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Discussion at http://www.livejournal.com/users/sachachua/6605.html . Please leave comments there.

http://del.icio.us/sachac/digitalpinay has links.

Notes

19. See, I'm not the only one weirded out by the word "co-ed"

From: rnewtonATkent.edu on a word-a-day mailing list I'm subscribed to:

The most egregious example of gender-bias in English is, I think, the existence of two words for students. Male students are students; but female students are co-eds. This originates in schools being for males only. So, when they allowed girls to come "along" (this is what co- means), they were viewed as nonessential appendages. Kind of like Adam being created independently, and then Eve was formed to assist him. I have insisted that all my students expunge this word from their vocabulary. I no longer allow them to say they live in a co-ed dorm, for example, since that implies that the dorms are really there for the one sex only. There are only male dorms, female dorms, and mixed- gender dorms (although this is a misnomer, since gender is not the same as sex; but we can't very easily call them two-sex dorms without raising eyebrows; unisex might work?).

E-Mail from wsmith

18. Mob?

Sean Uy wrote:

Congratulations, everyone. We put a stop to an issue that 'insulted' the dignity of women in the IT industry.

And we did it as one big unruly mob.

Are we a mob?

I don't know. I don't think so.

We stand on our individual pulpits or post in our individual columns and we simply speak our mind, letting other people decide what they think and how they feel about the issue. Even my http://del.icio.us/sachac/digitalpinay links feels like a shopping-list of other people who wrote about the issue, and I'm sure there are other blogs out there I hadn't seen.

Nowhere on those blogs did I see anything even remotely close to a physical threat. People joked about having "Digital Pinoy", a male version of the contest. People suggested flooding the mailbox with fake application forms or complaints, or calling them up to register their protest. In fact, some people suggested just promoting it as a beauty pageant instead of something different. I did not see a single thing directed toward the potential contestants. I don't work that way, and chances are, neither do you. I do not know anyone who'd make such a threat. As a rule, the geeks I know prefer the pen over the sword. This is not to say, of course, that no one out there can make that kind of threat. All I'm saying is that there are many, many of us who are more moderate than the press release implies.

I was outraged enough to want to raise hell about it. I didn't want this to be an issue that quietly slipped by. I wanted them to know that I thought what they were doing was wrong. They were perfectly capable of continuing with the original plan, I knew, but maybe they'd listen to the points I raised. I helped spread the word to other people because it was something far bigger than my little corner of the Internet or my little perspective on life, and I was not disappointed by the variety of insights I gained.

I am not against PCS, and I am certainly not against promoting technology. This was not some master plan to bring down PCS nor was it a symptom of crab mentality. I sincerely want to promote computer science in our country, and I spoke out because I strongly felt that the contest I heard about would do more damage than good. I pointed out flaws and offered suggestions. I knew they wouldn't be able to remove the 'beauty pageant' stigma from the event if they continued with their criteria, so I suggested other things they might do instead.

Was it really all the outrage from blogs? Companies have sponsored highly-criticized events before. The Miss Universe contest has legions of detractors. No, I don't think it was sheer outrage. I'd like to think that the sponsors pulled out not because the contest attracted lots of bad publicity but because the sponsors listened to our thoughts and thought we made sense. Money speaks, and it took the sponsors to make PCS consider other ideas. We argued as well as we could, and that resulted in slight modifications of the event. PCS thought it could deal with the other objections, but it took sponsors to really drive the point home.

It's a pity that PCS focused on extreme reactions in their press conference. Instead of making bloggers feel respected and listened to, they polarized the issue, turning it into an us-versus-them fight. That wasn't the best way to deal with this kind of issue. I would have respected them more if they calmly outlined the issues and thanked everyone involved, but I understand why they said those things. They are also human, and it is hard to be calm when you see a pet project fall apart. Other critics are also human, and it's hard to accept someone's words as face value when you see it more as a cover-up. There must have been better ways to deal with the whole mess, but it's done now, and all that is left to do is to reflect on the whole matter.

I must confess being guilty of taking pot shots at PCS when I think what they say doesn't make sense. For example, I think their cancellation is yet another example of bad PR, and I'm half-tempted to volunteer to edit their press releases from now on. I'm allowed to have and express opinions. I'm not a journalist, just a geek. I care not only about my work but also the culture and environment I work in.

That said, they're fine, and they did have good intentions. I can't imagine Leo Querubin waking up and saying "I think I'd like to have a sexist contest," and I believe them when they say they weren't thinking of making it a beauty contest. They just didn't think about it hard enough. Who here hasn't made mistakes like that before? Who here hasn't been defensive about mistakes, trying to rationalize them as long as possible before realizing they were wrong? I appreciate how they invited us to join the press conference, although the timing was bad for practically everyone. (A Saturday would've been better, really, or they could've just held it online. That would've been much more fun!) I appreciate how they asked someone who understood the other side to serve as a consultant. (Hi, Ranulf!) I appreciate how, to the very end, their intentions were sincere. I don't think they were in this just to make money. I think they just picked the wrong way to achieve a goal, and then a wrong way to save face.

PCS still serves a valuable purpose. They have other projects and they don't need to be replaced or destroyed. Besides, there is no organization ready to step into the gap. I hope that the lesson they carry away from all of this is not that the public does not understand them, but that we understand their objectives too well to let them quietly make mistakes. We speak because we care.

Are we a mob? A thousand voices exploding on the Internet may seem like a chaotic mess, but if you listen carefully you would be able to discern the clear, calm tones of people like Dominique, Joey, and Sean. You would hear people who spoke from their hearts _and_ their minds, like Clair and Xenia. You would even hear non-IT people with a clear understanding of the issues, like Marcelle. We are not a mob. We are simply people who know what we believe in and who care too much to be silent.

I will reflect some more on this if other people have interesting posts, but in the meantime, I would like to thank the bloggers who shared their thoughts, the journalists who helped us raise awareness of the problem, and the rest of the gang for listening in.

Although it could have gone better, it was good that we did this.

17. PCS cancels Digital Pinay contest, cites violent reactions

Check out Philippine Computer Society cancels 'Digital Pinay' tilt for PCS' announcement.

Asked what he has learned from the experience, Querubin said: "Well, actually a lot. One is that people really think differently. I was very surprised at the public briefing that some people apparently feel that others don?t have the right to use a word [such as] ?digital? differently from the way they use it.

Hmm. Apparently, they managed to annoy more than just us crazy bloggers. Who'd have thought?

The organizers added that threats to splash acid on the contestants and flood the contest's e-mail address with spurious application forms, also contributed to their decision to cancel the event.

Splashing acid on contestants isn't our kind of thing, although the _organizers_, now... *ahem*. No, no, we're not into physical damage. We'd be happy to flood their e-mail box or otherwise inconvenience PCS, but we don't cross over into meatspace. Definitely some other angry group. What fun.

Asked what he has learned from the experience, Querubin said: "Well, actually a lot. One is that people really think differently. I was very surprised at the public briefing that some people apparently feel that others don't have the right to use a word [such as] "digital" differently from the way they use it.

Now that is a rather strong spin.

I know the people who went to the public briefing. They're nice, rational people who were willing to give PCS a chance. We might not like the way PCS just throws around the word "digital", but we said it might be very misleading, not completely wrong for PCS to use.

That's probably just because we're more in tune with geeks today than they are.

Anyway, good riddance to that Digital Pinay thing. I hope they go back to focusing on the national programming contest, and I hope they do it better this time. I did that schtick throughout high school. Great experience, although PCS screwed up every now and then too.

(Psst! They have a professional category! Reunion, anyone?)

16. The dust settles

Sean, Clair (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3), and Xenia have all blogged the results of the press conference held by the Philippine Computer Society last 2005.01.21 .

I think we've reached an acceptable compromise. The Philippine Computer Society is dropping the offensive beauty-pageant-like parts of "Digital Pinay 2005" and they've clarified their position.

If the contest is clearly marked as a search for future managers, I think it will not negatively affect the image people have of the technical side of things.

I still believe there are more effective ways to get an idea of someone's leadership potential than through text voting or clothes modelling. Presentations and business case analyses could give contestants a more realistic idea of what skills will be useful in their professional lives. Women who can speak and write well will be far more effective leaders than those chosen on the basis of looks or on the number of friends who are willing to sink money into a text popularity campaign. Then again, all contests make some kind of simplification. As the organizer, PCS decides what to search for.

I think it is time to let PCS figure out what to do with their concept. Perhaps they'll make it a success; perhaps they'll have problems fulfilling their admirable goals. Whatever happens, we have all learned much from the experience. We have learned the power of protest, and perhaps PCS has learned to be a little more careful. (At the very least, it knows it needs better public relations.)

I believe that "Digital Pinay 2005" can be a good idea if handled well. PCS has invited influential women like Sun head Cynthia Mamon to judge contestants. If these judges could make time in their busy schedules to guide the winners, perhaps having lunch every other week or even just once a month, then the winners of "Digital Pinay 2005" would win far more than monthly participation in PCS activities. They would gain guidance and mentorship.

I do not regret speaking up about this. I do not regret going public with my opposition to the original form that circulated through e-mail. I do not regret pointing out the deficiencies in the original contest structure. I do not believe this was something that could be handled quietly. PCS needed to clarify its position not only to those of us noisy enough to complain about it but also to other people who might have received only the form. I am glad that the furor caused by this has revealed that most people won't take this kind of nonsense.

In the course of checking this out and keeping track of the activity through my shared bookmarks, I have met so many wonderful people through their blogs. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Let's get together on a couple of projects--that summer camp idea looks like a good start, and I'd gladly volunteer time for that.

15. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

My mother would be the last person to say she's beautiful. She'd say she's short, or she has gray hair and wrinkles. She wears make-up, but she doesn't spend hours putting a face on every day and she doesn't buy fancy clothes. She's too busy as the general manager of Adphoto to get much beauty sleep, and sees nothing wrong with trekking around in comfortable shoes. I think she's beautiful.

My former grade school principal, Lala Castillo, had wrinkles around her eyes that showed how much she smiled. I never saw her dressed in sharp business suits. I think she was always in flowing skirts or sensible pants. She knew all of us by name. As a child, I wondered if I could just skip being an adult and be old and wise like she was. I think she's beautiful.

Didith Rodrigo, the chair of the computer science department, is not one for beauty pageants. I don't think she wears make-up. But she made us feel welcome. She knew what she was talking about, and she could explain herself very clearly. She was also a great listener. I think she's beautiful.

If PCS wants to judge on "beauty"--which basically means how much does a woman resemble advertisements--then they risk closing their eyes to the real gems, people who can _really_ inspire others.

As for me, I'm going to stay in my own little world where results matter more than appearances, where ordinary people become beautiful when you get to know them.

I'm glad that I'm not spectacular. At least that way, I don't have to worry about people speculating about my breast size, unlike one of my friends who occasionally has to put up with that despite being a brilliant physicist. At least that way, I know people pay attention to my ideas and not just to my body.

I still feel a little insecure from time to time. Am I where I am just because I'm a girl, just because I was in the right place at the right time? Would I have gotten as far if people didn't make a fuss over the fact that ooh, look, a girl's _really_ into tech?

Then I go online and talk to people who don't know anything about me, people who even assume I'm a guy until the regulars laugh and correct them, and I realize that I'm good enough on my own.

That's an assurance the DigitalPinay winners might not have, because they'll wonder: was I hired because my resume was good and I can really make a difference, or was I hired because I won a beauty pageant?

14. Press conference today, PCS pushing through with Digital Pinay 2005

PCS is expected to confirm its resolve to push through with the controversial "Digital Pinay 2005" contest at a press conference to be held today at 3:30 PM at AIM's ACCEED center.

They say that the contest is a search for future chief executive officers and chief information officers, and have decided to keep their original criteria: 20% popularity (text votes, another revenue-generator), 20% personality (sound bites in the question and answer portion), and 20% poise (modeling business wear, formal wear and sports wear). Oh, right, and 40% intelligence and achievements, but since that's all evaluated behind the scenes, we'll only get to see the 60% part.

They also deny that it's a beauty pageant and claim they never intended it to be one. And oh, oops, the first application form was a complete mistake--they didn't mean to send *that* version to the press mailing list. They *really* meant to send these sanitized application forms: ../personal/digitalpinay-coed.doc and ../personal/digitalpinay-pro.doc. So they'd like to tell all you outraged bloggers that you're barking up the wrong tree. It really isn't a beauty pageant. Even if there's a "Coronation Night" competition where people are judged on how they wear clothes instead of, say, their business plans or their ability to give presentations. Even if there's a text voting thing.

All I can say is that if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

Whatever.

13. PCS has found their spin: It's a search for future C?Os

Looks like PCS is pushing through with Digital Pinay 2005. Their spin? They're searching for future female chief executive officers, so 60% personality (in terms of appearance, popularity and poise) makes perfect sense.

Indeed it does. After all, they're looking for future managers, and managers really do need soft skills. So that's their market. They're not trying to define a good IT professional in terms of technical wizardry. This is MIS.

They're not saying you have to be pretty to be a good geek. They're saying you have to be pretty--este, personable--in order to be a good manager. Which is all too true and we're used to that, I guess.

I wonder if they'll ask the contestants in the "Search for the Most Outstanding CIO" to model sportswear. I still think that if you're looking for future leaders, you should ask them to make speeches instead of strut around in several different kinds of clothes. You should ask them to make a difference in their community.

I also don't think we lose our femininity by focusing on ideas and accomplishments. In fact, we express it by not highlighting it, not making it the center of attention. I want more attention paid to the fact that we get results through taking risks and working hard than to the accident of our gender.

Anyway. It's their org. It's their money and it's their name. At least they've clarified their position. I have a feeling there's nothing more I can do about that. We're talking about completely different things.

You know what my problem is? I keep thinking that the C in PCS means they're even vaguely related to the stuff we do. But right, right, they're business-related, and that's a completely different world. I just have to remember that. I really should remember that PCS is a professional organization, and their definition of IT is very different from our definition of IT.

You know what? I think I'll stay out of the corporate world. I love teaching. I love showing people that they can do anything they want to do in IT. I love hacking on open source. I don't want to have to dress up in a suit to work on something cool with other people.

I guess it's time to resume life. I have things to hack on.

Thanks to everyone who listened.

PCS to push through with Digital Pinay 2005 - INQ7.net

12. Sanitized application forms

Leo Querubin of PCS sent me another set of application forms, saying

These were the original apps forms.

For comparison, the form I received in a forward is here:

I like how the rules are no longer included so that they have more time to make up their mind. I like how the form does not mention the controversial prize of P 25,000 (look! the average monthly salary of an IT professional!) or the form of the contest.

It is entirely possible that there really was just a simple misunderstanding.

It is entirely impossible for everyone to believe that.

It is also probably impossible for them to reach everyone the first forwarded form(s) reached. They have opened up a can of worms, and they cannot neatly stuff all the worms back in.

11. PCS press conference on Digital Pinay

PCS is holding a presscon on Digital Pinay tomorrow, Jan 21, starting at 3:30 pm, at AIM's ACCEED Center. You and others interested are invited to join. Just email (or text) me the names of the people attending so PCS can prepare the necessary press kits. Again, thanks for your concern. - Bombing

IBARRA "Bombing" C. GUTIERREZ
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
Media G8way Corporation
3rd Floor, Eurovilla II Building
118 V. A. Rufino St. (formerly Herrera St.), Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines
Tel. (632) 840-4227; Fax (632)894-2487 Mobile +639178955739
E-mail: [email protected]

E-Mail from Dominique Cimafranca

I'm in Japan, so I can't go. I'll prepare a list of questions later, though. Who can make it?

10. mac_bolan00 on Atenista.net

http://atenista.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=3021&st=0

mac_bolan00 posted on Jan 20 2005, 12:42 PM

just a guess: beauty pageants offend ugly women, or those half into it. examples of the latter are homely computer scientists sniffing at 'Miss IT' pageants. the above guess is as much of an insult as it is fact. as a way to soften it, i'm of the opinion that all sane women are beautiful and desirable but never mind me.

well then, i'll throw a different question at you. supposing this IT pageant was meant to benefit indigent but talented students who wish to major in IT, will you still complain at the way society commoditizes beauty, particularly in women?

9. From Chette Soriano on ph-cyberview

Throwing all femininity aside, I laughed boisterously the first time I received the attachment. I might be a little too phlegmatic for my age (and sex), as I just found it humourous. A lot of my colleagues were really appalled.

I wonder if call centers are now considered part of IT (may computers naman sila eh, hehe).

May talent portion ba? Pano to, fastest woman who can assemble a PC? Or the usual scrabble/hangman programming test? Pabilisan mag-crimp ng RJ-45? Hehe.

To quote a friend: "Buti na lang walang height requirement."

Juskupu.

Chette Soriano • www.chette.com

E-Mail from Chette Soriano

8. And there are people who just don't get it

From: Kyo Suayan <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2005 09:52:12 -0800
Subject: Re:PhilweaversDigital Pinay

To be honest, what's the fuss all about?! Eh totoo naman na statistically speaking, mas kaunti ang magaganda sa IT field as compared to other disciplines! This is even supported by observations back in college wherein usually nasa ibang colleges and departments ang mga "chikababes". Seriously!

Finally somebody has come up with a brilliant idea on how to "put some life" on this very cold and impersonal industry which is IT. And what does some pseudo-activists do? Shoot it down. :-)

-kyo-

E-Mail from Martin Gomez

7. And of course, some people will treat it as a harmless spot of fun

Jim Ayson on ph-cyberview:

The Search for the IT Hottie is on!!

This just in... Digital Pinay eh, I hope J. Toral doesn't file a trademark infringment suit, hehehehe.... I must admit this little item made my eyes roll a bit (especially at the archaic term "co-ed"), but hey, maybe the industry could use a little levity after all. Old timers will recall the PCS used to have a beauty contest called "Miss Computer Girl" back in the 70s or 80s so this must be the 21st century update. The question is will they junk the swimsuit competition in favor of a Ragnarok tournament? Being a traditionalist, I would prefer the former.....

When Ian Dexter Marquez passed my quick note on, Jim replied:

A controversy is erupting around this, so pass the message on.

Is it a "oh no, how sexist" thread? Ah, maybe the PCS should also have a "IT hunks" contest to balance things out. Trouble is, the only six pack the typical male mouse potato is likely to see comes in a can....

Hey, I'd join an "IT Hotties" contest. If only "Digital Pinay 2005" wasn't pretending to be so serious...

6. Digital Pinay 2005 on plug-misc

But seriously, the organizers should have thought more about the matter. Women are not mere trophies to flaunt at events. Gee, if that were the case, they could have just gotten some actresses who could be spokespersons for them, I think. I mean, that's going to be advertising but with the duties of the "reigning" Digital Pinay - Hmmm, that seems to be the case. And that is sad, sad, sad.

I hope that the people from PCS would do damage control ASAP. Or else...

When I read the headline of the article "Search for top Filipino female IT pros slated" I thought it was good as it would duly recognize Filipina contributors to the growth of Philippine IT. But now that I know the details I really find it insulting to women. Asking for vital statistics and requiring the winner to grace PCS occasions are simply demeaning.

Holden Hao
President
DabaweGNU, Inc.
Davao City

E-Mail from Holden Hao

5. And now for a bit of lighthearted fun...

"Sexiest Geek Alive" is a geek pageant done right. =) Google for it or be lazy and just check out the following links.

Why does it work? 'cause it's as geeky as heck.

Positive stuff about women in technology:

4. It just gets better and better. This is a "traditional" event.

From Ibarra Gutierrez, Editor-in-Chief of Media G8way:

Digital Pinay is a project of the Philippine Computer Society. It is actually a take-off from their traditional Ms PCS contest. Media G8way, with its Events Department, was simply contracted to manage the project. This is not to say, however, that we are washing our hands with regards the project's concept now that it's getting flak from the IT community. In fact, we've called the PCS organizers to an emergency meeting tomorrow precisely to discuss reactions like yours. Rest assured that we'll do what we can to make the project truer to its purported objective. And we'll keep you and the IT community posted. Thanks for your concern.

IBARRA "Bombing" C. GUTIERREZ
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
Media G8way Corporation
3rd Floor, Eurovilla II Building
118 V. A. Rufino St. (formerly Herrera St.), Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines
Tel. (632) 840-4227

It just gets better and better. You mean it's only getting flak from the IT community now? You mean this is an old concept? I've e-mailed Leo Querubin to find out how long _that_ has been running and how it has managed to survive so far.

In the meantime, take a look at this excerpt from http://www.pcs-it.org/pcs/committees.htm#msict :

Special Project: Miss ICT

In-charge of preparing the activities and implementing guidelines/criteria for the Search of Miss ICT (professional and student levels):

  • Revive the Computer Girl
  • More than just a beauty contest
  • Reflects ideals of PCS
  • Promote gender equality in the ICT industry
  • Promote ICT as an equal opportunity employer

Director-in-Charge: Ms. Ann Gatmaytan
Chair: Mr. Leo Querubin

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

3. Reply from Leo Querubin

We are meeting with the committee to discuss these issues and will update you.

E-Mail from Leo Querubin

2. Digital Pinay 2005: Sent mail to Leo Querubin, Special Projects Chair of PCS

Received from Leo Querubin:

Hello Sascha,

Your email was forwarded to me by Bombing of MediaG8way regarding your reaction to the Digital Pinay competition. I share your sentiments when I saw the application form.

There was a misunderstanding in the contents of the application forms (for the co-ed and professional) as the original forms did not include the info on height, weight, bust, waist and hips. Be that as it may, I take full responsibility over this as Special Projects Chair of PCS and I apologise for this. It was never our intention to promote the competition as a beauty contest.

You have brought several good points in your email. I would like to sit down with you and discuss these comments and see how we can improve the competition.

Sincerely,

Leo Querubin

Sent this reply:

Hello, Leo!

Thank you for your prompt reply. I'm glad to hear that the original forms did not include such demeaning questions. I would still like to clarify the rules of the competition and the expected public effect. If PCS also considers the present form of the competition to be insulting to IT students and professionals, I would like to help you do damage control and correct the impression people have received. After all, this is the form that's out there in the wild, and that's the form of contest people will see it as. Whether it is a mixup or not, PCS has done something wrong.

I would like a full explanation from PCS so that I can present other sides of the story. How did this make it past the proposal stage? Why was it approved by the committee? Did no one consider it as even the least bit discriminating? How is it that the country's premier IT organization can do such a thing?

I would also like to understand how one can calculate scores based on 20% popularity (measured through text votes), 40% appearance, and 40% intelligence and skills, and still not think of this as a beauty contest. As http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~hmw26/join-the-dots/2005/01/17/spectacular/ points out:

So let me see: that’s 60% for popularity and appearance based criteria, and 40% for intelligence and technical knowledge. Oh yeah, that makes total sense for an ICT professional award.

How is it possible that mature professionals can take all the terms used in beauty contests--you don't hear the term "formal wear" or "reign" in software competitions, do you--and pretend that this is something about the professional capabilities of women? How is it at all understandable?

What about the public effect of this contest? The public sees only the application and the coronation. They will not see whatever care you put into sifting through applicants' academic credentials. They will not see the interviews. They will only see the beginning and the end. They will only see this form that defines women by numbers and a "coronation" that involves how well a woman can wear clothes and walk. This _public_ includes students and children who may not have the experience or confidence to know that you can be successful in technology and yet not be an object because of your gender. They may think that even in this field, women have to be pretty, and brains or achievements don't really matter.

What about the "prizes" that these women win? Are you just looking for a promo girl? You cannot spin this as professional exposure for women without also exposing the exploitation of women. You cannot even say that this promotes women in computing when it reduces women to something pretty to look at.

Perhaps you meant well, but this is broken. This is a release-critical bug. This is something that should have never made it out the door in its present form. The contest by itself is wrong, but I am incredulous about the fact that PCS actually _came up_ with this thing. I have no idea why it took me to point out how broken this is, but this is not something you can just quietly apologize for, improve or even cancel. You realize that that form has made its way to schools and to other people's lists, forwarded by people who either thought it was a good idea or a farce. You must realize that the form brought with it an idea of how PCS thinks of women.

I need you to think very carefully about the reasons why this contest was implemented. I need that explanation from you, and I need it shared not only with me but with as many people as it can be shared with. I need you to think very carefully about how you're trying to encourage more women to get into IT. I need you to start doing damage control.

What happened here?

1. Mail sent to Ateneo CS and CompSAt mailing lists

Updated copy at http://www.livejournal.com/users/sachachua/6605.html . Please leave comments there.

Miguel Paraz just forwarded a _very_ interesting contest application to the CompSAt-EB mailing list, and I'm sending this to you because it is worth talking about, and that is because it is completely wrong.

The Philippine Computer Society (PCS) is doing a search for "Digital Pinay 2005". They're looking for role models for information and communication technology, "women who exemplify the qualities expected of future women leaders of the Philippine ICT industry."

To help them find worthy candidates, their application form asks for information like name, paragraph or two about why you deserve the award, IT experience, and such essential information as height, weight, bust, waist, and hip measurements.

I put up a copy of the form at http://sacha.sachachua.com/notebook/personal/digitalpinay.doc . Read it all the way to the end. You may start out amused, perhaps annoyed. I hope you end up horrified that such a thing could have been thinkable, much less thought a good idea. That it was proposed at all could be chalked up to temporary insanity, but that it reached this point cannot be attributed to reason.

A beauty pageant does not pretend to be anything but a beauty pageant. On the other hand, "Digital Pinay 2005" pretends to define an ideal woman in ICT, and _that_ is why it is so insulting. Or perhaps our Atenean curriculum is missing charm classes to help women learn how to wear business suits and casual clothes well?

Our industry _cannot_ be like this. Until now, I have not come face to face with such discrimination in what I believe to be such an egalitarian field. Our industry _is_not_ like this. But the existence of this contest sends a message to students, to professionals, to people inside and outside our industry. The message is that ICT in 2005 is about appearance more than substance, that how a woman looks and how she walks is more important than what she learned and what she can do. If nothing else, it tells us that our industry thinks this view is acceptable.

It is a farce that I must denounce in the strongest terms. If the PCS would like to beautify its meetings with models, it should not pretend at all to be promoting women in ICT when it is actually doing the exact opposite. If PCS would like to say that women are valuable contributors to ICT, it should not attach such values to them. For what will these women be but stereotypes and living proofs of discrimination in IT? What is their value? What will they be beyond a pretty face and a nice body?

(I find it interesting that winners are required to attend all PCS official functions. Essentially, you can buy a professional woman's time for P 25,000. The co-ed winner costs only P10,000 and the runners-up are free. Why will they grace the PCS functions with their presence? Who will take them seriously knowing the criteria by which they were judged? What of this promised visibility in the job market? Is that really the kind of job markets Ateneans are preparing for?)

The contest insults women by objectifying them, and men for proposing that such objectification is commonplace and normal. The contest insults our industry and our society. Will we not discuss it? Will we not consider how such a situation came to be? Will we not point at it and say that this is wrong?

Exams are going on and there seems to be no time to talk of things like this, but these are things that must be thought about. This is Science and Society. This is the Philosophy of Man. This is, even without all the subjects you've taken up, even if only considering that still and quiet voice within you--this is a matter of right and wrong.

So read, reflect, and be angry, for this is the sort of thing that should never be complacantly ignored. Realize that this _is_ a problem, that it _does_ exist, and that we contribute to it with our silence. Affirm what you believe in. Write. Write your fury, your shock--or casual indifference, if that is all you experience upon reading this.

As for me, I believe that just because something _is_ doesn't mean it has to be.

Odd things about the alternate application forms

PCS address, phone number and e-mail

The Inq7 article that covered the launching of the contest referred to it as "Digital Pinay 2005"

Questions

Contest structure

How are the women going to be judged?

Participation

According to the eligibility requirements, candidates must attend all official PCS events during the contest. Winners and runners-up must attend all official PCS functions.

If I remember correctly, PCS meetings are usually expensive dinner events held in hotels in Metro Manila. Good luck to all the provincial candidates and those from poorer families. Unless being a contestant gets you a free ticket (and plane ticket, if necessary)...

Benefits

Promised job benefits

Damage control

Miscommunication or not,

Alternatives

Is this really a national competition? Will you fly in students

Must resist the urge to go into cross-examination mode.

The original form appears to have been sent to Point: It isn't about the original form.

How are they planning to address the effects

"Search for Digital Filipina 2005"

Are the winners and runners-up still obliged to attend all

"The PCS Search of Digital Filipina 2005 (Professional Category) is open to all female ICT professionals conforming to the following criteria: ... participate in all official PCS events during the duration of the contest"

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Page: Digital Pinay
Updated: 2005-02-21
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