Diversity Technology

Geek out of work

Nothing like being an out of work geek in a technology recession. The only thing worse, is being an out of work geek in a recession who also happens to be a woman.

Gender bias — that strikes me as a hell of a good topic right about now.

On March 8th, Jonathon posted the following comment:

You and I both know, Dave, that the breathtaking hypocrisy of “Where Men Can Link, But They Can’t Touch” isn’t going to get “looked at” any time soon, not by the BlogSisters nor by anyone else in the blogging universe.

I was amazed that no one jumped on this. I didn’t at the time as I wasn’t feeling well. I also wanted to save this particular nugget for a weblog rainy day. And guess what! It’s sunny outside, but the rain is falling in weblogdom for me today. Splat. Splat.

Can women, a group that has been excluded longer than any other group in the history of “man”, exclude in turn without being seen as hypocritical? After all the whole concept of BlogSisters is that women bloggers — and only women bloggers — can post to the weblog. One could say that the entire weblog is sexist in the extreme. Right?


Sexism is discriminating against the opposite sex in such a way as to prevent the members of the opposite sex from having equal opportunity of participation, regardless of the venue. This means that yes, you can have all boy clubs and all girl clubs and all green people clubs — as long as the participation in said club does not give said members of the club more opportunties for academic or professional advancement than people who are not members of said club.

That’s been the whole slam against the good ole rich cat boy clubs in this country; many have been avenues of networking that give men (bluntly, white men) professional advantages — advantages not accessible to non-members (i.e. women and non-white men).

You know, I could really care less about belonging to a club of men who spend their day huntin’ and spitten’ tobacco or comparing sizes of their penises or whatever boys do in an all-boy clubs (sexist nature of statement fully intended, BTW). But I do care about being a member of a club that opens up doors to employment and opportunity in my profession.

Unfortunately, most of the clubs I’m most interested in don’t have a charter or a membership drive, or a door that one can walk up to and bang on for entry.

Case in point: last year, I gave a presentation at O’Reilly’s first P2P conference. At the time, I remember looking at the speaker list and commenting to Andy Oram — an editor and one of my favorite O’Reilly people — that there didn’t seem to be many women in the roster. In fact, for the longest time, I was the only women speaker out of several men. It was only just before the show that a few other women appeared in the speaker list, primarily moderators of panels.

I am a geek. In fact, a friend persists in calling me an ubergeek. I feel comfortable talking with geeks, and love exchanging emails and weblog postings with other geeks. However, there are few things that can make me feel more of an outsider — a non-member — than walking into a room of other geeks or ubergeeks, and being the only woman present. There might not be a sign outside the door saying “No gurlz allowed”, but it’s there, buried deeply in the minds of the guys, in my mind, and in the minds of a a society that still persists in propagating a most blatant message — girls are nurturers, boys are geeks.

I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan. And never, ever let you forget you’re a man — cause I’m a woman….


Back to BlogSisters and the “great hypocrisy”. There’s nothing about BlogSisters that stops any man from having an equal say within weblogdom. Or starting up a BlogBrothers weblog. Or preventing men from gainful employment, equal academic participation, religious opportunity, freedom from oppression, and accessibility to the masses. In fact (sorry a little metablogging here) that’s a great thing about weblogging, isn’t it? Anyone can say anything they want — weblogging truly is equal opportunity.

Hypocrisy? Sorry, bark up another tree with that tune, mate.

It’s interesting, but I had my own hesitations about BlogSisters, and still do, but not because I consider the concept hypocritical. I won’t post at BlogSisters for the same reason that I won’t join any of the women in technology support groups in the area, though I know I am depriving myself of the comfort of said support at times.

I won’t join any organization whose criteria for membership is based on sex because I want people to see me beyond something that is nothing more than an accident of birth — a random modification within the DNA that created me.

I love being a woman. I am so glad I was born a woman. But being a woman has nothing to do with my ability to create systems that can rock the house, code applications that make junior programmers run in fear, handle massive database systems, mega-user networks, and work with and discuss the most complex computer technology issues imaginable. However, being a woman can throw up barriers that prevent me from doing these things, and the work I love so much.

As for the BlogSisters — blog away ladies. And more power to you.

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