Friday, April 04, 2014

Why you will rarely find me at all female events

I am all for going out with the girls and meeting and supporting women/girls in technology fields but you will rarely find me at female only events.  I know that may seem odd considering I will speak about the challenges I have had as a women in technology.  I am always supporting groups that are trying to keep girls interested in STEM subjects.  I will always answer questions about the difficulties I have had or who got me interested in the technologies I now work to secure.  So why is it I do not go to gender exclusive events? Is that not one in the same?

I want to say no, no it is not.  When asked who my role models were who got me into technology, the answer never changes. My father. Who was my mentor who pointed me toward security? A man named Sean, who called me out when I pretended not to know something and he knew better.  So while I am more than willing to assist females and talk to them about technology I cannot help but remember who got me started and why I am where I am today.  I have spent my entire career working with mostly men, sometimes outnumbered 15 to 1.  So you might think I might relish a chance to talk tech with other women, and you would not be incorrect. What I do not desire is talking in an echo chamber, in an exclusive group that would deny others access.  These men did not deny me access when I did not fit the social norm.

The reality is women are outnumbered in STEM fields. Many women working in these fields will talk about how they have worked harder, been discriminated against or treated as inferior based on their gender. Many of those same women will also tell you that men helped steer them toward this career.  We will not be able to advance or increase the numbers of women in technologies fields by excluding the very same group that helped us get that start.  Excluding the majority of people in our field will only support the minority of that same group who believes we are incapable.  It is only by being inclusive that we can have open conversations about the challenges we all face in our field.  The issues are rarely truly gender exclusive.

So yes support the girls, young ladies and women who show interest in STEM fields and support them, nurture them, be their mentor but do not stop with females. There is no reason men cannot learn from us in the same ways.  The only way we can be truly equal is to actually be equal in all ways and not exclusive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do see your point. No one wins when intelligent, hard working people are excluded.

However, I'm more than happy to attend the Women in CyberSecurity conference. It gives me the chance, as a woman, to present to an audience I feel comfortable with.

At a recent con, I saw multiple slides with content like: "If your vagina had a password, it'd be 12345" and another slide with a young girl struggling to read with the caption "Eh, screw it, I'll just become a stripper".

I'm not going to moan and groan about the implications. I'm an adult, and I know they were meant as a joke. However, it does have the effect of making women less welcome in the community