Explaining my perspective on that whole Women-in-Tech thing

Yesterday a couple of folks, including @swiftonsecurity, requested my elaboration after I made a statement that recent @swiftonsecurity posts were why there are no women in tech. My tweet was an almost-true generalization that I should have backed up.

https://twitter.com/justinembone/status/806001535398412288

As @swiftonsecurity — who I have admired and enjoyed for some time now — pointed out to me, communicating over 140 chars is difficult. So I thought I would share my thoughts around this issue here.

As a “women in technology”, I am often called out for that fact — asked to help out on women-in-tech projects, asked how to “fix” the problem, etc. I try to do what I can, but I remain troubled by our typical approach.

In some of my recent presentations — for example at the IEEE Rockstars conference, I have shared my perspective that first of all, we as minorities are not a problem, but an opportunity, and we’d probably find the whole scene more appealing if it were addressed as such. It is not a pleasant experience to a) have a professional spotlight turned on you for your gender, b) have that gender presented as problematic, and then c) have your other work overlooked due to these factors.

Even though I am guilty of this myself, highlighting gender as a focal point within any professional context makes me uncomfortable. So when we discuss a space challenged with diversity issues (eg cyber security) and focus on the gender in question, in my mind, it makes the problem (!!) even worse. Even if we are just telling a story, and even if the storyteller is just trying to fairly rebalance the scenario (by making the hacker a girl, for example). Perhaps it is just me that feels this way, but highlighting gender makes the space less appealing/more hostile for the minority in question and perpetuates the problem (!!) further.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do give this diversity opportunity (see how I switched that around?) some thought. Next time I’m tempted to make a blatant statement such as my response to the @swiftonsecurity story, I’ll try to back it up with more constructive content.