On being a valley girl

I normally avoid topics like this, but reading the FactoryCity white-boy post, and its lengthy discussion, got me thinking about being a being a white girl in this white boy industry.

In short, I like it, mostly. There are huge perks: I stand out in a room. I am automatically unique and special without having to do anything. I also get special attention, I admit it. Boys give me the extra little gestures of courtesy, like opening doors, that they don’t give their fellow boys. And I’m not complaining.

Also, I guess because I am used to it, I generally feel comfortable and welcome in a 80%-boy environment. I tend to have more issues when I am around a different generation than when I am around a different gender. But that’s one of the things that I like about the whole “Web 2.0” crowd: I’m kind of on the old side.
But there are also some downsides to being one of the few girls. First of all, like a lot of girls in the tech industry, I am not a coder. You have no idea how many times I’ll be chatting with a guy about whatever geeky topic, and 5 or 10 minutes into it, it will come out that I am a writer. And the comes the line that I always hear: “Oh, I thought you were technical.” Um, just as a heads up, boys: I have no idea how to respond to that. What is technical? What do you mean? What are you implying? Just because we girls are often in fields like writing, marketing, and design doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the technology. If you want to reach out to us, accept these related areas of technology with equal respect and appreciation that you give the coders.

Also, as girls, we have to always wonder why you boys are talking to us. Are you really interested in business networking or do you just want to talk to a girl? Do you really want to meet again to talk about that idea or are you hoping dinner will lead to something more? It adds a layer of complexity that we don’t have to deal with when talking to other women.

So girls are in the minority in the geek world. It is good to acknowledge it, but I think there are more interesting things to focus our energy on.

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5 responses to “On being a valley girl

  1. I like to talk to girls. And if they are interested in business networking too, cool. šŸ™‚

  2. Well, it’s not so much that there aren’t equally important things to focus on, but that making sure that all voices (because diverse voices are interesting!) are represented and made visible to the wider community.

    In fact, it’d be great if we were at a point where we could just leave up diversity to chance and know that it would take care of itself, but that’s not the case. So while the demographics might currently be tipped towards a majority of white males, that doesn’t mean that the events predicated on building the future of the web ought only feature white male speakers.

  3. I guess that diversity isn’t my passion or focus, so I am happy to let others work on this. For me, I’d rather focus on the technology and my own growth and development so that I’d have something worthwhile to speak about at a conference one of these days!

  4. Yes, it is wonderful to be a young woman surrounded by guys who don’t get to talk to women all that much. That’s not really the problem.

    The problem is for those of us women who ARE programmers and who ARE on a career path and who need to be taken seriously in our field.

    So ask yourself if, YOU yourself are part of the problem. Do you seek out tech women to talk to as much as you do men? Do you take them seriously as professionals? Do you assume they know as much about code as the guys they work with?

  5. Hmmm….I don’t really like dontworry’s assumptions about me. Just because I am not a programmer (I have joked that I need to write “I DON’T WANT TO WRITE CODE” on the top of my resume) doesn’t meant that I am not on a career path and don’t want to be taken seriously. And of course I talk to techy women and take them seriously. I just don’t go to women or minority events.

    This catty attitude that women can have towards other women is part of the problem.

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