I’m a woman in tech and I’m struggling.
I’m not struggling because of my kids, or juggling home and work, or even because I have boobs instead of another single swinging appendage.
I’m struggling, dear friend, with the fact that many women in tech are focused on having little girl temper tantrums about not being represented in the mainstream, and because many men seem to want to aim the discussion around that.
I’m struggling because I’m hearing men say they can’t find women in tech to employ, or to be co-founders with.
I’m struggling because the only people who get any attention in the conversations about women in tech are ‘influential’ men who really have no idea about the truly fantastic parts of being a woman in tech. They only rant about the ‘issues’.
I’m struggling because it’s never been better for women in tech, and the future is amazing – yet all up-coming girls hear is how whining women are ‘fighting’ for acceptance. It’s neither a true representation of what is open to them, nor does it demonstrate the incredible talent that exists out there already. The women who are just doing it.
Focusing on perceived problems does not make someone want to join your parade, or hear you out. So those who whine create silos of pity parties that don’t move us forward.
Grace Hopper Vs Barbie
I recently attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Tech. It was fantastic. Why? Because it was a technology conference. A technology conference – that happened to have over 2000 women at it. And the only thing focused on how you looked was the ridiculous Barbie with a pink computer that’s somehow supposed to be bridging the gap.
Seriously? I know Barbie wants to be more like me, but keeping the plastic pert boobs and a pink laptop is not going to cut it. Sorry, Mattel – Barbie is about as believable a computer scientist as Ken would be. I am anti-Barbie, and giving her a laptop is not going to change my opinion. Barbie certainly doesn’t help the Women in Tech issue – I am no more going to turn into Barbie because I’m a computer scientist than she is going to turn into me because she has a laptop. Additionally, she is a commercial product – that a company is making money out of. To highlight her as an icon for Women in Tech is ugly on many fronts. Why don’t we have a Grace Hopper Doll instead? Non representation of Women in Tech is not fixed with misrepresentation.
At the Grace Hopper Conference, there were myriad companies actively interviewing and recruiting smart women. In booths allocated for it. Stacks of them. That’s something I’ve never run across at any other conference. It’s a shame NOBODY (including those so-called ‘male supporters of the cause’) talked about that on blogs or media at all.
Why is it a big deal that women were being recruited?
It’s a big deal because it’s something girls need to know. If you’re a girl and you go into tech, you’ll have myriad job opportunities. Because male computer scientists are, let’s face it, a dime a dozen. There is no doubt the females bring something a little different to the table. (And it’s not a pink computer.)
I’m not going to engage in the ridiculous circular debate on the difference between women and men and whether one sex is better than the other. That’s not the point. Instead, you’ll note I said they’re a little different – and in the interests of creating technology that is created through iterations with alternative, diverse inputs to its production, it’s vital to have a good mix of people on your team.
The companies interviewing women at Grace Hopper saw that. They wanted our resume’s. They sat down and spoke with women and girls looking at a future in tech. Women and girls who were actively pursuing education at higher education institutions, and who had internships and experience. Or who wanted them.
If you’re a girl considering a career in tech, let me tell you, it’s probably the best career move you’ll ever make. The second thing you should do is not only attend small women conferences where the focus on problems are the main subject. Instead, go to the general (yes, male dominated) conferences. Introduce yourself to the startup community. Start putting yourself out there. Find your field and develop your skills, and get vocal. It will be appreciated by almost everyone. And those who don’t like it don’t count.
And forget about Barbie, conferences that create echo chambers of whining, and men who want to lead the discussion instead of be part of the conversation.
Be the change you want to see
If you’re a woman in tech, find some women you’d love to see speak at conferences and recommend them to the organizers. Stop going to women conferences *instead of* general conferences – at the very least, do both. And my challenge to you is to find a woman in tech or up-and-coming girl, to nominate for an award. There are lots out there. Or you know, you should nominate yourself. Tell other women how inspiring you think they are. Reach out and email a woman who has influenced you to be in tech – even if you have never actually met them. Write a blog post, and link to it here on what is fantastic about being a woman in tech.
And get a clue: Yes, there are dickheads out there. But they’re dicks to everyone, all the time. Not just to women.
It’s time. </rant>