I’ll start with a personal controversial statement: I’ve never liked nor attended many “women’s events”. The very few I’ve been to I felt very uncomfortable hearing stories of being a victim. I’ve never seen myself as a victim in my industry, or for being my sex generally – it’s always made me feel very strong, empowered and special. I’ve also been more looked after and catered for sensitively than I have been harassed – both in technology, and the videogaming community. I know that’s not the same for everyone, and I realise “women” events are very useful for women who unlike me, may find their sex interferes with their career path, or life choices. I’ve always been in the “take it, and give it back in a disarmingly funny or smart way” club (or, you know, just ignore) when someone does something that I don’t like, regardless of their sex/colour/height/amountofbodyparts.
However, last month I saw a women’s only event I was interested in. Not because it was women’s only, but because it offered an opportunity for me to learn Ruby with other beginners, in what seemed a very friendly environment. It was this RailsGirlsLondon event. I was also keen to find out what women devs would be like – as a developer, I’ve never worked with one. As someone who helps companies build teams, I figured it’d be useful knowledge to ensure I could advise on how to set our teams up in a way that was more comfortable and engaging for women to see if that helps women join the companies I work with.
So, I applied, duly tweeted about it to promote it and sat to wait and hear about my application.
I found out last night I didn’t get in. And here’s why (from the organiser, when I asked directly):
We tried our best to select people based roughly on the following criteria:
– not much programming experience
– has perhaps attempted learning on their own, but were unsuccessful
To apply this, two of us (both girls), went through the application list individually and made selections. Then we went through the list together again comparing our thoughts. The ones that matched we accepted/rejected, the ones that mismatched we further discussed. Also, after making the final selection, a third person from the organising team, went through the selected attendees, to verify our decision. There was no clash of opinions at that point.
I have a big issue with this. An event to help women get into coding, that then excludes women based on organiser preference? So now I get to be made a double outsider – I’m a “woman in technology” who doesn’t qualify for some reason* to attend a “women in coding” event. * (I meet both those listed criteria they gave).
Why wasn’t this done as random selection? Or first 40 to sign up? Any way that would let everyone know they had equal chance?
So the community turns on itself, and gets to pick who’s in the club? No, I don’t buy that. That’s exactly why this (or any) industry can be hard for any outsiders to feel included in.
I want to end on a positive note.
I went to my first LRUG last night and in the room there was me and at one point, two other women, but mostly just me and around 80 guys. I was a bit nervous, even for me those odds were on the scary side of being the outsider. Also I was there with my recruiting hat on, not my technologist one – eep, double outsider! But you know what? I was made to feel completely included, everyone was nice, kind and charming, and I felt completely at home.
I’m going to stick to inclusive events as I always have, and hope that those trying to help the industry become inclusive start by taking a look closer to home.
Hyper Linda’s nails it, really:
I’ve left comments on, but I will only be publishing comments that are relevant to this specific post, not about women in technology in general. Thanks.