Highlights from the EDUCAUSE Panel Discussion: “Being Male Allies for Advancing Women in IT”

October 18th was a sunny autumn day in Lincoln, Nebraska, perfect weather for the 2017 Women Advance IT Leadership Conference featuring topics on women advancing the future of IT in Higher Education. Among the sessions was a Coffee and Conversation panel discussion: “Being Male Allies for Advancing Women in IT”. Brenda Spychalla co-leads the Women in IT EDUCAUSE group, along with Bernadette Williams-Looper from University of North Carolina – Charlotte.

Discussion Panelists:

  • Jesse La Grew (JL) from UW DoIT User Services Departmental Support
  • Andrea Mascher (AM), University of Iowa,
  • Heath Tuttle (HT), University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • Wes Juranek (WJ), University of Nebraska Central Administration.

Conf Slide
The first three questions of the panel discussion dove right in to the heart of the matter:

Q1: What does it mean to you to be a male ally/ what do you look for in a male ally?

HT – For me, it is about awareness first and foremost: how I interact with everyone in my department, with women colleagues and how those interactions may be perceived by others.  There has been more interest around this in the past year or two. To me, there is a big difference between an ally versus an advocate. While I do not want to define each role for all, I feel there is definitely a distinction. I want to further the voice of women in IT and be cognizant of this on a daily basis and considering it at all times.

JL – Being a male ally means helping support any individual and taking an active role – which is more than just sitting behind a desk. Self awareness in a huge part of this effort. I start with myself, I work to understand what I am thinking, what I am feeling and how I am being perceived and getting that feedback. If I am not being a good example, I am not helping to forward this effort.

WJ – My awareness began a year ago when I was invited to a Male Ally meeting at the 2016 Women Advance IT Conference. It felt intimidating, I asked myself, “Am I an ally”? It was the beginning of a journey. I was willing to start on journey to promote a more diverse organization in an effort to be a better organization.  Allyship means being engaged, learning about current topics and issues. Use what resources are at my disposal to help our women counterparts.

AM – What I look for in a male ally is for someone willing to take action. When discussing this with my partner, he did not believe there is gender inequality, but after I made him aware, he noticed it at his own place of employment. Work and credit were misapplied to him. No one took action to correct this. He struggled as he asked himself “what should I have done in that moment”? He would like to be more fluid bias interrupter.

LaGrew_EducauseQ2: Can you share an experience that showed you the value in being a male ally?

HT – I can’t pinpoint any specific moment or incident. Now that I am more aware, I’ve noticed people taking credit and giving away credit. I also noticed the (verbal) interrupting cited widely in literature I’ve read. I encourage you to be aware of your own actions: do you interrupt people? do you interrupt women?

JL – I have a 16 year old daughter. I want her to see all of her own possibilities and have a future without facing a barrier she may feels she can’t overcome. I attended a discussion at a Big Ten Leadership Conference that encouraged openess, honesty and open dialog. Unfortunately, attendees were all communicating very, very cautiously. They were all careful with what they were saying, afraid to step on toes. That group put in so much time, energy and effort to build a culture and rapport but it was still so hard to have an honest dialog. We all trusted each other but struggled to talk it out.  The message I got was ‘we are still not comfortable talking about this/ are in an uncomfortable situation’. There is fear around the discussion, and I have felt it myself but I need to embrace it. I need to engage in the conversation that people are thinking and feeling and engage in all the emotion behind it.  I know I am going to screw up:  I need to hear feedback and then do something about it and around it. We need to be willing to learn along the way and acknowledge that we may stumble.

Brenda Spychalla – We need to acknowledge that we are all vulnerable in this conversation and that all are awkward in their first steps when entering this conversation…and that’s okay.

Q3: What are some initial steps individuals and campuses are taking to engage men in becoming allies?

JL – The seeds were planted at a Big Ten Leadership group after having a conversation with other men. We asked each other:

  • How do we get women more invested in IT programs?
  • How can we get something things moving?
  • How can we get men involved?
  • What would it take?
  • Who would be interested?

I was motivated to take some action. I sought out and received some great feedback and perspective from wife. Then, I went to our local Women in IT program coordinator Brenda Spychalla, and learned about this thing called “a Male Ally” and asked myself:

  • What does this look like?
  • How can we build a community and candidly discuss, “What is a Male Ally”?

Since then, we have been reaching out on campus to get support and generate interest. We are hoping early next year to create a space to talk about this.  We have people who are interested in starting this conversation. It wont be a session where you sit in a room an bare your deepest feelings. At this point its a all a grass roots effort where we talk to a few people, they are talking to a few more people. On the UW campus, we have a number of diversity efforts. In User Services we have a community, but I think this challenges us as a larger community.

To see and hear the rest of this Coffee and Conversation, please click here and listen to its entirety .


While there is no standard definition for “Male Ally”, here are a few timely articles to help spark some thought and discussion.

Check back here at the US Newsletter, we will keep you posted on developments for the upcoming UW-WIT event currently in the works.


2017 Diversity Forum Workshop: “Developing Meaningful Conversations Around Microaggressions”

DDEEA Diversity Forum 2017 Nov. 7, 2017. (Photo © Andy Manis)Union South’s Varsity Hall was packed to the brim for the 2017 Diversity Forum. Bright and early on the morning of November 9, the Conference Welcome was presented by UW Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf. Opening ceremonies included a review of  UW Native November events by the  Bear Clan Singers out of Mauston, Wisconsin. The drumming group was led by Mr. Gerald Cleveland, his two grandsons and his great-grandson, all from the Ho Chunk nation. They sang two songs, a “Welcome” song and a “Let us Begin” song.

There were 750 people registered for this event and 80 people on the waitlist. Organizers of the event said that most sessions had every seat filled and had many standing.


The 10:30am Breakout Session navigated some very tricky waters as it implemented a 90 minute, introductory level session around the awareness and management of microaggressions. The goal was for attendees was twofold; 1) to be more comfortable having conversations about microaggressions and 2) to be more likely to address them if they witnessed one.

Workshop attendees were asked to get into groups of 3 or 4 to have facilitator guided discussions. After personal introductions and citing favorite things about their own jobs, participants were presented with:

Workshop participants were gently and thoughtfully led through a series of discussion questions. While each of us has personally witnessed / or experienced microaggressions, this workshop gave detailed examples of microaggressions many may have not experienced based on; religion, class, gender, sexual orientation and/ or disability.Poster

Facilitators then asked each table to share their findings. Participants did their best to be open, vulnerable and candid throughout the small group sessions. Acknowledging that awareness and learning to interrupt bias will be an ongoing process, all tables shared some very useful methods of bringing awareness and interruption to microaggressions:

Paraphrase or repeat back what was said – Restating a comment clarifies it for you and for them.

Ask for more information – This can be a follow-up to paraphrasing. Try to understand why people hold those views thereby inviting dialog.

Express empathy first – Listen for the feeling and energy behind the statement. People may make biased comments when they are feeling frustrated, disappointed, or angry.

Share your own process – Talk about how you used to hold a similar view and the factors leading to change.

Separate intent from impact – Acknowledge that someone may have said something biased or inappropriate without meaning to. Don’t automatically assign negative motives.

Use humor – Sometimes exaggerating the comment or using gentle sarcasm makes the point. However, you need to be sure that it is heard as humor or sarcasm, not a reinforcement of prejudice. This is where tone is particularly important.

Finally, acknowledge that we are all human and subject to making mistakes and subsequently that we are all “works in progress”.

Other resources:


2017 Women’s Leadership Symposium: “Creating a Resonant Yes Through the Power of No”

yesSarah Young from Zing Collaborative had a powerful message for attendees of the 2017 Women’s Leadership Symposium: “How we spend our moments is how how we spend our lives”. Her interactive, high-energy and thought-provoking talk started with some alarming statistics:

Google searches per second: 40,000
Number of texts sent every minute of every day: 15,220,700 
Frequency in which one is distracted at work: every 11 minutes
Minutes it takes to to get back on task: 23
Percentage of behavior NOT consciously self-directed : as much as 95%

Continue reading “2017 Women’s Leadership Symposium: “Creating a Resonant Yes Through the Power of No””

Climate Survey

At our March all-staff lunch, we welcomed Chad Shorter of Academic Technology to talk about DoIT’s 2016 Climate Survey. Chad helped us to understand how User Services compared to the rest of DoIT, how the 2016 survey responses compared to 2015, and gave an overview of the current User Services climate. You can find a copy of Chad’s report here.

Team climates always evolve, and our team is no exception. As a result of the 2015 Survey, we created initiatives aimed at the following focus areas:

  • Recognition
  • Employee input
  • Advancement Opportunities

You can find specific initiatives here.

The changes brought about by those initiatives showed up in this year’s climate survey — you thought we made some good progress in those areas and that the health of the User Services climate is good. However, that’s not to say our work is done.

In some areas we still have a ways to go, particularly as it relates to advancement opportunities. One initiative we’re launching to help with that is the IT Track and Snack, which will be a pilot series featuring hiring managers from other DoIT departments. They will be talking about their areas, positions they hire for, and the skillsets they’re looking for in new hires. We encourage you to attend — the first one is on Wednesday, 4/26 from 1pm to 2pm and will feature Tamara Walker (Productivity & Collaborative Solutions Manager) and Ty Letto (Middleware Manager).

Another important part of our climate in User Services is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. While we’ve had many recent initiatives aimed at this, I want to share with you the personal inclusivity statements that our Extended Leadership Team members have written and committed to. These statements describe our departmental leaders’ intentions and are an indication of the actions we’ll be taking in coming months to ensure that we at least maintain and preferably increase inclusivity in our work environment. I’ve also asked each of these leaders to talk more about their statements at your upcoming group meetings.

I want to thank you all for your participation in this past year’s survey. User Services had one of the highest response rates in the division. Also, please know that if there are any ideas, initiatives, or perspectives you’d like to share related to these areas, I would be very interested in hearing them.

Keep up the great work team!


contributed by Brandon Bernier, Director of User Services

A Screening of “CODE: Debugging The Gender Gap” Presented by the ‘Women in User Services’ (WiUS) Group

WiUS is an organization supported by the Director of DoIT User Services, Brandon Bernier and is dedicated to the support and advancement of women in Information Technology (IT). On January 10th, WiUS hosted a screening of the 70-minute documentary, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. About 29 viewers, comprised of full-time staff and student employees, filled the 3139abc conference room in the Computer Science Building. After the screening, viewers self-divided into four small groups for a guided discussion. WiUS will be co-hosting the User Services All-Staff meeting on February 8th and are also planning to host an Allyship event in late March.  Check the User Services Newsletter for details!

Director Robin Hauser Reynolds, a former stockbroker, knows what it’s like to be a woman in a field dominated by men. Her film, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap (‘CODE’), examines the lack of females and minorities in the fields of computer science and software engineering and focuses on inspiring young girls to pursue such careers. Along with candid interviews with experts in technology, psychology, science and education, the film features successful technologists like  Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, Aliya Rahman of Code for Progress and Github founder, Julie Ann Horvath discussing today’s challenging  professional landscape. By profiling and displaying the careers of these women, Reynolds hopes to show that computer science can be creative, lucrative, and rewarding.

Continue reading “A Screening of “CODE: Debugging The Gender Gap” Presented by the ‘Women in User Services’ (WiUS) Group”

Multi-faceted Wellness

So you eat right, exercise every day, and meditate. If you do those things, have you achieved wellness? What does it mean to be well?

Gabe Javier

Gabe Javier

At the recent 2nd annual UW Wellness Symposium, Gabe Javier, Interim Director of the Multicultural Student Center, suggested that wellness goes far beyond taking care of our physical and emotional selves. He said that wellness is multi-faceted just as we as individuals are multi-faceted, and called it a synergy of multiple factors: personal, the collective nature of society around us, and relational.

Although there are various ways of categorizing the different aspects of wellness, some common categories are:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • social
  • spiritual
  • intellectual
  • environmental
  • diversity/social justice

Javier expanded on the concept of socially just wellness by describing it as inclusive wellness that is “accessible, available, and achievable to all people.” Inclusive wellness balances the need to be active in our pursuit of personal wellness alongside relief from things that detract from wellness in our lives.

2016 Expanding Your Horizons Conference: Providing a Broader View of Possible Careers in Math and Science since 1959

UW Madison Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is a one-day conference held annually at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This year, it was held on November 19 in Varsity Hall at Union South. EYH provides opportunities for middle school aged girls to explore careers that use math and science.   Each year, up to 350 students from south-central Wisconsin participate in hands-on career sessions and have the chance to interact with women who work in careers that require a background in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The objectives of the EYH conference are to:


While in general, female and male students perform equally well in mathematics and science on standardized tests, larger gaps exist between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds or family income, with white and Asian/Pacific Islander students and those from higher income families scoring higher than their counterparts who are black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alasconka Native or who are from lower income families, as per the 2016 National Science Foundation Science & Engineering Indicators. EYH looks to raise the awareness of the middle school girls to a wide range of STEM career options. EYH provides middle school girls with role models to engage them and creates an experience to let them know that thriving in any of these fields is possible.

Continue reading “2016 Expanding Your Horizons Conference: Providing a Broader View of Possible Careers in Math and Science since 1959”