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Diversity Technology

Being Nice

O’Reilly has been running a series this month titled, Women in Technology. I contributed one of the earlier essays, titled So, What?.

I had ambivalent feelings about participating, not the least of which I wasn’t sure that grouping essays by a bunch of women together for publication during the same month was necessarily a ‘good thing’ for women. It becomes a little too much, “Powderpuff O’Reilly”, a little too easy to tune out. By lack of response from most of the regular O’Reilly writers, and readers, too, this concern has been born out, but it’s been interesting to see who has participated, and what they’ve written.

I don’t agree with all that’s written, and I have more than a suspicion that most of the other participants don’t agree with me, which is good because it just confirms my own decision not to write on this topic again–at least not in this environment or these pages. Especially when I read a post about one of the essays I disagreed with most strongly.

Carmelyne wrote:

Why does everyone argue negatively? The people who made comments argued negatively with the author. I can understand then why Amy didn’t like Articles about Women in Tech…Who needs that negativity? As Naruto would put it: “I like my positive chakra”. I don’t dwell any more on the negative side of being one of the few females in a male dominated environment/career.

This is not to pick on Carmelyne, who has a nicely designed site with a fun sense of color and pattern, in addition to a valid viewpoint: why dwell on the negative? Wanting to focus on the positive is understandable. What surprised me, though, is how much Carmelyne’s writing sounded like something else I had read, this time a comment by Tantek Celik in a post by Robert Scoble.

…thanks to all the social web technologies at our disposal, perhaps for the first time in history, people that are capable, humble, and nice can find each other in such numbers as to prioritize and focus their energies on each other rather than the emotional vampires that would otherwise sap them and drag them and their projects, companies etc. down with them.

Dave Rogers also made a small note on this general movement to niceness, but then moves on to discussions of Heroes (opinions of which, I agree with) and music because, really, what more is there to say?

Which leads me back to not writing on “women in technology”. I always felt I had to write on this topic: to point out the conferences where women were missing, the all male publications, the exclusively male panels–not to mention the lack of opportunities for women, as well as acknowledgment of what we’ve accomplished.

It’s not with disappointment but relief that I realized that such writings in this enivironment don’t work, haven’t worked, and are unlikely to work in the future. There are a hundred other things I’d rather write on, and now I no longer feel like I’m betraying womankind, and my own sense of responsibility, by doing so.

This series has been remarkably freeing for me.