I’ve changed my mind about this subject!
To read about why and how I don’t believe this anymore, please read Women and conferences.
Every time I hear these dreaded phrases, “Women in business”, “Women in tech”, “Women at conferences” I just groan. It’s really boring.
Examples. “There’s only x% of women at this conference” or “There’s no female speakers at this conference.” Not just as observations (there’s nothing wrong in stating the obvious,) but saying it’s a negative point. I couldn’t care less how many other girls there are at a conference.
Asides from it being a complete bonus when there’s no queue for the Ladies, I’d rather a conference was full of eager people who bought their tickets because they were interested and wanted to engage with other attendees. Would you rather there were 100% enthusiastic, participatory attendees or a conference where there was 50/50 male/female attendees where 30% were just there to make up the numbers and weren’t bothered about being there?
As for speakers, maybe there are more male leaders (not exclusively, there are some brilliant female speakers) in the industry. The quality of a conference shouldn’t be compromised just in order to get some female speakers. Get the best speakers you can, and just don’t discriminate against having great women when they do emerge.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand people who are working for female equality. I appreciate it. I’m not really a feminist, as nowadays feminism seems to mean that men can’t say or do anything and women can act like female-equivalent of chauvinists as they like (See Loose Women and other embarrassing examples.)
I find being singled out as female isn’t the same as being equal. Reverse discrimination isn’t as positive as it often seems. Gender is completely irrelevant in the tech industry, certainly at conferences and definitely in business. We’re not talking about manual labour or track running here, where women and men are clearly different. Why should women be remarkable just for existing in these industries?
As a designer, I don’t think my design work reflects my gender. Certainly cultural and environmental factors must impact on my work, but design work is about context. Design work reflects the context of the project and the context of the client. I don’t like pink because I’m female but I might use pink on a site if I think it’s appropriate. I don’t think you could tell I’m a girl just by looking at my work (though correct me if I’m wrong, because if you can then I’m doing something wrong!)
There’s issues with most industries being male or female-dominated. That’s not going to change overnight. But in the same way, I really can’t say that anything in business, tech or conferences have ever put me off being a part of it. There are so many factors affecting genders in work, be it education, culture, or actual discrimination. Let’s just get rid of the discrimination part, and when it’s not a problem, let’s not make it an issue.
And finally, let me be completely honest. If anybody talks about me as being a “woman in business”, a “woman in tech” or a “woman at a conference”, not only is it weird being referred to as a woman (I’m not that old!) but I also find it pretty fucking patronising.