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Gender *in* Technology

2009 March 2
by Laura Blankenship

Gender and Blogging SessionI only have a few minutes so this won’t be quite as thoughtful as I want it to be, but while at Northern Voice, I spontaneously gave a talk on the issue of Gender in Blogging, my main idea being that in certain blog realms, especially the tech realm, women are poorly represented, both in blogs and in comments on other blogs.  This conversation began in the comment sections of two blog posts, and my co-presenter and I wanted to continue the conversation face-to-face and get some new voices into the mix.  It was a somewhat unsatisfying conversation since we didn’t get to even scratch the surface of the issues.  You can see some of the results that came out of the conversation in this photo.

This morning, my co-presenter Tweeted (that is, sent via Twitter) a link to a provocative post on a similar issue, women speaking at Tech Conferences.  My point in the original conversation linked in the paragraph above was that if those of us blogging about our field are representative of our field, then that means that our field is skewed male and that’s a problem, because the field is missing a perspective and an audience that would probably be beneficial to it, maybe even profitable.  And that’s kind of what the post linked here suggests.  Every time this issue comes up, though, the discussion seems to devolve into something about whether diversity is all that important or there are plenty of opportunities for women to blog or speak or whatever and they just choose not to.  The Internet and technology more generally, people claim, is not biased.  I don’t think so.  I think that the Internet and technology have human beings behind them and *they* are biased even if they don’t want to be and that can create bias in conference speakers, bloggers and more.  If you’re attracted to like-minded people and if you think like-minded means those who look like you, well then, you end up calling up speakers who look like you or reading blogs by people who look like you, etc.

I think this is related to aalch’s question about why professions end up so divided along gender lines.  I don’t think the answer is simple, whether we’re talking about mill workers at the turn of the last century or the technology field at the turn of this century.  Gender norms cause people to do things that shape professions.  That may be women conforming to gender norms or men.  The whole thing also makes me pretty angry, only I’m not sure at whom I should direct my anger.  A lot of people, including lots of men in the tech industry, seem to want to figure this out, but can’t.  Is there an answer to this?  Is there a way to bring balance in male-dominated fields?

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