If you have not read Sojourner Truth’s inspiring speech, Aint I a Woman , you are missing out. You can click on this link right now to read it, and don’t skip scrolling down to hear Alice Walker read the speech. You’ll be glad you did.
Now, sitting here in my office working at 11 pm is a pretty far way from the slavery Sojourner Truth experienced, but my point is simply that some of these women in tech events seem very disconnected from my life, although, based on the having given birth to four children and the possession of what Samantha Bee refers to as “lady parts”, I am fairly certain that I am a woman.
For example, I saw an announcement for an event for women software developers. That sounded pretty interesting, but when I looked at the call for proposals, it was all about how to be empowered, diversity at work, speaking up – no actual software development topics. So, I contacted someone and asked if they were actually interested in topics on things like creating project libraries of re-usable code, or functions to solve common problems in educational game programming.
The answer I received back was, sure I should write a proposal on anything I wanted and let her know if I needed a mentor or I didn’t feel comfortable submitting a paper.
I found this very odd because I will be presenting four papers within the month, at three different conferences. The offer was well-intended, I’m sure, but I have a Ph.D. and over thirty years of experience. I don’t think I need a mentor to write a conference paper.
In the end, I decided not to go to the conference because I was really interested in software development and if you have to ask if there will be topics on software development at a conference for women developers, that is probably a bad sign. I’m going to the SAS Global Forum next month and I did not have to ask anyone if there would be presentations on SAS there. They invited me to come speak at the conference, and teach a tutorial on factor analysis afterwards. They did not ask if I needed a mentor.
Some of the topics at the women-in-tech events seem aimed at women-who-are-not-me. I don’t knit. I don’t garden. I only shop for clothes because going around naked is too cold and illegal. Often the start-up pitches at those events begin with the question:
Did you ever have a problem buying/ making/ cooking?
and the answer is
Then there is the whole mommy blogger thing. I’m a mom and I write three blogs, including this one. Yesterday, I wrote one on computing standardized mortality and risk estimates, stratified by age. I did also write one on keeping youth sports (and the rest of life) in perspective, although I am the world’s worst soccer mom because when someone asked what position my daughter will be playing in college, I said,
“One of the ones back by the goal but not the goalie.”
Then there is the reaction to harassment on the Internet. I don’t “put a good face on it and pretend I don’t care”. I really don’t care if some idiot posts something stupid about me. I have a spam filter. If it gets through, I have a delete button.
Here is my bottom line: I’m not looking for empowerment or celebration or mentoring. I’m looking for investment, sales and better software development. I think it would be fun to work on that with other women.
For now, I’m skipping most of the women-in-tech events and just heading for the tech-in-tech events. On the other hand, the last few years at SAS Global Forum, my friend, Kim, has hosted an event that is women who are active in local users groups, and it is pretty awesome.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be women in tech events or that you shouldn’t go, if it fits you. If it doesn’t, though, you might want to think about starting or attending a meet up of women at the tech events you do attend.
Oh, and if you really want to support women in tech, invest in their companies, buy their products.
Here is a game that’s fun and will brush up your math skills and teach you about Ojibwe history, in Spanish and English.
I’m glad you said it. I find if you venture an opinion, which does not contain empowerment. You’re seen as an misogynist etc.
I wholeheartedly agree with your take. We need to get to a point where it isn’t about empowerment, but good STEMS and thinking of the work, not their gender. Yes I know women are completely underrepresented and are quite regularly abused/shunned or stifled. I am of the opinion, if we concentrate on the work, then the trolls et al with walk away, because they have nothing to keep their attention.
It blows my mind that someone would think you would need a mentor!