Thursday, February 14, 2013

"We'd love to have more women!"

I attended a developer event on Tuesday. I wasn't planning to go there - I am fairly new to iOS and didn't expect to understand much of the presentations - but went on impulse and understood enough to make it worthwhile.

Before the event I read their Twitter feed, and noticed a journalist asking how many female developers are attending the event. My first thought was "oh no, poor organizers, now they will feel the need to apologize". And sure enough, afterwards I told the journalist that I was the only woman there (out of about 30 people), and the organizers felt the need to inform us that they'd love to have more women and don't want to be a male-only club.

(For a second there I considered lying and telling the journalist that 25 out of 30 attendees were women to see how she'd react, but it's not really all that funny if you don't get to do that in person.)

This is by no means criticism of the organizers. They just said what was expected of them. More to the point, I knew that they would say it at some point as soon as I saw the original question. And that, people, is really something. I am not the kind of person who easily notices such generalized social pressure; usually subtle social clues have to be beaten into my head with a two-by-four at a considerable personal risk to the beater. If even I notice things like that, the pressure on everyone to explain why they don't have more women must be enormous.

But seriously, why? It makes sense to discuss why there are fewer women in the CS/IT field than could be, what can be done to attract them, should anything be done, and how, but what can realistically be expected from the organizers of any specific professional event? They announce the event, they choose the speakers, they invite people to come, and some of these people might or might not be women. It should go without saying that women are welcome there, but it obviously does not in fact go without saying. Makes me wonder who needs it to be said explicitly, and why.


Anonymous said...

Some women may be shy to attend an otherwise all-male club. They might fear they are breaking some unwritten rule which everyone else knows to follow, and get derogative talk from the males or negative consequences from their peers (at least males often get some peer teasing if they do some stereotypically female thing.)

IMHO repeating the cliche is the socially skilled and justified thing to do.

Vera said...

Part of my point here was that this was not the kind of event aimed at young girls considering an IT career - I can understand organizing events that encourage that particular demographic to get acquainted with the field.

By the time a woman would be interested in attending something like that she a) has already gotten accustomed to mostly-male environments, and b) has strangled all her peers who had anything to say about it, and buried their bodies really well.

Another point: if we were talking about the women who are new to the field and shy about being in a male-only environment, is declaring "there are only men here, but we'd be glad if there were some women too" really the best way to attract them?

kellogs said...

perhaps them organizers really put some offort into this (hey folks, remember to bring your wives along for free! / oh and, to all ladies-on-keyboards out there - we have 50% off for the event / etc) and still no result. Which inherently brings the thought to the next level - what were *you* dping there ? :D

Anonymous said...

The writer somehow inclusive expects that men and women are like two totally different species :-) Why should there be more women in IT business? Just to get to 50/50 balance of sexes? All women interested in IT are welcome and if there are obstacles to have an IT career as a women then those obstacles should be removed. But thinking that it's the gender that makes a difference is very odd to me. We are all humans after all.

Although I'm a man I experience the same every time I participate in "exercise for women" like Pilates or BodyPump class. There have been many classes I'm the only man there. I'm still not thinking there should be more man (although I'm not against it either). What I'm thinking is that this class is for humans and I'm one of them.