February 12, 2007
RE: Women and Conferences
This again is one of those CC the world posts. Earlier today, a list I'm on for women in tech had this subject line: re: women and conferences.
I wonder why is this is the issue on which the most energy is expended on this list? Is the future of women in technology truly tied to the numbers of us speaking at conferences?
I replied (and a bunch of folks asked me to blog this reply):
I think it's an important part of what goes on, speaking. There is a feedback loop:
Speak -> be seen as a leader in the topic area and eventually be considered in leadership positions
Be in leadership position - > be asked to speak because of that leadership position in area
If you aren't in the loop you aren't as important as others with similar skills sets and expertise in the eyes of those who fund, engage for consulting, hire for leadership positions, take in PhD candidates or whatever it is that requires discernment between people.
It's not that anyyone has to speak, but it would be great if more women were speaking, because it brings an additional layer of diversity that right now is lacking in many labs, financial firms, development perspectives (the focus of software and websites, etc) and in their leadership circles.
Girls also need strong confirmation through repeated messaging from parents (mothers and fathers) as well as others who can relate to kids but are in leadership positions. Most people are very bad at visualizing. Example: when you go to Ikea they set up a room, so you can see it in person, instead of being asked to visualize something based on items inside a cardboard box and line drawing with measurements. Good contractors even mock up a kitchen in cardboard and shims so the owners can "live" in it to see the traffic and usage patters.
Girls need that same help with leadership. Boys get that help much more often, which is why they can visualize it better.
My dad, when I was little, took me to work all the time. He was a CEO in a company with several hundred people onsite and 45 offices around the world that he established. He used to let me help him write his speeches. I grew up believing I could do that, because he showed me how. And on the weekends, he actually enjoyed spending his time doing things like digging up the sewage system in our backyard and replacing the pipes, or rewiring our bathroom, both of which I did with him, as his assistant, and after a while he let me do the stuff with him as my assistant. I know I'm lucky and unusual to have had those experiences, as well as a mom who was managing partner in her lawfirm as an example, and not everyone gets that.. but I think the "speaker" issue is a huge code word for "...My God, we need to get this together for girls whether they want to be engineers, CEOs, Scientists, Exec Dir.s of Non profits, VCs or whatever." In other words, if girls want it, let's make it possible for them.
Last night I went to a tempura party, and there was a Phd in neuroscience from UCB there, and I asked what she was doing when she's done at the end of the semester. She replied that she would teach because having a lab is out of the question. She didn't want to play the games the boys play to raise all the money and compete in those ways to lead her own lab. %$#@^$%&
This is what I hear from women who would like to start a software company, about VCs. It's too much to play those kinds of games without some mentorship and help, and we need to make it easier. I don't think it's that women don't want to compete, they just want the competition to be about something, not just an arbitrary game to weed out the people with no patience for that game.
I know there are many issues, but speaking is one piece of this puzzle.
We have discussed it so much here (on this email list) and elsewhere that it's loaded with subtext and frustration and expectation and desire and to some degree, the wish to just force the issue through exposure, shame (on conference givers) as well as educating them, and brute force. It may not be the best way, but I think this is some measure of what is happening on our list, where people spend a lot of time talking about the number of women speakers.
My two cents.
February 10, 2007
This is one of those CC-the-world posts
So, my sweet Mac got smashed. I'd maxed out the 1 gb of ram a year and a half ago, and was constantly both backing parts of it up (my movies and photos mostly, a few key documents, but it's maxed out on those things too) and either deleting files or removing big video files to the external drive I have in order to make room. What a pain. I've needed a new computer for a while, but I was trying to hit a particular milestone before I bought a MacBook pro. Well, once the corner got smashed a few days ago, that was it. I had to do it because it won't close. And it's acting really funny in that I can't seem to get it to shut down properly or backup the past week or so. Yikes.
I was on the Apple site, comparing prices with other sites that sell Macs, and figured out I could do better with Apple, by $350, but the remaining question was: which harddrive? The one it comes with is 120 gbs, at 5400 rpms, or you can upgrade to a 160 gb, 5400 rpm, or (and this is very tempting, in that I edit a lot of video on my laptop) a 200 gb HD with 4200 rpm.
The only person I could think of who I could call and possibly get a recommendation at 8:45am on Saturday morning in order to press the "buy" button now is Doc Searls. So I rang, and he picked up from the UCSB Newspapers 2.0 conf (yeah.. I told him I'm waiting for Kitchen 2.0 or Carburetors 2.0 conf. I mean WTF.. why is everything 2.0.. I'm so tired of 2.0. And he agreed that even though it had been named months ago, it was all a bit tired, that 2.0 thing. How about if we just talk about stuff and include social interaction and the web as part of all universes now that it pretty much is, online?) Anyway, Doc says, Dan and JD are here, and we start in 7 minutes. I said I need your one minute assessment of harddrives for MacBooks (Doc is the one who got me to get the external harddrive I have now, which is really an internal harddrive, in a case, for a mac.) A second passed and he said, I know nothing.
Then another second passes, and he's off on a tear telling me that having more room means having faster access so the rpm speed matters less, and when he got his HD that was bigger at 5400 rpms he thought it was faster than his smaller HD with 7600 rpms and that there isn't that much difference but on the other hand the fragmentation of the drive matters much more in terms of performance and so using the defrag utility regularly is key and then some stuff about heat and the machine came up as well as density of the information and corruptibility and so actually I should in the end, considering all all that, get the 200 gb HD with 4200 rpms. 1 minute.
So I ordered. Hit the buy button. We hung up. And Doc went off to talk about Newspapers 2.0. Whatever that means.
Thanks Doc. That was perfect.
Oh, and I'm going to frame my old cover because I do really like it: