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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Introspection vs. Extrospection

If you know me, then you'll know I sometimes tend towards introspection. Sometimes, when I'm reading, or thinking, I don't really hear anyone else. It's not that I'm ignoring them purposefully, more that I am ignoring them accidentally. Other times, I just drift away into a world of doodles and thinkings. That's okay when you're at home. Not so okay at work.

Lately, though, I've taken to thinking about diversity. Since I took the role of Focused Women Chair I've been trying to foment a strategy that will actually have a long-lasting impact on the organisation. I thought I'd start with Technology Services, the area I work in, and build from there.

I reasoned: there are fewer women taking Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) degrees, and even fewer who end up in SET jobs. Wouldn't it be great if women working in SET could get out and mentor the young women on those university course to encourage to utilise their degree in  the same field?

Role modelling is important for increasing representation of any group, and mind wandered...thinking about student mentoring schemes, and how we could deliver something that would actually be useful.

Then, I started thinking about what I'm going to say in St. Andrews. I was asked to speak about my dissertation, which was about women working in a male-dominated field, but I started to question myself.

Was it really still dominated by men? Was I making too much of this? Hadn't things moved on since I wrote it? Would the students look at me and think I was making it up?

I started to feel doubt, as though I was calling out something that didn't exist.

Then, tonight, I attended an event for Edinburgh University students. They had self-registered to come along and find out more about the Royal Bank. There was the opportunity to chat to people who worked at the bank already, and then they had to do some team games.

I chose my first three students at random from the 20 or 30 who were there.

"What area do you work in?" they asked.
"Technology," I answered.
"Isn't that where mostly men work, like, isn't it for men?"

Those exact words.

If perception dictates reality, then there was a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever I heard one.
Introspection: 0 Extrospection: 1

Looks like someone else might be prone to a little introspection too.
I then spent the better part of the networking session changing their mind about Technology, and why it might be for them.

I hope they listen.

As for me: introspection has its place.

It lets my mind wander away through flights of fantasy in which my work in diversity and equality changes not only the organisation, but also government policy, and builds a fairer, better future for my children and yours. It lets me run free from the shackles of what must be or should be, and lets me explore what might be and what possibly could be. In my dreams I reach far further than I ever can in life, but in aiming for that, perhaps I'll get just a little bit further than if I hadn't bothered to dream at all.

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