What will work

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Both Tara Hunt and The Head Lemur have written on the Office 2.0 conference and the fact that of the 53 speakers, only one is a woman. Exactly one.

This isn’t a conference on esoteric technology where the participants rush out and say, ‘There are no women who do X’, whatever ‘X’ is. This is a conference that encompasses a broad range of interests related to a concept of Office 2.0, and features people like Michael Arrington and Stowe Boyd, both of whom don’t have any specific technical background.

The conference organizer wrote in Tara’s comments that we should suggest some women and to point out the conference, but that makes little sense when the conference is a month away, the speakers have already been slotted, and the organizer is less interested in representing women and more in getting attention directed to his conference. Well, he has his wish: I am giving him attention.

I have been told that the way to make a difference is for women to be more proactive; to submit proposals for conferences, to put ourselves on lists, to create our own conferences and web sites. I’ve been told these things, and I’ve watched as this has become the ‘accepted’ way to generate change in this Web 2.0 world. The thing is, I don’t see that it’s working.

I see Office 2.0, located in the Silicon Valley the very bastion of women who celebrate the concept of ‘working from within’, and there’s only one woman on the list. One.

There are some women, small numbers, at these conferences but it’s the same group of women; the same ones over and over, as if there’s a list that men pass around of women who are ’safe’ to have at these conferences. Isn’t the point of working from within to open opportunities for all women, not just a few?

Still, if the conference organizer had included at least some from this list, he would have gotten credit for at least making a token effort. But such lack of regard and interest in a woman’s perspective: what would cause a conference organization to go in such a direction?

If my approach of rocking the boat–highlighting such events, using satire and anger in equal parts, to demand to be heard–isn’t the way to go, working quietly from within doesn’t seem to be the right approach either. What other approach, then, do we need to follow? What do we need to do?

I think it’s time, now, that perhaps we ask the men who attend these events to tell us what we need to do. To pick 1 or 2 or 4 or 10 of the people at Office 2.0 and ask them, directly, what is the third approach, the mystery approach, that will suddenly open the doors and bring forth equality. What is the secret? What do the men know that we don’t that gets them invited to conference, that gets them heard in discussions, that gets them linked in debate, that makes them hear and see each other that we women are doing wrong?

Ask them, as they go off to this conference that so obviously values women so little, what other approach do we need to take? This is a conference related to the whole concept of Web 2.0 and moving into the future; held in the year 2006; in an environment where women make up 50% of webloggers and at least 20% of technologists and closer to 50% of marketing, as well as almost half of business professional and lawyers and doctors and I could list you a whole bunch of other statistics–what didn’t work? Why would a conference so related to something of interest equally to women as well as men have such little representation among women?

Ask them directly, these men who go to this conference: what should we do?

Ross Mayfield (speaker profile), you’re hosting the list of potential women speakers from the last set of discussions on this..what should we do?

Stowe Boyd (speaker profile), you’ve been vocal in your condemnation of other conferences that have so few women…what should we do?

Michael Arrington (speaker profile), you profess to want to bring back ‘core values’ into weblogging. Aren’t fairness and equality and diversity core values? Aren’t they, perhaps, the most important core values? If so, what should we women do?

Marc Orchant (speaker profile), you wrote about this for ZD Net, and mentioned about C/Net being a sponsor. I have to wonder how C/Net feels about being associated with a conference that has such an obvious bias against women. Do you know the answer? Can you tell us what women need to do differently?

David Young, your conference photo shows you with your daughter, and your profile says you have two daughters. Do you want them to have an equal opportunity to participate in the web of the future? Rather than increasing in numbers and visibility, we’re actually losing ground in this brave new world. By the time your daughters are in college, at the rate we’re going now, women will make up less than 10% in the fields related to the web and the internet. As a father of daughters, how do you feel about this? What do you think we need to do differently?

Ask the men. Pick one or many. They obviously know how it works. Ask them to share their secrets.


I wanted to point out other voices in this discussion:

Jeneane Sessum–Oh please, do go and read this one. The one woman speaking at Office 2.0 is Kaliya Hamlin: Identity Woman. I should have linked to her originally.

Sour Duck has created a terrific compilation post.

Ken Camp Wants to hear from women interested in VoIP.

Elisa Camahort writes on prioritizing diversity.

Update 2 My apologies to Stowe Boyd for not acknowledging his technical background. I believed when I wrote that bit that Stowe had a journalism background and a strong interest in social software.

Update last Clueless

Update Really Really the last Sheila’s pithy take and a new word: Ismaeled.


For the weekend

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.


Lauren, who used to write at Feministe, has returned with a new weblog and a new direction:

After blogging for approximately three years, I started Feministe in 2003 and left in January of 2006. In the meantime I have experimented with pseudonyms and gender identity and have decided it wasn’t for me. This new blog is an attempt for me to rediscover the writing voice I left earlier this year, reconnect with the community that supported me, yet do so without the baggage of blogging as a specifically feminist blogger.

I don’t do politics anymore, at least not current events and attempts at take-downs and punditry. This kind of writing, while stimulating, attracts a kind of dialogue in which I’m not interested. I was an English major, god damn it. I like a good story. My favorite kind of writing, and the kind of writing I believe I’m best at, is connecting personal stories to wider political experiences.

I wrote a variation on the continuing theme of lack of visibility of women in the tech fields over at Bb Gun, but Anne Zelenka expands on the general topic to cover all professions.

Karl Martino continues a discussion on the permanence of social software, and links to the participants, including Phil Edwards and Kent Newsome. It’s an interesting, and civil, discussion.

Reminding us of what’s important and what’s real, Loren, who this last week lost a good friend and welcomed a new grandchild, publishes an entry with wonderful bird photos and commentary.