Ludwig Wendzich

Getting women into tech

Let me start right off the bat by saying this: I see no reason why a woman can’t do the same job I can. I see no reason they should be paid less than me do for doing the same job and I think there’s no excuse for anyone to be harassed in any environment, especially at their workplace and the industry they work in.

In saying that, I really dislike competitions/programmes that try and get women into the technology sector. What is this? Women need to be tricked to work in our industry? They aren’t stupid. These strong-armed “W00t W0m3n” attempts say a couple of things:

  1. There are no women in this industry. If you decide to come into the industry, you will be all alone. The one women in a room full of men.
  2. If you are a women wanting to get into this industry, you’ll need our help to get here, you can’t do it alone.
  3. Women need to be tricked into joining our industry because this isn’t something they naturally want to do, anyway.

I think those are the messages we send to women when we carry on with these ridiculous, panderous programmes.

Not one to just rant and not offer solutions, here’s what I think we should do:

  1. Make sure that our industry is absolutely harassment free for anyone who wants to be a part of it. I run a conference that I’m glad to say has a reputation for being quite good at this. Other conferences and events are striving to do the same. Make sure this happens in your workplace as well.
  2. Celebrate women for their success in our industry, without adding the “she’s a women” clause. Girl Geek Dinners do this brilliantly, only women speak, but those women aren’t there because they are women, they are there because they are awesome. Whenever I hear a “Marissa Meyer is amazing and she’s a women” type story I want to punch someone. (Same thing with age, by the way.)
  3. Make sure that young people see these great role models alongside their male counterparts and make nothing of it. Don’t treat it like a strange thing. By doing that, you are perpetuating the idea that women don’t belong here and holy crap, look — there’s one!

At Gather last year there was a conversation about women in tech and all the things we could do to fix this issue (because it is a problem.) Since then, Girl Geek Dinners have picked up in Auckland with full steam, a brilliant programme.

The percentage of female Gather attendees has grown from 21% in 2012 to 29% in 2013. Our Gather Workshops programme has more girls participating who attend than boys – plus we find that the girls are waaaay more engaged than the boys (and we’re not pandering to them).

I’m not saying that we have solved this problem or that we have all the answers, but I do think that we’re making some progress. And all we’re doing is following the three suggestions above.

My opinions are based on my own experiences of being “young” all the time and the stories I have heard from woman (both younger and older) about their experiences in the tech industry. I’d definitely be interested to hear from women about how they think we should be doing this, however.