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Social Tech Brewing: Women in Technology

| women

Today’s Social Tech Brewing event about Women in Technology gave me
much to think about. I’ll blog a bit more about it tomorrow, but I
just wanted to get some thoughts out before going to bed.

Someone jokingly mentioned a study that claimed that the probability of marriage was proportional to a man’s IQ but inversely proportional to a woman’s. Quinn added that this study has been ripped apart in blogs before, but the factoid nonetheless sparked an interesting discussion about alpha females and relationships. And yes, despite my consensus-building, nurturing side, I’m still very much an alpha-type geekette.

This should make life interesting.

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Thoughts from the Social Tech Brewing org meeting

| women

Although it wasn’t easy dragging myself away from what I had planned
for the day, I’m glad I attended the Social Tech Brewing planning
session for the upcoming topic: women in technology.

Jane and Nadia are thinking of putting together a workshop right
before the Social Tech Brewing August event. The workshop will teach
foreign-trained IT professionals the basics of (social) networking,
giving them greater confidence and helping them make the most of the
session. I’d love to help out with that!

There _are_ cultural barriers. I’m lucky because I can speak English
clearly and confidently. I’m lucky because school gives me a natural
opportunity to get work experience – that all-important Canadian
experience that people look for. I’m lucky because networking is fun
for me. I like connecting with people.

Not everyone is that lucky, and hey, I struggle with cultural
differences or self-doubt from time to time…

In this, too, I want to be an evangelist. Evangelizing IT and
inspiring confidence in women isn’t a matter of talking _at_ them, but
rather I need to listen to people’s concerns and tell people stories:
stories about other people who’ve faced similar problems, stories of
approaches to try, stories of who they themselves can be in the

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Women in technology: things to think about

| women

Upcoming Social Tech Brewing planning meeting. Jane has some pretty interesting questions:

# What are the challenges facing women in IT today? What can we do to change these challenges?
# What is the definition of women in IT? Roles for women in technology does not necessarily have to be restricted to “pure techie”, perhaps it’s our perception about women in IT that needs to change.
# The non-profit sector has always been a female dominant sector. Is this true for technology roles as well? If not, why?
# Who are some of the leaders/organizations out there that are making a difference for women in technology? What innovative projects are they working on?
# Best practices/tips for women who woud like to get a career in technology.
# Do female foreign trained professionals in technology have more barriers to overcome? Are there any existing resources for these women?

E-Mail from Phillip Smith

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Women in technology

Posted: - Modified: | women

I volunteered at the Women in Technology workshop on webpage authoring
this morning. Overall, it was a great event. The girls had a lot of
fun using Netscape Composer to make webpages about animals, movies,
fashion, and other topics. A few things particularly stood out to me,
though, and I wish I could’ve done something to fix them.

I saw one of the volunteers practically walking students through the
short quiz. He didn’t dictate the answers, but by nodding or
eliminating other options, he gave the answer away. He didn’t even
give them time to think, to ponder. That gave them perfect points, but
I really don’t think that helped build their confidence. If anything,
it probably made them feel more uncertain and more dependent.

As much as I like rewarding people and making them feel good about
something, I think the students really would’ve been better off wrong.
I think they would’ve been better off knowing that they should listen
and read instead of waiting for someone to spoonfeed them. I think it
would’ve been better if the test distinguished between the people who
paid attention and the people who didn’t.

I knew there might be trouble. True enough, when the girls were
supposed to be making the webpage, he was the one at the computer.
When I saw him use the little eraser mouse to select clipart when the
kids were perfectly capable of doing it themselves, I couldn’t help
but ask a pointed question: “Have you girls used this kind of mouse
before?” That reminded him that he had brought a regular mouse which
the students could use to do the work themselves.

They were okay for a while, but then I saw him in charge again. It was
near the end of the period. He said that they had agreed to let him do
the work because there were a lot of images and not enough time.

I still feel that’s wrong, you know. They could’ve made a simpler
webpage themselves and still felt proud of their accomplishment. As it
stood, they had a fancy webpage, but it wasn’t _theirs._ I think
that’s broken. If I were to improve this workshop, I’d be more focused
on helping everyone gain confidence in it and teaching other people
how to do things rather than making at least two webpages with at
least one picture and at least one link. I’d also try to tie it in
with school material so that they understand the reason why people
publish. Ah, well. Things to remember for whatever camps we’ll
organize in the future…

The other thing that broke my heart was the sight of a painfully shy
girl shunted aside by her more outgoing classmates. She sat at the
edge of the table, bangs and thick glasses hiding her eyes. When the
two girls seated beside her moved to the computer to make their
webpage, she remained at the edge of the desk, not even watching the

I took the empty seat and started talking to her. I asked her what her
favorite movie was. No response. I asked her what the last movie she
watched was. I saw her struggling to respond. Aha! I pulled a piece of
paper over and wrote down, “The last movie I watched was:”. After some
nudging, she wrote down, “Scream.” I asked her if she liked it, and
she nodded. I asked her why she liked it, and she said that she liked
it because it was scary. I coaxed her to write it down so that we
could make a webpage about it.

Her friend came over and helped her spell “scary.” Hearing them
converse in a foreign language, I asked them where they were from.
Korea, the second girl said. Ah, well, no chance to use a little bit
of Japanese to help them relax, but that’s okay. The second girl was a
little bit more confident, but still a quiet sort of girl. We
introduced ourselves and waited for the computer to be free.

When the other students left the computer for their recess, I coached
the girls on how to add text and images using Netscape Composer. The
second girl explained everything in swift Korean while helping the
first use the mouse. We had the beginnings of a webpage on the screen.

Unfortunately, our time was over too soon. The facilitator asked me if
I could get the girl to wrap up as the other students wanted to edit
their nearly-finished pages and add links. I bit my tongue, smiled,
and helped the two girls save their webpage – one line of text and one

The other girls resumed working, boisterous and cheerful. The second
girl went back to working with her group, and this little shy girl
went back to hiding behind her bangs and her glasses.

I wrote an encouraging note in as simple words as I could. I told her
that computers are nice because she can learn about them on her own. I
told her that if she watches people, she can learn from them to. I
told her to ask questions, to learn as much as she wants, to never
give up… Ay! If only I knew the words that would help her discover
confidence. If only I could patiently teach and reteach things until
she discovered their joys. If only I could listen until she overflowed
with stories. (And if only I knew enough Korean to help! What would I
have said: aja?)

She smiled and waved at me on my way out. That was just the most
beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.

Random Japanese sentence:

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Geek girl T-shirts

| women

The two women from HR wore Google Women’s Tees.
From the website: “We originally designed this shirt for our efforts in recruiting women engineers.”
Seeing the shirt on them made me think about my geekwear, and why I
found the Google Women’s Tee a bit strange.

I like wearing tech shirts. They’re a great way to identify myself to
other people. They makes it easier for geeks to talk to me. They
provide instant conversation starters for people in the know.

I’m still not used to the Venus symbol, though, and that’s probably
because I think of the symbol in different contexts. It feels too
serious for me. I guess I’m also more used to the “girl” aspect of my
identity than I am to the “woman” aspect. That’s why I self-identify
as “geek girl”.

Maybe it’s a socialization thing. I’m more used to subtle gender
signs, like the “geekette” in my signature. I like wearing baby tees
with the same logos as the regular shirts. The logo connects me to
other geeks, but the slightly more flattering cut makes a small

Ah. That’s probably it. I want my geekwear to connect me with other
geeks, which is why I’d go for something generic like “emacs” over
something like “geek. girl. goddess.” I’d wear “emacs girl” if I want
to point out that yes, I can _too_ be a girl _and_ be into Emacs, but
I prefer focusing on what I have in common with other geeks.

This doesn’t mean the T-shirts are bad, though. It just means I’d be
more comfortable in a
plain black Google women’s T-shirt than
in a Google Women’s Tee.

It’s pretty much a moot point, anyway, as they only had white
long-sleeved men’s style shirts earlier, and they ran out before I
could get one. The swag would’ve been nice, but it wasn’t essential. I
learned enough from the conversations and the talk itself to make the
time worthwhile. <laugh> I can understand why they probably
wouldn’t bring women’s tees to a mixed talk. Still, I’m endlessly
appreciative of conferences and tech sessions that actually have baby
tees, like the totally cool open source conference I spoke at in Cebu
and the blogging summit I attended in Manila right before I left. I
left the blogging shirt at home, but I love my open source baby tee to

Ah, the trouble with being a geek girl in a guy’s world… Swag rarely

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On booth babes and sex in technology

| women

Jon_prez reacts to my comments on Microsoft booth babes and open source posters:

Be fair to Microsoft… those booth babes are still in much better taste than Red Hat’s lame ‘fsck me’ – Carmen Electra ad.

Right. Hence the “SHEESH. Shame on all of you.” comment in 2005.09.17#5.

In fact, open source companies have done a _lot_ worse. Was that Red
Hat with a poster of an almost-naked women with… err… just a
strategically placed penguin or something like that?


And they wonder why girls don’t really like tech.

_Definitely_ one of the things that gets my goat.

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Looking for role models: Marissa Mayer

| women

Tell me who you love, and I’ll tell you who you are. – Creole proverb and many other variants

Role models are important to me. Job titles don’t tell me enough about
work, but people’s stories show me what I want for my own life. When I
read people’s stories, I find aspects that I’d like to include in my
life. I learn about skills I need to develop. I find names for the
things I want to do.

I’m going to share my role models with you as I discover them. You’ll
get a sense of what I want to do, and you might find some of these
role models also inspiring.

Today from tech.memeorandum: Marissa Mayer of Google.

Managing Google’s Idea Factory: Marissa Mayer helps the search giant out-think its rivals

What Mayer does is help figure out how to make sure good
ideas bubble to the surface and get the attention they need.

I want to do that. I want to be exposed to all sorts of ideas bubbling
around me. I want to listen and draw ideas out. I want to connect
people to other people and resources they need to make their ideas
reality. I want to know who’s doing what and make it easier for them
to do it.

I’ll need to work on:

– listening really well
– evaluating ideas quickly
– combining ideas in my head
– remembering people’s names, faces, and interests
– meeting more people

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