Sadukie on WiT and Diversity for the Sake of Diversity

After some recent discussions on personal branding, I realized that some people don’t get me.  Some people don’t understand just who I am and what I am about.  So let me tell you a bit about who I am and where I stand on things.

Who I Am

  • I am a geek.  I love tech, and I’m not afraid to admit it or show my love for it.  I blog, speak at conferences, appear on podcasts, wrote a book, and continue eat/sleep/breathe tech.  I’m also married to a geek, so to say that I live surrounded by tech is an understatement.
  • I am still ever-curious about things in the tech realm – wanting to play and explore with .NET Core on Linux and also looking into the security world, especially looking at AppSec.
  • I love sharing information and learning from others.
  • I am all about the community – participating when I can, leading, growing it, and fostering it as best as I can.
  • I have a wonderful group of people close to me who I consider mentors, friends, and like family.  They have been supportive of me throughout my career – from my early days continuing through today.  I am blessed to be collaborating with such an amazing group.
  • My life’s accolades and successes (as well as failures and tribulations) are due to the work I’ve done, the effort I’ve put in… my gender and background does not factor into this.
  • I only mentor people who are in this field for similar reasons – curiosity for tech, wanting to grow in their tech career, wanting to get involved in the community.  If the passion for tech isn’t there, I am not the right mentor for you.

What I Am Not and Some Dislikes

  • I am not a poster child for the women in tech movement or diversity in tech.  Absolutely not… because…
  • I don’t like the exclusivity of those movements.  I don’t like seeing WiT and diversity events filtering out their attendance to be geared strictly for those demographics.
  • I also don’t like the discrimination that comes out with the movements.  Diversity scholarships and scholarships for particular demographics are used to lure people into the field – seemingly promoting diversity for the sake of diversity.
    • I am for merit-based scholarships – give the scholarships to those who show the interest and willingness to go the distance for the field, regardless of gender/creed/age/hot demographic of the moment.
  • I do not play the gender card to grow in my career.  My gender does not define who I am all the time, especially not in my career.
    • Yes, I’m a wife, mom, sister, aunt, niece, daughter, goddaughter… lots of feminine roles there.
    • Yes, I do things like sometimes read Cosmo magazine and used to watch Sex and the City.  Yes, I can totally relate to Carrie Bradshaw’s random questions at the beginning of the episodes.
    • No – none of these things impact how I approach tech.
  • That said, I don’t like it when people think they should play my gender card for me.  Did I mention – I am not a poster child for these movements?
  • When it comes to conferences that I support, I urge the organizers to steer clear of diversity for the sake of diversity and to choose the best content for their events, to put out the best event possible.  Do not sacrifice the quality of the event for the sake of diversity.

Conclusion

Yes, I am a woman – and as my husband reminded me, I’m a woman phenomenally.  However, I am getting tired of people telling me that I need to get involved in the Women in Tech movement more and urge more women and minorities in the field, especially when that’s not how I operate.  I want to see more people in the field – but I don’t care about their race/creed/gender.  I want to see more people who are passionate about tech and want to have fun learning, people who are respectful of each other, people who are all about collaborating to help grow each other’s careers as well as the community.

Asshattery in Technology – Why WiT Struggle at Tech Conferences

As I’ve just finished another CodeMash, I’ve got to admit that there were a lot more women there than at past CodeMashes.

 

It was great to see this, but at the same time, my inner dread of hearing about asshattery at the conference came true too.  Apparently while CodeMash was going, CES – a massive tech conference  – was also going on with asshattery of its own.  Talking with my husband, he thought this was something of the past.  Unfortunately, this awfulness is still prevalent today.

Booth Babes Should Not Exist

I caught wind of this article on Mashable about a particular booth at CES 2013.  Then there’s this article on The Atlantic Wire about CES’s booth babes.  There’s VICE.com’s “Why So Many Booth Babes, CES 2013?” article.  Finally, Business Insider did an article called “Meet the Booth Babes of CES 2013”.  Ah… CES…. you’ve yet again showed me why our industry isn’t mature and tends to sexualize things when they don’t need it.  Booth babes?  Nude models?  Just how are these ladies relevant to technology?  That’s right… they aren’t!  As stated in the VICE.com article, this gimmick works  in a purely male industry.  But wake up, vendors!  Technology may be male-dominated, but it isn’t solely males.  Not only are you doing a disservice to the females in the industry, but you’re also doing a disservice to the guys in the industry who find this behavior not only uncomfortable but uncalled for.  Overall, you’re doing a disservice to the industry as a whole. 

Not All Hot Women Are Booth Babes

Now I have to say this, especially about CodeMash.  Many of you who’ve talked to me know that I’m curious about the other women at these conferences.  If their name tag doesn’t give an idea of what they do, I tend to chat with them to find out what they do.  There were women there who had “booth babe beauty”, but they weren’t booth babes.  If you talked with them, you’d find that they were in marketing/copy writing  recruiting, and yes even some in development.  However, men and women alike are quick to make the assumption that if a woman is hot, then she is a booth babe.  This is very far from the truth, even in technology.

Just Because She’s Hot Doesn’t Mean You Can Hit On Her

When we’re at these tech conferences, we are there to learn more about things that interest us and can help us further our career.  This does not include sleeping with co-workers to get ahead – such an outdated practice that never works anyhow and leads to complications in the office.  Trust me, ladies – don’t prostitute yourself just to advance your career as you will regret it later.

Men, the last thing we want to deal with are guys hitting on us and making assumptions that giving our room number to people for a party later means something more.  For those who are out there and dating, about 95% of them are not looking for a potential mate at a tech conference.  And if a one night stand happens, there’s most likely alcohol involved.  But still, just because it happens to a few doesn’t mean you have to follow their “lead”.

Rather than treating women as ladies to be potential dates, see them as people who share tech interests as you and may be interested in friendship.

Why The Gender Card Complicates Things

The gender card complicates things a lot.  I know many males and females who are friends who later are rumor fodder due to the immaturity in our field.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, guys and gals can be just friends and aren’t necessarily sleeping together (even if there appears to be that chemistry between them).  But unfortunately, not everyone believes this, which complicates things further.

One of my favorite authors, Shel Silverstein, writes in his poem “No Difference”:

Maybe the way to make everything right

Is for God to just reach out and turn out the light

This is how I feel about the gender card.  Turn out the lights and you can’t tell gender.

Speaking of Cards… The Idea of Creeper Cards

My friend Zee pointed me to the Red/Yellow Card project.  While this is an interesting way of making it a point that someone is getting close to crossing a line or may have even crossed the line, I don’t see how effective it would be to hand them a card.

Anti-Harassment Policies

Jacob Kaplan-Moss, of the Python community, wrote an article called “Why conferences need a code of conduct”.  While codes of conduct are nice in theory, they do no good if they aren’t upheld/enforced.  The problem with reporting someone not adhering to a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy – which also applies even further to someone making a harassment claim in the workplace – is that there’s always the fear of retaliation for being reported.  CodeMash does have an anti-harassment policy, and I’m sure if the incidents were reported to a staff member that the policy would have been enforced.  But between the fear of retaliation and the general uncomfortableness of situations (including the room number incident that made one of my guy friends who witnessed it uncomfortable), it’s honestly difficult to report these things.

One Other Factor… Social Awkwardness/Issues in Geekdom

There’s one other factor that complicates this topic as well.  A lot of geeks are socially awkward and some even have some type of issues that make it hard for them to read people.  So unfortunately, they can misread a cue and say something totally inappropriate without having a good read of a situation.  This is a character flaw that can’t always be changed.

What Should WiT Do About This?

Since WiT are more often than not on the receiving end of such asshattery, I want to put some of the onus on them.  We as WiT need to be more aware of our surroundings and try to avoid these guys.  Travelling in groups and even having guy friends watching out for you can help in learning to deal with these situations.  It sucks that they happen, but realistically, we have to be aware that these can happen and not say “Oh this conference is great!  We don’t have to worry about that here.”  And when those guys are acting up, we need to put our collective foot down and call them out on their bad behavior.  Going back to your room and crying (which I have done in the past) does not solve anything and just makes you feel more miserable.

Sharing the Onus

Men, please look out for the ladies there.  Remember that they are somebody’s daughter.  They may be someone’s girlfriend, someone’s wife, someone’s partner, someone’s mom.  If you don’t know them that well, then play nicely and talk to them to learn more about their tech perspectives.  But please. please. please… lose the brogrammer approach to things.  Realize that at the conference, we’re all professionals who want to hone our crafts (and I don’t mean that euphemistically) in one form or another.  And when you see improper behavior going down, please call them out (or report it if you don’t feel comfortable calling them out).

Let’s put an end to the asshattery at these conferences and make them more enjoyable for everyone!

Sadukie’s MVP Challenge – Update 2

So here I am, day 3 of the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit, and I’m still taking my challenge to heart.  I dropped my stuff off at a table this morning and grabbed my breakfast.  When I came back, there was another spot taken by stuff.  So the mystery began… who would I end up sitting with this morning?

Disclaimer: For those who don’t know about my friends teasing me, in retort for teasing Mike Eaton about something, he started the rumor that I’m a VBA expert for our region.  The rumor has exploded, but I am not a VBA expert.  While I have respect for the VBA experts and what they do, I rarely use VBA but I am comfortable with it.

Eventually, Gina Whipp, an Access MVP from my region who I hadn’t met before, sat down.  We got to talking about the community, and she mentioned that she couldn’t find anything on user groups in our area.  Ah… how fate would have it…. I told her about Cleveland Tech Events, the website I run back home to track over 50 technical user groups and other technical events that come our way.  Then, Jim Gordon, a Macintosh MVP, joined the table.  A few more Access MVPs joined us, and Chuck Husemann, an XBox MVP, also joined us.  Once Chuck left, more Access MVPs came in.  And yes, one of them – Scott Diamond – is an author on a VBA book.

It was interesting to talk with them about Access, Jet databases, and why Access is the better database tool (compared to… Excel?!?).  It was great to talk about tech I’m familiar with, even though I don’t use it everyday.

Today has started off with an interesting twist.  Looking forward to seeing where this will lead…

Sadukie’s MVP Challenge – Update

I am super excited by the people that I’ve met out here so far at the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit.  As noted in a past post, I am challenging MVPs here to meet other MVPs outside of their normal topics.  For me, being a developer type MVP, the challenge would be to meet an IT MVP.  Now granted, for me, it isn’t so much of a challenge… and here’s why.

Even though I’m a developer, I also have done IT in my past, and I also have the advantage of being married to a super smart IT guy (who wants to become an MVP as well).  So when I met Martina Grom, an Office365 MVP, a couple “Windows Server IT Pro” MVP guys, and Adam Jacobs, a Lync MVP, I had a good idea as to what they’re talking about and what it’s like in their realm.  My husband has been excited about Office365 and Lync for awhile, so it helped that his excitement was there and that he explained those products to me properly.  (Yes, Office365 is more than just Office in the cloud.  There are other services as well.)

I am hoping I can meet some of the PowerShell guys while I’m out here – we’ll see if I can figure out how to make that happen.  For me, that would be cool to bridge the gap between software development and IT in that realm.

Outside of the PowerShell guys, I’d love to meet other MVPs from other expertises as well.  The networking out here is amazing, and it’s an invaluable experience out here.  I’ll talk more about my adventures when I get more time.