Posts Tagged ‘tech’

Women, Entrepreneurs and Tech

Debate has been ravaging the internet for sometime about why there are few female entrepreneurs and / or engineers speaking at events, and generally in the public eye. I have fairly strong opinions on the matter, but don’t often voice them online – I leave this fun debate for the real word. Until today.

Michael Arrington recently posted about his experience of finding women to speak at his conferences, and concluded that it was not the fault of men that the ratios are poor. His argument: that he tried to find women, but they simply weren’t there. Sure, I can’t fault him for trying, but he failed to dig deeper into why it was hard to find women, and simply decided that it wasn’t his fault.

More recently I saw a Ellie Cachette’s post claiming that the reason we aren’t entrepreneurial is because we want families and babies. Whilst this may be true, I think it is a poor argument and does no service to women. Controversial, Moi?

It shifts the focus of why we don’t find my female entrepreneurs into an argument over choice, which simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. More women are choosing to wait longer before starting a family, and many are choosing not to at all. There is plenty of time for most women to explore their entrepreneurial spirit before starting a family.

In my world*, many of my friends don’t even want babies, let alone have them already**. Sure I’ve had conversations with my friends about kids, but they are all set in some future hypothetical world.

Whilst some women may choose family over job (and I wouldn’t criticise them for that), I don’t think the inequality we face in this industry can be explain by this. Something deeper is at work.

Take a moment, and think of a Nurse and Builder. Keep them in mind.

I believe that much of the inequality faced by women in the workplace today, with or without entrepreneurial spirit can be tracked back to much earlier in life. From a young age we are raised in a highly gendered society where boys play with guns and girls play with barbies. Throughout all of our lives we are bombarded by a media which portrays women in a weak and subservient way, and worst of all. These myths are drummed into us continually, until they become expectations.

Now think again of your mental images of the Nurse and the Builder. I would wager that they are female and male respectively. This is an extreme example of the social conditioning of gender expectations that takes place in western society today.

We are bought up to conform to certain expectations and it takes enormous will power to break free from the mould. Far more women (and men) are doing this than ever before, but it will take at least a generation or two for this to really take effect. Kids being raised today in a world where gender stereotypes are less relevant will hopefully raise their kids into a world where it is almost irrelevant.

* as I write this I’m approaching 27, I live in London (for now), live in a highly cosmopolitan world, and have an incredibly diverse set of friends and experiences.

** the few who do have kids are all from religious background, and as much as I love them, don’t really form part of the everyday world I live in

Social Media Douchebags are Just Douchebags in Social Media

 

 
There is a certain amount of constructed jealousy from the alpha geeks who coined this phrase. After all, who wouldn’t want a job where apparently all you have to do is what we all do for fun (tweet, blog, tag, text, post, ping, write, etc). Just to be clear, I know this isn’t actually all that Social Media types do… at least not the good ones, much more goes into working in an industry where communication is key. I have a lot of respect for many of these people, and am proud to call some of them my friends.
One of the phrases I often hear when Social Media becomes the topic of conversation is “Why don’t they just get real jobs?”, normally uttered by software developers or engineers. I myself may have uttered such a phrase from time to time. I think this stems from the small group of people who want to be social media types, because they don’t want to work – in other words, from the same misguided constructed jealousy that caused techies to claim the phrase “Social Media Douchebag.” Ironically those who hate most on Social Media types are not only the most jealeous, but also the people who would be the worst at it. They simply don’t get what it’s about. I’m no Social Media expert (well, not yet!), but I think I have a pretty good idea of the industry and many of the concepts it revolves around. 
In any industry (especially technology) there are douchebags, twats and pretenders who really don’t get their subject field, and so bring their entire subject into disrepute. By no means is Social Media isolated from this. There are certainly Social Media Douchbags out there, but they are Douchebags by nature, not because of Social Media. We’ve all got friends who tell us all they want to do is tweet all day and go to parties, and that they want to quit their job to become a Social Media Consultant. What these people really don’t get is that there is so much more work to it than just going to parties. You actually have to be good at what you do, not just at drinking Cosmopolitans and Dom Perignon.
Social Media Douchbags aren’t Douchebags because they are in Social Media. They are just plain old Douchebags. The same applies to the arrogant alpha geeks. Douchebags, like the rest of them.

Why do we in the tech community make so much fun of so called “Social Media Douchebags”?

There is a certain amount of constructed jealousy from the alpha geeks who coined this phrase. After all, who wouldn’t want a job where apparently all you have to do is what we all do for fun (tweet, blog, tag, text, post, ping, write, etc). Just to be clear, I know this isn’t actually all that Social Media types do… at least not the good ones, much more goes into working in an industry where communication is key. I have a lot of respect for many of these people, and am proud to call some of them my friends.

One of the phrases I often hear when Social Media becomes the topic of conversation is “Why don’t they just get real jobs?“, normally uttered by software developers or engineers. I myself may have uttered such a phrase from time to time. I think this stems from the small group of people who want to be social media types, because they don’t want to work – in other words, from the same misguided constructed jealousy that caused techies to claim the phrase “Social Media Douchebag.” Ironically those who hate most on Social Media types are not only the most jealous, but also the people who would be the worst at it. They simply don’t get what it’s about*. 

In any industry (especially technology) there are douchebags, twats and pretenders who really don’t get their subject field, and so bring their entire subject into disrepute. By no means is Social Media isolated from this. There are certainly Social Media Douchbags out there, but they are Douchebags by nature, not because of Social Media. We’ve all got friends who tell us all they want to do is tweet all day and go to parties, and that they want to quit their job to become a Social Media Consultant. What these people really don’t get is that there is so much more work to it than just going to parties. You actually have to be good at what you do, not just at drinking Cosmopolitans and Dom Perignon.

Social Media Douchbags aren’t Douchebags because they are in Social Media. They are just plain old Douchebags. The same applies to the arrogant alpha geeks. Douchebags, like the rest of them.

*I’m no Social Media expert (well, not yet!), but I think I have a pretty good idea of the industry and many of the concepts it revolves around. 

BarCamps are not just for techies

I’ve been following two events recently, Unsheffield and TweetCamp. They’re both BarCamp style events with high levels of self organisation, and I’m really pleased that people are taking the time to run events like this. Unfortunately, they have both taken the line that they are moving away from or different to Barcamp because Barcamps are aimed solely at the tech community. And this frustrates me.

I’m fed up of people perpetuating the myth that BarCamps are just for techies. Seriously fed up. Yes, there are a bunch of technical folk who attend these events, and yes they may be the majority, but that majority is not large. Out of all of the many BarCamps I have ever been to I have rarely been to a “technical” talk, and only myself given one that was in any way technical (that was demonstrating my dissertation project and was seriously cool). 

By segregating “geeks, hackers and core techies” from regular people you are only diving apart the community of people who desire to “share and learn in an open environment.” And yes, we are one community, with members from all sorts of backgrounds. Our community is defined by our desire to share and learn, and not by the types of activities we do (hack, paint, fish, etc.). Anyone, from any walk of life, any background, and profession and or any experience level should be comfortable being a member of this community. 

Did anyone honestly find BarCampLondon6 too technical? In fact, there were some people who complained that it was not geeky enough, lacking a dedicated hackspace or way for hackers to get together, but I do not see BarCamp as a hackspace. BarCamp has been and should always be about sharing knowledge, whatever that knowledge is. BarCampLondon6 had sessions on Reflexology, Sourdough Bread Making, Tai Chi, Making your own drop spindle(spinning wool with a potato), and other BarCamps have had similarly diverse sessions.

I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be other events, there should and needs to be. Nor am I suggesting that TweetCamp shouldn’t happen, though I am of the opinion it would be better off with less structure. To fully engender the experience of Twitter in the real world I think it is necessary to duplicate the experience as closely as possible. Since Twitter is a fully unstructured environment, perhaps it would be beneficial to have a TweetCamp in a bar or a park or a coffee shop without the (self) organisation of BarCamp style sessions.

I applaud the efforts of the organisers of Unsheffield to see the potential to engage more people. Reaching out to different communities by re branding and widening your event is a great thing. But peddling false rhetoric about the technical basis of barcamp is unjust. If you want to separate yourself from BarCamp then you should, but denigrating it to increase the potential of your own event is just petty. Similarly, justifying TweetCamp by saying that BarCamp is not for “regular” people undermines all of the work many of us put into uniting this community of open minded knowledge seekers. 

BarCamps are not exclusivley for “geeks“, and similarly *Camps and Unconferences are not just for “regular” people. They all exist for anyone and everyone who has a desire to learn and and a passion for sharing.