Grace Hopper was the single best conference I’ve ever attended. I’ve never been around so many smart professional technical women before and never been more thrilled to do it. And even as I managed to slip away for a handful of sessions, I was never without the feeling that we were not done yet.
It’s one thing to be at an event where women come from around the world to talk about technology and professional advancement. Once that brief moment of bonding is over and you split back to your respective appointments, you realize it is essentially over. If one was sharp, contact information would have been exchanged and follow-ups suggested. I never do that. Not because I don’t want to, but because I get so excited at these conferences, I never remember. The entire thing is fleeting. At some point, the thought comes up that when it really is over, everyone will go home, and a densely packed conference is now thinly spread over the globe. We go back to being the outliers.
I had very interesting conversations since the whole ‘Get Over Pink’ post over twitter with @tara and @kathytpham where a core problem of Pink Marketing was more of a problem than a solution. We also discovered there is no fleshed out alternative. Pink Marketing will alienate some young girls because of the weight behind the color, the implication of feminine leanings. Then again, a lot of girls are like this, so excluding it completely alienates them in the same right, forcing would-be engineers into the typical Engineer Stereotype. There are examples in the market now of more inclusive models, as I’ve cited Kim Possible and Gallagher Academy as some of those. There needs to be a more unified front, a more welcoming face to show young girls that there are women present here already who are just like them and that more is always better.
Also, these industries only represented hardcore technology. What about Consumer Tech, which is always the fastest way to reach people? Sure, there was Pixar, but what about EA? Sony Online Entertainment? Where are the games that take my mind off of the hours I spend at work? You can’t tell me they aren’t underrepresented as far as women are concerned. What about Samsung, who is opening a new User Experience Technology Lab right in Silicon Valley, adding new senior level jobs? What is their ratio? Did the conference not reach out to Consumer Technologies or do they just think they don’t need any more women than they already have? Not seeing these groups represented was not only disappointing, it was upsetting.
The biggest reason why we’re not done is because the question is still being asked why these conferences are needed. Why press it at all? Isn’t it reverse sexism? No. Well, not completely. Sure, some of those incidents happened, but it was why I talked about inviting men as well. It not only lets them see first hand what we’re working towards, but also what we’re truly capable of. When the men we bring can finally feel comfortable enough to socialize with those outside of their protective company, I think we would have made a great step.
It’s over and I can’t wait for it to come around again. Next time, I hope to reach out to the younger crowd. I plan to be more successful in trying to chat with our peers, especially those who work for our competitors. I definitely will drag any male teammates to a session. It’s their convention too.
Grace Hopper, thanks for everything.