The invisible Women in Tech

I’m pretty tired of the women in tech ‘debate’. Why? Because I think we fail to appreciate how women are demonstrating their tech involvement in a space they are creating themselves. Women are in tech, in huge numbers – they’re just not seen unless they are in traditional tech roles that involve a cubicle and 9-5 work day, and that shows how limited the debate really is. Let me explain.

I’m proudly a woman in tech. I am a researcher, a PhD student in the ATLAS Institute at CU. I hold an RA appointment in the Dept of Computer Science’s Project EPIC (Empowering People in Crisis), which looks at how social media tools can empower all stakeholders in crises such as natural disasters. I am absolutely behind every woman in a tech field, we need all of them.

I’m also a mum blogger. I own and respect the tag. And that makes me a woman in tech in another sense.

Telling stories is something women are fantastic at. And it’s in the telling stories space where you’re going to find some incredibly tech-savvy women, all demonstrating their expertise. In fact, that’s where a massive number of the women are in tech.

You might look down your nose on ‘moms who blog’. Many, many people do (including some – many – moms who blog). But let me tell you, over the last few months, even though I’m engaged with mom bloggers every day, I’ve been humbled by the number of moms who have extremely good technical, real computing know-how, building not only the technologies but also the brands and relationships of their media enterprises. An enterprise that might begin with a blog, but expands to video and podcast content as well. They are learning what makes great businesses in the tech domain while they have the rubber to the road and are doing it all themselves. These are women with training in some technical areas, either professional training or self-taught. They are networked and engaged. They are entrepreneurial – it takes real guts to create content, put a brand on it and push it out there. And they are accomplished. (Yeah, they are.)

Recently, I was invited and became a member of a local group of social-media-savvy moms. Not all are bloggers, but all are switched on, professional, creative and so darned impressively tech knowledgeable, I’m learning every day from them. (Yes I am. I have so much to learn.)

Most people choose to forget that moms who blog usually had some kind of professional or paid position before becoming mothers. And they were great at that job. So why is it so hard to believe that just because a woman has children she loses her professionalism? Sure, many women become bloggers as a hobby, but most look for something more pretty quickly. They’re surrounded by other successful women who are making something of their blogs, or who would love it if that opportunity arose (it’s there, you just have to embrace it). Nobody will retire on the money they make, but many find a continued realisation of their professional value and worth through their blog.

Yes, dear friend, mom bloggers are women in tech. They might not be in the spaces you speak of, nor do they fit your picture of a power woman in a cubicle blending in with the guys in a technical space that somehow, for some limited reason, you think is valuable. But there are a stack of accomplished women building brilliant companies, brands, dare I call them – startups (yep, I said it). They have networks, and collective intelligence like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

They’re teaching each other. They understand what they’re doing. And if you’re not watching, they’ll use it to take you on.

13 comments

  • Awesome article, and now of course I have my toe in the dirt because I’m been so adamant about NOT being a Mom blogger (no idea what I am if I’m not tho). Do you think some of this is still the age old “women aren’t very good at science and math” thing?

  • Owning the mom blogger tag is one key aspect, I think. (I’m using the o in mom rather than u because it’s most solid in our understood vernacular that way.) And yes, it’s absolutely about the whole assumption that if you think girls and women can’t do Science/Math/Computing, then don’t even think about mothers in that space! Mothers are assumed to be the ones to guide the next generation of females into STEM subjects and in the process perhaps they lose the respect they deserve for their own involvement.

  • Thanks Annie – as the year’s most annoying woman who’s a mom blogger, I take that as high praise 😉

  • Sooo TRUE! I just love it that we mom’s have created our own jobs and destiny by doing this all on our own. I’m thankful for the group and all I’ve learned so far!!

  • My husband, a software architect and consultant, frequently says I could do his job. But I find myself downplaying my technical knowledge as not enough. You are 100% right. Mom blogger or not the woman in this space are in tech whether we’re being counted or not.

  • You know, it’s not often I disagree with you Jo – and in part I agree 100% with your point about mom bloggers – but the “women in tech” debate is centering around a different issue and I think your post just illustrates it perfectly.
    Its not that there aren’t “women int tech” it’s that the don’t get the respect or recognition they deserve and therefore fewer *girls* are perceiving tech as a viable career option for themselves.
    I think your post quite clearly points out why. When a smart, educated, technically skilled woman gets labeled as “mom blogger” she suddenly has to fight off a new per option that she’s somehow not all of those things.
    The numbers don’t lie. Girls choosing to major in degrees that fall under the generic term of “Tech” (computer science, engineering, etc) have been decreasing in number radically while the number of women getting degrees has go e up radically over the past 25 years.
    This can only be due to a perception on their part that being an “invisible woman” is not desirable. Until we start respecting all of the “invisible women” by making them not just visible, but enviable? The numbers will continue to decrease.

    Think about it – does anyone ever want to grow up to achieve great things, create new technology, make ground-breaking strides in their field, only to be ignored, forgotten, or worse… Disrespected? No. So the “women in tech” debate is very, very valid – as your post illustrates so clearly my friend. It’s not about us – it’s about our daughters.

  • Oh Lucretia, what a boring world if we both agreed all the time, instead of just most of the time 🙂 One difference is that I embrace the term ‘mom blogger’ and you see it differently. You’re right about girls choosing to major in non-STEM degrees, and I’m of course going to say that people majoring in Computer Science are dropping for both sexes, but I’m also going to say that STEM is not the only place for future computer scientists to come from. Girls in high school might not see themselves as math/science ‘types’ however they might end up being some of the most important additions to our future in tech. (For example, I was definitely not a math/science girl at high school. And I’m still not.) I do Love the point you make about not just making women visible, but enviable – it speaks directly to the post I wrote earlier about celebrating the current high achieving women in tech instead of bemoaning the situation on statistics forever and a day.
    I don’t know if we can reach our daughters without celebrating ourselves. I don’t think it worked for feminism, for example – women who ‘fought for recognition’ and then commonly demand their daughters say thank you. I don’t want to be that woman. But I know I stand pretty much alone on that. Thanks for your input Lucretia, as always, thought provoking, engaging, stimulating and encouraging for everyone.

  • What a resonating post. I had many successful careers before I became a mom and later a blogger — in telephony, in education, in academia — but it wasn’t until I began writing for the sheer love of it that I found my voice, integrated myself.

    I stay up late learning to code. I am self-taught on several platforms. I learn something every day about SEO and about better writing. I pick the brains of some very very savvy women and give back sometimes.

    The rest of it? Other people legitimizing me? Gravy. Or icing, depending on the metaphor you prefer.

    I never really thought of myself as a woman in tech, but now that you mention it, I am. Roar.

  • Hi Jo!
    You have no idea how pissed I am at a certain person on twitter who claimed that “your mom” wouldn’t be on google +… Irked me big time. I am proud to be both a mother and techie.

  • Ooh Sara, that would have annoyed me greatly too! But you know what? Time for women/moms/mums to stand up and own their technological identities. If we don’t do it, then we can’t expect others to do it either. I love my proud mother techie posse. ROAR!

  • Ah, so it was Scoble. Well, that would be as expected. Plus he used the words “yo momma.” Circling the drain I reckon.

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