Woman in Tech — we are doing it wrong
Gorjan Jovanovski
106

Interesting concerns.
I’ll give you some observations that might be helpful.

TL;DR — tech conferences are unfriendly to women. Fix them.

Mixed tech conferences are not the most comfortable places for women.

They typically include social events with alcohol, which is terrifying when the ratio is five to one or worse. Unfortunately, those events are the ones where networking is done.

Further networking is done is room parties with alcohol, which are worse. I’ve even seen guys go to strip clubs at these events.

I’ve tried to include myself in technical discussions at these conferences, to be basically ignored. That’s pretty standard for other women as well, from what I hear. Doesn’t matter whether I offer intelligent, highly technical points. (I’ve 30 years experience as a developer and generally get along with people quite well.)

Swag is often guy-friendly. ‘Unisex’ t-shirts are the only option. Beer cozies. Hacky sacks. Backpacks. Yes, some women may like these things, but generally they’re more appealing to men.

Mixed tech conferences focused on women in tech are better. In the one’s I’ve been to, the ratio is close to equal. But…guys still tend to dominate the conversation. There’s often an assumption that their observations somehow carry equal weight despite the fact that they generally don’t observe a woman’s experience in tech 100% of the time, and they often don’t acknowledge that their perspective is fairly culturally biased.

The guys who go to the women in tech conferences are generally okay, but it’s the ones who don’t go who really need to hear the message.

And sometimes, you can’t forget, getting together in a conference is NOT about solving ‘the problem.’ It’s about simply having a reprieve from all of those pressures. A break. We all need a break from life’s pressures from time to time.

My recommendations, if we ‘diversify’ tech conferences.
* Do not serve alcohol at social events.
* Either offer woman-friendly swag, like properly fitting t-shirts, cute hats with ears, lip balm, or whatever in addition to the traditional swag, or offer tech-focused swag like mice, laptop coolers, etc.
* Have places where minorities can go and take a break. A ‘pink’ room. A rainbow room. Some place for PoC. 
* Guys, don’t just ‘say’ you’re a feminist. Acknowledge women are facing hurdles with respect to being heard, and ‘amplify’ their opinions and contributions instead of presenting your own.

And bring this stuff back to your places of work. Mixed swag. Limit alcohol at work social events. Have minority focused special interest groups and acknowledge that you may not have much to offer them if you’re not a minority. Amplify the voices of women at work when others are stomping those voices.

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