posted by Matt W on November 5th, 2014

I was in New York last week for Data Center Energy Manager training. I walked into the room fairly close to the start of class and took the one remaining seat. I noticed something seemed odd. There were only men in the class, no women. One Latino, one Black man, and ten White men made up the class. As I have been in numerous training sessions similar to this, I can say that this is a pretty normal breakdown.

In general, I am noticing odd distributions more easily, but this stronger feeling had a lot to do with my daughter. She is applying for colleges these days (and driving her parents crazy in the process I might add), and one of her essays which I found quite interesting was about her being a minority. Not in the way we might typically view the word but in that she is the only girl in her physics and computer science classes and one of only a couple in her upper division math class. As I see the college acceptance and graduation rates tilt 60/40 in favor of women, it is interesting to me that there is still this area in the hard sciences where women have not yet caught up with men. It was certainly the case in my training class.

Still thinking about this later that evening, I turned on the TV in my hotel room and started flipping through the channels. There was an NBA game on. Now, I have pretty much given up on the NBA. Every once in a while there is a play that is such an amazing athletic feat that I am intrigued, but for the most part it is just random chaos played by amazing athletes. That is unless the San Antonio Spurs are playing. Their coach, Greg Popovich is a genius, and every once in a while they play at a level that is truly exquisite. A symphony on hardwood.

The Spurs were playing so I started watching. After a while I realized that there was a woman in the team huddle and remembered that the Spurs had hired Becky Hammonds as an assistant coach. It looked refreshingly normal.

As a father, you hope your children have the opportunity to go down any life path they choose. I think there has been some progress made in integrating people into fields historically difficult to enter, and there is still a long way to go. But when a 5’6” woman gets to work with an elite NBA coach, because she is obviously right for the position, that can only be a good thing. And as a father, I hope there were a few fatherly words long ago saying,”You want to be an NBA coach? Becky, you’ll be awesome.”

Eliminating all the stereotypes and just having the best person for the position would be nice. And making people feel comfortable choosing the path they are really interested in is an important part of the solution. I hope my children feel free to choose any path they desire regardless of the perceived barriers.  I hope I have given them the confidence to do so.

Coach Popovich hired Coach Hammond because he thought she would be great. And as a father, I appreciate them making it look so normal.

File Under Weekend Warrior