On Being A Woman (In Tech)

This weeks Girl Geek Dinner (which is more snacks than actual dinner) is about Women in Technology and breaking down the barriers. Another topic on the blog and elsewhere has been about the perception of women in technology. Lisa had a great interview published and it got me to thinking about some stuff I’ve had happen to me lately.

We are different, apparently, us female SEOs. I did miss the memo and so when Iíve been reminded, itís always been a shock. Iím not sure what it is, but somehow my DNA must have an anti-tech bent to it so that as a woman, I cannot possibly be good at anything technical. Or reading map directions. So I suppose the female SEO is a genetic abnormality, making me odd (but I knew that already).

There have been some great female SEOs and usability experts and web developers that have done the conference circuit, blogged and made a name for themselves while paving the way for the rest of us who followed silently. These women have really been excellent role models for everyone – not just seo-chicks *winks* They have really helped change attitudes.

Despite all these fantastic women have done for us, I have experienced discrimination as recently as May 2007. In my darker moments it seems like it doesn’t matter what I know – the perception is that as a female I can’t possibly know what I’m doing.

I don’t want special treatment for being female. It would be nice to be recognised for what I know, how long Iíve been doing it and for the contributions Iíve made by writing my own articles (as well as blogging here) along with speaking at conferences. I did start young but so did all the guys in the class with me plus the sysop who ran our line in to the internet. We all started early together.

The people I have worked for in the past have been spectacular at supporting me and believing in me – especially when they saw my results. And to my female programming teacher who tried to stop me taking the PASCAL programming class because ‘programming was no place for a girl’ I still say :-P

Join me at Girl Geek Dinners Thursday August 16th for which FREE tickets are still left. For geeky women, by geeky women Ė men can come but only in the company of a woman. You sign up for FREE at http://londongirlgeekdinnerparty.eventbrite.com/ password: girlygeekdom

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6 Responses to “On Being A Woman (In Tech)”

  1. Julie Joyce says:

    Judith…an absolutely perfect post, seriously. I know that some are tired of hearing women in SEO complain about this problem, but it’s been pervasive enough that I don’t think it’s as “in the past” as I had hoped.

  2. Heather says:

    Interesting. I’m sure your instructor would be shocked to learn that the first computer program compiler was made by a Rear Admiral “Amazing” Grace Hopper back in 1940′s. (She was also a key programmer for the that computer language — COBOL — which was used until the 1980′s. Talk about a woman breaking down barriers!

  3. Judith Lewis says:

    @Heather – I wish I had known that at the time I was teased and nerd-bullied (in as much as geeks and nerds do bullying behaviour). It would have been a great confidence boost to know I was just walking a path someone else had walked before.

    That is just so rockingly cool!

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    It’s also worth noting that Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, is credited with first describing how Charles Babbage’s analytical engine could could be programmed. It was as early as the 1840s when she was writing papers that basically foretold the future development of computer software.

    English literature merging with mathematics…I am in utter heaven right now.

  5. [...] recent post about women in tech drew a comment about Grace Hopper, a woman who was involved in the development of COBOL (I can [...]

  6. DianeV says:

    Oh no, just snacks?! (Just kidding.)

    Thanks for including developedtraffic.com; that gave me pause.

    And, my apologies ó I’ve been intending to respond but haven’t known what to say about the "females in tech" issue. In a way, I’m like you, Judith; I don’t want special treatment because that reads to me as if, due to the fact of being female, we somehow require extra “help” in order to be effective and successful in our fields. But I think there are a couple of things to take into account:

    First, it may be easier for me because I run my own company, but the fact is that I absolutely do not approach business from the standpoint of being a female. I think ongoing demonstrations of effectiveness speak far more loudly than seeking support because I’m a female. In this, I really liked what Sugarrae had to say about it:

    To others like me, and to women still trying to find their inner confidence to be themselves and take the opportunities they make in life, rather than those simply ďpresentedĒ to them …

    I think that’s great advice, no matter who you are or what gender. There’s everything right about getting out there and creating whatever it is you want, and it’s not as if women (or men) need anyone’s permission to get out there and create our own companies, success, whatever.

    Secondly: the fact that the "women in tech" issue is being discussed a lot lately leads me to wonder whether some (many?) women are experiencing some kind of invalidation or discrimination. I don’t fault anyone who feels she needs some type of support against invalidation. At the very least, one can speak up. However, I can’t imagine staying in that type of environment.

    There’s too much life to be lived to spend it with duds.

    And, while working for someone else is not my cup of tea, I’d have these questions if you’re in a job that keeps you down simply because you’re a female:

    - why work in an environment in which there is blatant (or implied) sexual discrimination?
    - what kind of a future do you think you’ll have there?

    Lastly, I wonder whether growing a thicker skin (that is, being less sensitive) might be in order, assuming that the problem is not (a) over-sensitivity or (b) actual sexual discrimination. In the SEO field, we’ve seen all kinds of people declare all kinds of things. Some will even imply one way or another that they’re better at something than anyone else walking the planet, whether there’s any evidence to back it up or not. Heck, some may even try to get you to agree to it ó especially if you’re in the same field (i.e., competition). I think that speaks more about the person’s secureness with his skills than anything it may have to do with me. Or you.


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