After seeing an email and after my friend DeeDee pointed it out to me, I figured I’d comment on this article (requires login) and its discussion on Women in Technology that appeared on SQLServerCentral today.
First of all, it was weird seeing her referenced as “Ada King”. In college, I knew who Ada Lovelace was and about her contributions to the computing industry, largely thanks to my Data Structures I professor – Dr. Henry Ledgard – who worked on the Ada project. Then there’s the “Ada Lovelace Day” mumblings that I’ve heard. So I found it weird to see Phil Factor reference her as “Ada King” and not by the name she’s commonly known by in the industry.
Second of all, I knew that the discussion related to the article would take the forks like it did because it’s a WiT topic, and those viewpoints almost always come out on a WiT post. There was one post in the discussion that caught my attention, and it touched on the following points:
* Not all WiT initiatives are useful. When they exclude men, they’re harming things more than helping things.
* WiT gatherings with a “it’s tough being discriminated against” approach aren’t helpful.
I wholeheartedly agree that excluding men in WiT initiatives is a bad thing. Could it be that guys actually have opinions on women working in tech? Could it be that they’re actually more supportive than what some WiT initiatives want us to believe? They may even be catalysts and sources of encouragement for us!
WiT gatherings that are more about sharing the negative experiences really don’t get far. They’re good at showing that other women have gone through the same headaches as you, and sometimes they’re good at showing how to handle certain situations. But overall, negative topics can lead to discouragement, and that’s not a goal of any WiT initiative.
This is part of why you don’t see many WiT posts from me. I write for technically-minded people – not for a particular gender, race, or creed. I personally hate the gender card and wish it weren’t such an issue. Growing up, I didn’t see my gender as a problem. I saw it as – “Hey, I was good at this programming stuff in school, and my teachers and my boyfriend really thought I should look into it as career option.” Not one of them ever mentioned the gender factor, so I never really considered it an issue.
It wasn’t until I entered the workplace right out of high school before I had an idea that my gender (and at that time, my age) would cause issues for some of my teammates. When I entered college that fall, I became aware of the problems a little more. It made me curious as to why there was a Society for Women Engineers. Then again, I tended to discount groups with “Women” in their title as exclusively female groups and those are typically not groups I’d associate with. The way I saw it, since I was planning on working with guys in the field, I wanted to socialize with them as well. Add to it that most of my friends have been guys, so it really didn’t strike me as odd getting into a male-dominated field. What made things more interesting is that I never felt the gender issues much in my classes or extracurricular activities, even when I was the only female in the class. When I was aware of gender issues, it’d be in the workplace or when dealing with outsiders who knew the generalizations that come with women in tech.
It bothers me that at many conferences, the WiT gatherings I’ve seen have been exclusively women. At a gathering at Central Ohio Day of .NET last year, I was relieved when Jeff Blankenburg and Josh Holmes showed up with more people. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate girls’ nights out and a break from the guys. But at the same time, I also have been around guys long enough to appreciate their views. I look to those guys for advice and guidance sometimes, and I think it’s important that other women in tech realize that their perspectives of getting women involved in our community are quite interesting and are exactly why men’s perspectives on WiT need to be heard more.
It was good to see Phil mention that PASS was taking a role in making sure there isn’t a sexist bias. This is the way it should be – a group for professionals regardless of their gender, race, or other discriminating factor.
In my WiTty Perspectives series, you will see me challenging women to get past the girls’ club approach and realize that there are plenty of guys who also want more women in tech. I look forward to sharing my stories of getting ahead and the people who helped me get to where I am today and who keep me ahead of a lot of people.