I have been attending the Microsoft Women’s Leadership Conference the last two day. It’s the fourth time I’ve gone, and the first time I’ve been underwhelmed. I did see two very good sessions today, so that likely makes up for the others. I’ve been chewing on one participant’s comment all day long, the longer I think, the more irritated I am.
This is also the first time I have seen so many men at the conference. I only mention this as the participant I just mentioned is one. A man.
This morning Steve Ballmer came and did an interview-type discussion to kick off the day. Good questions, mostly good responses, and then time to open it up to questions from the audience.
A man was up at the microphone and asked two questions. The more relevant one was about succession planning and how many women are on the executive plan. Great question, impressive. But… The other question. He asked Steve, of all the conferences and opportunities he is offered over the year, why did he pick the Microsoft Women’s Conference?
I’m sorry, WHAT?!
It was an odd response in the room. The air wasn’t sucked out, no collective gasp, no rousing emotion or “bitch” from all the (women) people surrounding him. It was more of an awkward – Wait. Did he really just say that? Did you hear that? ‘Cause I heard it!
It was a good response from Steve – who was very honest that he doesn’t own his calendar, the team and business managers around him own it. And if they tell him it is important, he knows it is important and therefore he attends.
Wow – how demoralizing. I’m still a bit irritated the question was even asked. Given the room dynamic, and how Steve responded to the question, I’m not sure the participant “got” it. I didn’t see him again once we disbanded from the room. But maybe, hopefully, some other person pulled him aside to give an insight into how he may have been perceived. By many.