No, this post won’t bash men. Instead, I’d like to chat with the women out there, tho’ I hope the men out there read it, too.
Specifically, I want to speak to women in geek communities but who aren’t geeks themselves.
Most male geeks already respect smart geek women (and people of color, and paraplegics, and ugly people), and have done so since probably forever, certainly since I’ve been a geek. It’s non-geek women who don’t respect us as geeks. Oh, you notice us if we’re attractive, or if we can at least pass for normal, but you don’t really respect our intelligence like you respect male geeks.
Got your attention? Whew. Stick with me, please ;-)
Dear Female Reader,
I am a colleague, friend, or acquaintance of your husband, boyfriend, brother, son, and I’m a geek. You know this because we are members of the same geek communities. You’ve told me about your frustrations trying to get the attention of your male geek for help with some tech problem. If you do get their attention, you tell me they’re impatient or otherwise not helpful (not mean, just not very helpful). Most of you say you are supportive of geek women, which is great. If you’re sincere then I have a challenge for you. For one month go to one of your female geek pals for help instead of a guy. I bet you know someone in your circle who can help. If not, then by all means get the info anywhere you can. But give the women a try first. You might be surprised.
A Female Geek
Where does this come from? Well, I’ve had the subject of women in professions on my mind for a while now, but two recent events prompted me to get off my butt and write: a conversation with Ponzi last weekend and a post by Maryam about Blogher. I dearly love these two women: my life is better for their friendship, so, don’t construe this as criticism. I’m not picking on you or your guys.
Ponzi and Maryam’s significant others (Chris and Robert, respectively) have excellent minds and fine characters. I understand the tendency to rely on them for tech help, if for no other reason than they’re loud!
Even tho’ Chris and Robert are a couple of smarty-pants, they have their weaknesses. One weakness is they are NOT user advocates. They’re early adopters and leaders for communities of Über users. They’re brilliant at digesting the implications of new technology. They are important resources for vendors who want to investigate market directions. But they don’t “do” just-regular-folk. Can you imagine Chris spending the time necessary to overcome the habit an office worker has of first printing, then deleting, every email she receives? I don’t want to think what Robert would say to a worker who expresses resentment for new software that will surely put him out of work.
If Ponzi and Maryam are sincere about recognizing women in technology, and I believe they are, then use me and my sisters as technologists. For example, Ponzi has relied on Chris for help with her unmanageable email inbox. It was a problem for her months ago when I first offered to show her some useful tricks. It was still a problem for her last weekend when we last chatted about it. Admittedly with a bit of a sniff, I reminded Ponzi that I’m a geek. Ponzi is so sweet! She said it’s hard for her to remember I’m a geek. (Guess that teaches me to bathe daily.)
Well, I AM a geek. And a damn good one. Not only am I geek but part of my job is to help non-geeks implement technology. I’m damned good at that, too. Better than Chris or Robert. (Again with the sniff.)
Maryam’s post about Blogher was another spur. I love what Maryam is doing—she’s a fine leader for the community of blogging in general and female bloggers in particular. But, the post made Blogher seem to be about fashion, gossip, and kids. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in any of that, but that’s not what will get me to a conference.
I don’t mind the wetware stuff, but advertising women as mommies and hotties, well, seems so 70’s. Most women in technology I know just want to be people and talk about geek stuff. Men already notice tits and asses without any extra prompting.
I’m confident that male geeks will listen to a female speaker on technology issues if she’s got high quality geek content–I know they do. They won’t go because she’s hot. Sure, they’ll want to talk to her between sessions, but they go presentations because of content, not sex.
I tell young girls that computer technology is a great field for women because geeks care about knowledge, not appearance. Please, don’t make female computer scientists have to pass a wet t-shirt contest in addition to keeping up with the incredibly fast pace of the profession.
See us as geeks, it’s how we see ourselves, and we love a chance to show our passion off to you, our female friends.