I’m actively involved in a group called Diversity in Agile.

When we announced our first release, focussing on women we got a lot of strong reactions, both negative and positive.

Someone (Sorry I forgot where I read it, tell me who you are and I link back) said an interesting thing:

He said when my daughter would get an award for doing a math exercise correct, were all the boys in her class had the same result, I would be upset.

When I read it, I felt like, yes me too.  It stayed in my head.


When I was home last night, putting my daughter to bed, I realized why.

I have two boys 7 and 5 and a 2,5 year old daughter. Ever since she was a baby, my daughter loved pink. A real girl. We saw the difference right from the start. Geike will come to me every day to show her dress and ask me ‘beautifull?’ or ‘sexy?’.

I keep telling her, I find her beautiful no matter what clothes she wears. Last night she did something cleaver with a book and I told her she was smart. She did not want to hear it.

What I notice is that this little 2,5 year old, keeps asking for confirmation on how she looks, but does not like it when I give her similar confirmation on her intellect.

All that said, Geike is the most geeky of all three. She will play with phone’s, computers everything she can get her hands on.


That experience made me link 2 things:

– The report that was published yesterday: Why so few women?

– And the In Search of meaning video I posted earlier.

In the research they say that women/girls are not that much encouraged (as boys) for their math skills, but when they are encouraged, you see much higher percentage of women doing science. In the video Victor Frankl shows that you have to aim for a higher target to get where you want to be.

If I combine these two I would say, yes you need to give girls some kind of awards for doing something at the same level of boys.

Before everyone jumps all over me, I agree this sounds wrong to me.

I does show that we should be very careful at how we say things to women and girls from a very early age. I do this with my children and it is damn hard.

(It is also a reason why I will not make a comment about a new look of colleagues, even though I know some like that.)

Back to the diversity in agile project. When we prepared our first project, we had lot’s of discussion internally because we did not want to make it an award.

The first release we are executing now: interview 12 women and show these video’s at agile 2010. (We will use other media also)

Some of the other wilder idea’s are create some visual network of people (not just women) to see how is connecting to who, just an idea not yet clear how to do this, give us some iterations to figure this out.
I admit. We made some crucial mistakes when this was announced. I did not see them before. (I like to take action and adapt based on the feedback.)

We used the word nomination. It looks like most people link nomination with an award. I can see that. We changed that.

We call part of  the website YourTeamNeedsWomen. That gives the impression to some people that it is against men. I can see why.


When I take a few steps back, I see also something very funny.

– Last year, there was a whole war going on on Twitter, when the PaskAward (you can find the FAQ around the Pask Award here.) was given. Reason: again no women that received the award. The reaction from the jury was: we did not receive any candidates that did something that deserved the award.(That is what I recall, sorry if I misquote this.) I wanted to assume that was true and at the same time it was strange that for 5 years in a row, no woman did receive the award.

– A lot (all ?) of the strong reactions agains “Diversity in Agile” I see, is that people say you can’t create an award just for women.
==> See a similarity in these discussions?

We agile community we don’t like awarding people for what they do.

I know that the PaskAward committee is thinking about stopping it.

As I commented on that blog, I don’t think they should. I do think they should listen to some of the critiques they get. I will add some more energy here: Damn it, don’t give up , that is too easy.

All of this reminds me about one thing what I like about the agile community but what I see us failing in all so often.
Respect for people. This is not in words part of the agile manifesto, but I think most people would agree with me, it is there in spirit.

The principle that comes closest:

Build projects around motivated individuals. 
Give them the environment and support they need, 
and trust them to get the job done.

Me: I believe in this principle. And it might be a reason why I don’t send enough positive vibes to agile community projects I like, and I do send things I don’t like. (I want to send more positive energy, but I know I failed at that.)


I know that for the Diversity in Agile project we do want more people helping out and finding the right way to support diversity.

So if you have idea’s please join the discussions on the google group.

If you don’t have the time and energy, we still would love to hear your idea’s, but think about this principle and send us a perfection game and then let us decide what to do with it.

12 Responses to “Diversity in agile”

  1. Johanna Hunt says:

    I’m still in two minds about the project, but am slowly coming around.

    I’ve run events for women in technology, so I’m all for what you are doing in theory but the way it was initially presented set off a real nerve.

    The trouble is the fine line between celebrating diversity and singling out the lack of women – the ‘Your Team Needs Women’ struck a particular discord. I’m so glad that aspect has been changed!

    If your daughter is raised knowing, for example, that she is somehow unusual for being interested in technology in any fashion she is more likely to shy away from it as she grows up. Being treated differently because you are a minority is more likely to heighten awareness of there being a difference.

    Initiatives which highlight a lack of women don’t tend to attract more to the field, they just increase discomfort. In the same vein however, initiatives which show there are plenty of people out there ‘like you’ do a great deal for encouraging people in the field. This project has the potential to succeed at the latter, and I wish you all a lot of luck with it.

  2. yhanoulle says:

    Hello Johanna,
    Thank you for your support.
    Yes we do want to do the latter, and that is why the name was “your team needs women” was badly chosen.
    That was a fair comment and we are trying to change that.
    I’m not sure I understand your comment about my daughter:
    “that she is somehow unusual for being interested in technology in any fashion she is more likely to shy away from it as she grows up.”
    what makes you say that?

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lisacrispin, Yves Hanoulle. Yves Hanoulle said: Blogged about discussions on diversity in agile project http://bit.ly/aOrXAT […]

  4. Paul boos says:

    Great post Yves! Diversity is important. When I interviewed for EPA, I was asked what I thought diversity meant to me. I had been asked that question in questionnaire’s before, but never in person. I had many women, different ethnic backgrounds, etc. as both subordinates, peers, and superiors and so it never occurred ot me to have an extremely thoughful answer until then. It took me about 10-15 seconds to collect what swirled through my head.

    My simple answer: EVERYONE has a different path to getting to where they are and thus a different perspective. All should be heard and allowed to flourish to the best of their ability.

    That simple thought is now my creed. It doesn’t mean I have to agree on their point or principle, only that I am willing to try and understand it.


  5. Johanna Hunt says:


    Sorry, was trying to give an example based on your post, and I think deleted the sentence that explained it properly.

    – “All that said, Geike is the most geeky of all three. She will play with phone’s, computers everything she can get her hands on.”
    – “If I combine these two I would say, yes you need to give girls some kind of awards for doing something at the same level of boys.”

    I was trying to distinguish encouragement from award here. (I’ve not watched the video, so could just be misinterpreting your original points.)

    There is a distinction between providing more encouragement and treating people as different. More mentoring, more support of different learning styles, more support, wonderful. 🙂

    Giving a message to your daughter that she needs to be treated differently through different marking schemes or awards (which isn’t at all what you are doing, I was just using this as an example 🙂 ), reinforces the idea that ‘girls don’t do that kind of thing’ and has the potential to put her off rather than encourage her further.

    Hope that makes more sense?

  6. yhanoulle says:

    yes this makes more sense.

    I treat everyone as different and special.
    I tell my kids it’s good to be different and special.

    somehow in our world, being special is a negative word.
    For me it’s not.

    Now that I think of that, that is what diversity is about: celebrating the difference in people.

    I do agree that awards make me think about external motivation, and that is bad and does not work:
    A few years ago I blogged about how adding extrinsic motivate made Joppe loose his intrinsic motivation to swim (temporarly)


  7. Johanna Hunt says:

    Really nice points.

    Both different and special should be such positive words; everyone is different and special, and that is wonderful.

    (My previous argument was about gender-based differentiation, not about difference in itself. 🙂 )

    I’m increasingly appreciating the Anita Borg phrasing for their conference ‘The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing’ (http://gracehopper.org/2010/).

    The point is noting, appreciating and celebrating the variety that already exists. 🙂

  8. yhanoulle says:

    Gender-base differentiation: how is that different from normally being different? (mm did I know switch to you position? )

    And more important how do I help my daughter/sons at feeling good about that?

    I used to try to raise my boys gender independant (or how do you say that) I realized that was not respecting who they are.
    Now I try to stress yes, you are different, yes that is fine and I do want you sometimes do stuff sometimes considered for the other gender (as in do more household tasks)

    How do you feel think about the girl geek dinners?

  9. Johanna Hunt says:

    I really don’t know that I can answer your first few questions I’m afraid.

    Who people are is certainly affected by their gender but it shouldn’t define them, as you obviously appreciate. 🙂

    Gender makes a difference to many things. For example in education (as far as I recall, need to dig out the research papers, don’t quote me on this) boys tend towards higher self-efficacy whereas girls tend towards lower self-efficacy. This results in the latter being more aware of failure (tending to internalise failure) and also being less willing to learn through tinkering/bricolage. This impacts on learning programming, although there is no reason why there should be any difference in actual skill. (e.g. http://eusesconsortium.org/weuseii/docs/Blackwell_WEUSE_II_final.pdf)

    I was one of the founding group that brought the Girl Geek Dinners to my home town in 2007, and was involved for about a year. I loathe the name but the concept works well. It was fantastically well received in the local development community, with males fighting for the limited spaces each time, leaving dinners with an equal attendance in terms of gender. We had some awful experiences with the local press, but that was mostly based around the ‘geek’ stereotype not the female aspect.

  10. yhanoulle says:

    Oh I agree different people have different ways of learning.
    Something I am afraid of now we have almost no male teachers in Belgium.
    (Maybe this will help supporting girls better.)

    In Belgium I don’t think the GGD received any bad press.
    Hihi, question is if Geek is a bad name or not. The fact that we are not native English, helped to be more open to these names.
    [ I don’t worry when people use the F word (Except for my kids, ;-)), but when someone would use the dutch translation for it, I would look up and ask them to change their language. ]


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