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| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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 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

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

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
Joey, and
You would hear people who spoke from their hearts _and_ their minds, like
Clair and
You would even hear non-IT people with a clear understanding of the issues, like
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.

PCS cancels Digital Pinay contest, cites violent reactions

| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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?)

The dust settles

| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

Clair (Post 1,
Post 2,
Post 3), and
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.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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

Press conference today, PCS pushing through with Digital Pinay 2005

| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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

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


PCS has found their spin: It’s a search for future C?Os

Posted: - Modified: | digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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 –

Sanitized application forms

| digitalpinay, issues, philippines, women

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.