Category Archives: socialtech

Social Tech Brewing: Kristin ?

Kristin talked about how, if you were stuck on something, there was often the assumption that it was because you were a woman instead of there actually being a problem. She shared her experience of taking courses and being afraid of asking "silly" questions until she eventually did, finding out that her male classmates had also been wondering the same thing. Self-confidence plays such a huge role...

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Social Tech Brewing: Sticky stickers

Amber MacArthur took a break during the Social Tech Brewing panel to call attention to the sticker on my laptop and the pin on my backpack. The sticker on my laptop reads, "The geek shall inherit the earth." I got it from the Software Freedom Day leftovers from the Philippines. The pin reads, "No, you can't just explain it in the manual." I snagged that from Human Factors International at CHI 2006.

I love wearing quirky little things like that. It gives people a whatzit and invites them to talk to me. I've had random conversations with people because of the Tux penguin pin, for example.

Stuff like that helps me establish myself as a geek girl instead of just someone's significant other at tech events. I *really* should make a sticker that reads: "Emacs: More than just a text editor. It's a way of life!" Or "(I (think (in (LISP))))"

Hmm. There's a book about writing for bumper stickers. I should request it. Fortunately I don't have the budget or space for an inkjet printer, so I'm forced to find other ways to make these little jokes happen...

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Social Tech Brewing: Leesa Barnes

Leesa Barnes asked us to reflect on the day(s) that we almost quit technology. She shared her experience in 2004 at the last full-time job she ever had. "Never again," she said.

She quit because her job had challenged her integrity. "For five years I worked at a technology company, working on a piece of software that was crap. And we all knew it. And we worked with our clients, with this piece of software, everyone fully knowing that it was a piece of crap. Yet we still had to implement it, put on a brave face, and once it went live... disappear."

Oftentimes, our work challenges our integrity. That's one of the barriers we face as women in technology. Not just crude jokes and administrative tasks, and everyday situations where our integrity is challenged. That's why Leesa considered quitting technology altogether.

Leesa also called attention to how horrible a job women do supporting each other. Five women in a team of 200, and they didn't even feel comfortable having lunch with each other for fear that their managers would misconstrue it.

She fell in love with technology again when she discovered podcasting, and has been passionate about it ever since. She's chosen not to focus on the negative stuff that she encounters in the industry, and instead has chosen to surround herself with positive experiences and individuals. That's her strategy, and it's worked really well so far.

Leesa ended her speech with a call to support each other and to look at solutions instead of just focusing on problems. And she's right: a positive outlook breeds positive outcomes!

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Social Tech Brewing: Hong Zhu

Hong Zhu shared some results of her research into the ways that women from non-traditional backgrounds enter the IT sector. Most of the women in the study had no children or had grown-up children. On average, women earned only 85% of the salary of men doing comparable work.

She spoke of the need to encourage more women to go into math- and science-intensive programs in education because women usually lack this background in high school and college, which makes it harder for them to get into IT.

Hong described a few of the challenges women deal with at work. Even among women who have prepared well, many of them don't feel comfortable in the "boys' club." Traditional IT men tend to compete to be "as incomprehensible as possible." Another challenge facing women and technology is the balance between family and work. If they get into a high-speed track, they can find it hard to keep that balance. Hong shared an interesting observation: women often find that the long hours aren't really necessary, but men enjoy lingering around the workplace. Women also struggle with different standards for success. While men are expected to be good providers, the modern woman is expected to be both a good careerwoman and a good wife.

She recommended more women-friendly curricula that provide stronger technical backgrounds and, more importantly, promote gender equity.

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Social Tech Brewing: Cathy Reed and ISisters

Cathy Reed spoke about mentoring through ISisters. She spent ten years as an educational software trainer and consultant, eventually tiring of the mobile lifestyle of eating out, of using little hotel soaps. "I woke up one morning and realized that what I was doing didn't matter to me. It was great, but I had a huge void. ... Shortly after that, ISisters was founded."

ISisters builds community centers that help women on social assistance learn how to use technology. Cathy described one Inuit woman: "Very cool to watch a grown woman send her first e-mail, and then a week later, see 12 emails from her family and friends up north whom she hadn't connected with in a long time."

She also mentioned the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance - Women in Technology (CADA-WIT), which has just opened a Toronto chapter.

Cathy spoke about her passion for the technology and the effect that sharing this passion had on the women she taught. Through encouragement, sharing and being a positive role model, she transforms the lives of the teenage mothers, natives, and new immigrants who go through iSisters.


I'd love to help out with something like that when I'm older. That way, I can not only help people become more comfortable with technology, but also help them make the most of life.

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