I subscribe to a lot of blogs related in some way to women and technology, and skim through them at least daily in my feed reader. Lately I’ve noticed that there’s some vital mismatch in terminology going on. And I’m not the only one.
Dori Smith posted about it a couple of months ago with the above image, and Sarah Mei’s comment (which I only just read today, when I revisited the post) really struck me:
… as a programmer myself, I remember a time not so long ago when “women in tech” meant “technical women” – programmers, chip designers, system administrators…etc.
With the mass popularization of tech, starting in the 90s, “women in tech” started to mean “women who work in the technology industry,” which is a very different (and much broader) group.
In the process, the issues faced by technical women, which are quite different than the issues faced by women in other parts of the industry, have fallen off the radar. And that’s sad, because we do need more women actually *doing* tech.
At OSCON, I gave my keynote on women in open source first thing in the morning. As people filed in and took their seats, this video — “Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley” — was playing on the big screens:
In the video, those women who have technical backgrounds aren’t identified as techies: Leah Culver talks about open source, but is identified as the founder of Pownce, not as a programmer, although she is one. Marissa Mayer (who has a degree in computer science) says she thinks of herself as a geek at Google, but the job title the film shows on screen is VP. All the rest of the women profiled are company founders, venture capitalists, and the like.
We absolutely need more women founding tech companies, investing in tech companies, in management at tech companies, and all of that. But… there really is something missing when you treat those women as if they represent all “women in tech”. Where are the women who actually, every day, build technology? Not just use it. Build it.
We see this time and time again. Look at this post about Geek-ternships (a new trend? really?) on the Girls in Tech blog. The only one that mentions any technical skillset suggests HTML and Excel proficiency would be helpful, but aren’t required. All the contributors to that blog are in marketing, except one who is a designer. Dori also pointed out the Technically Women blog, and HuffPo’s Cracking the Boys Club: 10 Pioneers in Tech and Web 2.0.
“Women in tech” articles and blogs like those make me feel invisible. Not cool.
Here are some “… In Tech” groups that are actually for women *IN* tech, not just near it:
- Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology: We are women technologists. We use technology to connect our communities. We create technology because it is who we are â€” intelligent, creative and driven. We lead with compassion and a belief in inclusion. We develop competitive products and find solutions to problems that impact our lives, our nation, our world. Together, through the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI), we are inventing a better future.
- Women In Technology Project: Our mission is to build and strengthen the education to workforce pipeline by encouraging girls, women and other underrepresented groups into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
- NCWIT: We believe that inspiring more women to choose careers in IT isn’t about parity; it’s a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. In a global economy, gender diversity in IT means a larger and more competitive workforce; in a world dependent on innovation, it means the ability to design technology that is as broad and creative as the people it serves.
- Girls in Technology: The mission of Girls in Technology is to support academic and community programs that engage school-age girls in technology and computer-related learning. Currently, GIT furthers its mission by supporting summer camps and after school computer clubs for girls that provide technology/math/science enrichment and promote leadership skills.
(And, for the record, none of their websites are pink, and the only one with “girls” in the name is for school-aged children. Just sayin’.)