Is there really a shortage of girls in technology?

After last night’s Geek Girl Dinner, I’m starting to wonder. The restaurant was packed with women from all walks of geek life, talking geek, learning geeky stuff and having a good time. This event came straight after reading a Wellingtonista article about another tech event that managed to attract virtually no women at all ( A common theme among non women focused tech events in Wellington)

This made me really start to question if we have a shortage of geeky girls at all. And maybe there are other factors in play as to why we women aren’t pulling our weight in the male dominated tech arena.

Geek girls don’t look and act like Geek boys

A 19 year old stood up for a lightening talk and laughed about how she is used to being one of few girls in her comp sci class, how she feels the classes aren’t tailored to how she learns and how people think she’s weird for doing it. She was beautiful, articulated and charismatic. These traits are often mistaken for those of people in marketing (A complaint I hear a lot form women in tech).

I read with sadness Brenda’s article about her treatment in the tech industry which, sadly reads rather similarly to mine – re. being mistaken for the secretary or deemed unable to understand what the men are talking about. I have also had two conversations with two tech women in the US this week. Each of them had the same complaint: EVERYONE thinks I’m in PR!

I think the world expects geeks to be male, I just don’t think we fit the stereotype, and I wonder if many geeky girls even classify themselves as geeks? Maybe there are many of us lurking around somewhere, blissfully unaware that our fondness of WoW, algorithms and code actually categorise us as true blue geek heads.

Geek Girls will sort it out

I find it amusing how the approach to integrate women is for the men to ‘create more equal environments’. That’s rubbish. Sorry guys, you can’t fix this for us. Lets face it, events organised by you are tailored to you, no matter how much you focus group with the odd woman you meet, you wont be able to oganise an event for women half as well as women organise an event for women (hense the success of last night). I would suggest maybe attending a few women dominated events, sitting back and staying fairly quiet. You may find talk of ‘imposter syndrome’ stupid, you may find the giggling ‘Sorry I’m no good at public speaking’ statements annoying, but you will gain valuable insight into a way of doing things that the mainstream male dominated events don’t really cater to.

But what about the whole community?

In my experience, great imbalances don’t get fixed in a day. I really feel like last night I experienced a grass roots movement of people trying build a new culture in an industry that is crying out for one. A natural progression of a larger, more confident female tech scene is the integration with the male tech scene in an equal and really exciting way. We may have a shortage of girls in tech, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the typical Silicon Welly event would suggest. We also have the benefit of some very strong female leaders and sucess stories who are really getting behind the drive to encourage others like them to embrace their geeky side.

Girl Power!

11 thoughts on “Is there really a shortage of girls in technology?”

  1. I haven’t been to a girl geek session – but is it less intense than a typical boy geek meetup? I would not be adverse to more stylish and relaxed meetups. The hardest thing I find about being around nerds is how intense it is. More relaxation, style and confidence would be a welcome addition to the community.

  2. I’d say so! I find it more of a learning environment, where people aren’t afraid to look silly or to admit they don’t know. Huge range of people etc, and clearly very stylish because Decisive Flow goes along.

    I concur, we need a more relaxed atmosphere sometimes. Sometimes intensity works, sometimes you just want to sit back and chat about interesting stuff!

  3. People assuming you are the secretary is unfair but hardly a deliberate or malicious act on anyone’s part. If 98% of the tech people you meet are male then anyone would be surprised to find a tech girl. Women make lots of assumptions about ‘all men’ as well :)

    I’m sure all geek guys would love to see more women at our events, but how would we achieve that? If there is something we can do better, then please don’t keep it a secret. Enlighten us rather than just complaining about it.

    Let’s face it, the chances of most of us finding ourselves at a women-dominated tech event are pretty slim.

    The picture I have in my head is like a tupperware party with iPhones. How close am I? ;)

  4. I don’t doubt that you have the experiences you say you do, but I find that I often have the diametrically opposite one — I find a woman in a tech setting (typically when I’m looking for help) and launch into an explanation of what I need only to be met with a blank stare and a suggestion that I talk to “someone technical”. I’m sorry, I assumed I was already.

    On the other hand it may be the case that when I make the same assumption and mistake with a male they try to bullshit their way through.

  5. Oh, another thing :-)

    I’ve repeatedly found that when looking for something in Dick Smith, if there is a female staff member then she will be a very good bet for being clued up about what they’ve got and what it can do — as opposed to most of the guys they employ. I’ve found this in at least the Porirua, Johnsonville and Vivian St stores over a period of a few years.

    This seems positive to me, though maybe it could be construed as meaning that a woman has to be twice as good to get hired.

  6. Wow. This conversation always gets so difficult. I’m NOT complaining, I’m pointing out that we are on the road to sorting this gender imbalance out. I don’t know why every time a girl mentions the lack of girls in technology or the reasons why, we get dismissed for simply complaining. it is NOT complaining, it is coming up with constructive ways to fix the problem.

  7. I’m sorry I thought you were complaining. I guess I was confused by what you wrote in your own article:

    “Each of them had the same complaint: EVERYONE thinks I’m in PR!”

    ;)

    My point was that you suggested that in order to run women friendly events we should somehow locate and sneak into a woman-dominated event and try to work out what the women like about it.

    I suggest that’s a rather unfeasible approach. Women are always telling us that they are the better communicators. Would it not be a lot easier if you just told us?

  8. Keep at it. Volunteer. Take over the Geek-World. Become President of the Computer Society. Join Women in Technology.

    When (much) younger I used to always prefer to hire woman as analysts designers and programmers – their logic was logical and they always got on with delivering the output, whereas a real geek guy wanted to tweak one little routine to death because it was interesting. Thank Gaia my daughter (one of them) continues the family tradition of geekiness.

    Go well, live long, prosper and have happy daze

  9. Ha ha thanks Brian! Paul, Geek Girl Dinners are hardly undercover! They are well advertised, have a website etc and tickets tend to sell out the day they are posted. We’re not suggesting cloak and daggers, just that maybe when you hear about an event, you buy a ticket. These events are exactly what you’re after. A showcase of what interests geek girls (well some of us, I can’t talk for everyone) AND they are open to ALL. We even had some male participants :)

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