. That’s where I felt the desire of creating a forum, a group, a network of Women in Agile. Then came an interesting question from among one of us — Why only Agile, as most of us in Agile are from tech, why not for Women in Agile and Tech? That made more sense to us. We established the Women in Agile and Tech (W.A.T) group. Details can be read here.

This group originated from my home city and then we took it to different cities. Now we have local officers in different cities who run different programs and Meetups locally. But there is one program that we started last year, an online program that intends to connect women across the globe so that they can learn from each other. This post shares the outcome of that program, which is called Women in Agile and Tech’s 6-Week Mentorship Program. This year, with Agile Alliance’s help, we are able to offer it to all Agile Alliance members. We learnt from Mentors and Mentees about their challenges and inhibitions.

The Program & Execution

Our Challenges

  1. After accepting mentorship and pairing up, not many Mentees or Mentors stayed committed to mentorship or prepared and shared a plan.
  2. A lot of follow-up and constant motivation of pairs was needed.
  3. There we a total of 32 Mentors applications and 54 Mentees application, but only 28 successful pairs were established as many Mentees/Mentors backed out. These 28 pairs had 20 Mentors. Some Mentors offering mentorship to more than one Mentee.
  4. After completion of 6 weeks, we found out for various reasons there was further drop in the commitment of pairs. Some reasons were lack of time and some were real personal challenges like loss of a family member of severe health issues.

Outcome: Achievement, Discoveries, and Future-of-work

Achievements:

  1. Women connected to learn a particular topic/subject but bonded over calls and developed a nurturing relationship. This was not part of plan but such a lovely outcome of this program.
  2. They started sharing their journeys and hence started helping each other with other challenges on the personal and professional front.
  3. Women were able to help other women with opportunities (consulting assignment, speaking opportunity in a Meetup/conference, job referral…).
  4. Women were able to INSPIRE other women, help them get out of their comfort zone and be able to reach to their higher self.

Discoveries (there are so many more that we are working to explore):

  1. Women (this data is coming from India) do not have the mindset that they stand equal chances, as they themselves feel more responsible for care giving. There is no real difference between issues faced by women in India vs. other places. It is all about the culture that needs to be addressed. In India the culture of equality is missing. A working woman is expected to take care of everything on the home front as well. Career mostly come as a second priority. Professional aspiration is many a times looked upon as a very selfish act.
  2. Workplaces have men in the majority and so having a single woman team member might not bring out the desired benefits of diversity and inclusion. Better to have a group of women in a few teams rather than having one woman on each team. The whole idea of traditional aggressive leadership gets reinforced when there are less women.
  3. Women (particularly in India) face challenge from family and partners — where they are expected to limit their ambitions and aspirations only to the extent where acceptable to their partners and families. They are seen in negative light if they aspire beyond that.
  4. When men speaking up on behalf of women it elevates the status of everyone in the team.
  5. Mentorship and sponsorship is extremely important.

Future-of-Work:

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

Originally published at https://www.agilealliance.org on April 15, 2020.

Agile Alliance is a nonprofit global member organization, supporting and serving the Agile community since 2001. AgileAlliance.org