Saturday, July 14, 2012

NetHui Part 9 - Women in I.T. Part 2

Day 3 and the final day of NetHui. Day 3 had Judge David Harvey doing a keynote, another panel (truth be told, I'm not a big fan of them - far many of them had politicians pushing their own agendas rather than contributing in real ways to the subject matter) discussion and a bar camp.

For those of you who don't know what a bar camp is - I found myself explaining this a few times. The term "fubar" has been used in I.T. since... well... I don't really know. It stood for "Fornicated up beyond all recognition". O'Reilly Media started a conference that they called "Foo camp" (Friends Of O'Reilly). This event is via invitation only though it's format was very different from other conferences. It was more of a think tank. The term that seems to best describe it is a "meta-birds-of-feather" session (though nowadays it's referred to as an unconference).

As a reaction to the closed off nature of it, "bar camps" were established using the same sort of method. So participants put up topics that they would like to talk about and people sign up (attend) sessions that they're interested in. This is all generally done on the day.

One of the sessions was "Women in I.T.". Given my interest in the area I attended. I didn't actually speak at all during the session. I was there to listen and get a different perspective.

During one of the earlier sessions (there were 3 though I only attended 2) I noticed the way that participation seemed to favour the males. I don't think it was malicious but it was interesting. The females in the room would tend to raise their hands. The males would quite often butt in and respond immediately.

I had been relating some of my unease at times in a female dominated industry (this is very much dependant on the culture of any one school rather than something I'm likely to encounter on a regular basis) but after the session had to add the fact that I had never felt unsafe. Just a little uneasy.

I also have to admit to having not identified a joke by the MC on the first day as being a sexist slur (though I did pick up on the racial slur). So I'm as guilty as anyone else of not considering those around me.

The discussion centered on coping mechanisms. How do you deal with it? There were a lot of good things said. I don't think this is the appropriate forum for it but would like to instead direct people's attention to this site. I have to say that the woman in this discussion were very accommodating to the 5 males in the room and stated that they appreciated that males had turned up. After the session a couple of them even came up to me and asked me for my take on it.

One guy had said that he wanted to hire females but hadn't had any female applicants.

There's a lot to be said around culture. Last night I offered to buy a girl a drink - she was the first person I'd seen last year and this year when I'd gone to NetHui and so I had just thought it the friendly thing to do. I had been buying all sorts of people coffee all day and, had it been a male there that I'd recognised, I'm pretty sure I would have offered to buy him a drink as well. She had thought that I was hitting on her.

Seriously, if we're to get the best results in any endeavour, we need to gather a whole different set of perspectives. Excluding females is that endeavour's loss. We don't need anyone (including females) reinforcing those outmoded ways of thinking.

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