I’ve been writing the starting sentence of this post probably like 20 times now. Trying hard to avoid turning this into a angry, boringly whiny rant on gender bias in society. We all (?) know we’re not giving (all) women the possibility to realise their full potential as human beings and we all (?) know men (still) live a pretty privileged situation, work-wise and in general terms when it comes to reputation/prestige in a community. I just don’t want to talk about this issues in a trite way.
The point is how to contribute.
I’ve lived a few awkward situations. Some when I’ve been with my partner in a gathering of people who don’t know each other, say a meetup sort of thing, or a party with different people. He’s a guy whose educational and professional profile is similar to mine, we’re both “sciency” and “techy”. But he’s a guy. You meet people, say hello, and some people immediately assume I’m “just” his girlfriend, there for accompanying reasons, and not someone worth of interest beyond that qualification. I’ve read someone else reporting a similar experience somewhere, can’t remember where but I’m fairly sure it’s quite common.
Of course this doesn’t happen on every occasion, it is just one example of a broad phenomenon.
Other examples are the many stares of bewilderment when you say something like you do code and you do compute stuff. Classic.
So I work in tech, have breathed through science and tech now for a good amount of time and can definitely say I’m in the gender minority (surprise surprise!). Back in the Physics day, when a student, I can recall just 3 women lecturers in the department. Actually to one of them, Prof. L. Zanello, I owe the encouragement to go do something different, explore different ways Physics can be used and eventually find what I believe is what I really want to do. Thanks so much, you were so inspiring.
The results from the Stack Overflow 2017 developer survey are out and it looks like there’s only abotu 8% of women in the community among those who responded. Now there’d be a few considerations to do here regarding the fact that maybe women have responded in smaller numbers, Stack Overflow is not necessarily representative of the whole tech community, and so on, but the outcome is still quite staggering.
About the “women in tech” trending topic, I found this tweet here particularly spot-on:
(Unpopular opinion) Ask women (or maybe just me) to speak @ conferences abt technical topics instead of"What it's like to b a woman in tech" https://t.co/bpVbDqKqU4— Rebecca Slatkin (@RebeccaSlatkin) March 9, 2017
Nothing against speaking about being a woman in tech, not at all. But we should be really focusing on effecting the change we want to see happen apart from talking about it.
Every small act helps building a conversation and contributing to making the difference. This is a revolution in small steps.
Last week I’ve been at the Data Summit, a fantastic (and I mean it!) conference on Data Science and its role in society & business, held in Edinburgh, my now new home. It was glorious, and one of the many things which made it special was the attention towards equality and representation of genders. I’ve seen marvellous talks from speakers of both genders. Whether it was on purpose or not, it showed everyone there actually are women in this roles, women who contribute to the field the same way a man would, and deserve the same respect.
Women amaze, just like everyone else, and in many ways, just like everyone else. I’m personally amazed by many ones, continuously. To throw just a few recent examples, the instructor at the gym of my Monday night combat class, who is so professional in showing the exercises and yet so sweet in her smile and welcoming in making sure everyone’s doing alright. She’s great. Then Hannah Fry, whose work with data and whose talent in presenting science to the general public I admire a lot. Then a good and new friend of mine, who has an energy I can’t even imagine, for doing so many diverse things: she dances, plays the drums, crunches data, writes code, speaks languages, bikes, sews. But I could mention so many more people. Thanks for being what you are, fantastic.
I’ve recently watched the movie Hidden Figures. Brilliant. Funny. Self-ironical. Moving. Real story. Best movie I watched in a while, so well done. Thanks for telling us these stories.
There’s a good amount of research on the topic of gender bias. I was particularly struck by this Science paper, whose results are that children assimilate prejudices from a very young age. Disturbing.
Today, I got to know about the work of Bruce Holsinger, who reported how scholars in history have used their wives as free typists of their work, not even bothering thanking them with a name, let alone crediting them. Thanks for sharing this.
On the 8th of March I was happily surprised by a colleague (and co-founder of the company I work for), who did something which was, again, amazing:
Thank you for keeping the conversation going.