Gender Diversity & Why Men Should Stay Out of the Discussion

March 11, 2007

I'm just now catching up on the controversy generated by Kottke's post on the lack of Gender diversity at web conferences and Eric Meyer's response (that event coordinators have trouble finding qualified women speakers). I suppose I'm glad that the topic is raised every so often. It's an issue that other people should be aware exists. However, I'm personally a little tired of reading the same responses and retorts repeated all over again. And I really can't bear to hear any more men weakly apologizing for something they, personally, have no control over.

The truth is that there is a lack of women speakers at web conferences and on the "A list." It's also true that fewer women attend these conferences. I'm at SXSW right now, and men clearly outnumber women. Yet I can't even completely fault the jerk guy who, when Kathy Sierra showed a photo of a woman coder, yelled out, "Hey, she can't be a coder!" (However, when later in her talk Sierra asked the coders to stand up, I rose to my feet with a feeling of pride. I wanted to turn and stick out my tongue, but resisted.) Because it's true. There are many fewer women coders than there are men.

You know, the thing is, I'm just plain tired of this old dialogue. I actually don't want to discuss this issue with men at all. Frankly, I feel that men don't really have a place in the solution to this problem, and so I'd prefer to leave them out of the discussion altogether.

What I do want to do is brainstorm with other women about how I can be more successful in my career while managing a family. I want to talk with other women about how I can feel comfortable with and learn to promote myself, speak in public and increase my visibility in the profession. I want to find out how other women are teaching their daughters they can do and be whatever they want, and that the only thing that can ever hold them back is themselves.

I don't want to rehash all the socio-politico-sexual reasons why women haven't been prominent—I want to know how I can be. I don't want to talk about whether or if or what men's attitudes or prejudices are—I don't need to know what the barriers are, just how to bust through or hurdle over them. I certainly don't want to waste my time trying to change anyone's mind. Instead, I want to know what I can do.

Because I believe absolutely that I can do or be whatever the hell I want to. No man can keep me from achieving what I want to achieve. And if I believe that—and I do—then this is my problem, not any man's. And the only one stopping me is me.


Between women, of which I am one (for over 50 years :-)
I think you might find that the best way for women to reach all their goals, is to keep them within reasonable limits. Sadly, I do not think I'll ever be able to achieve all that I want to achieve... not for not trying, but simply because life is too short! :-)
So rather than ending up being a frustrated wannabee-overachiever, I much prefer to be a happier underachiever. This said... best of luck to you, so that you can achieve all the goals you want! :-)