This is why your “Women in Tech” event sucks

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A few weeks ago, my friend Leah wrote a thoughtful post about how to get more women into technology and STEM careers. In her post, she says:

Enticing women to tech isn’t about making it “diva-fied” or “girlification.”… Reducing women in tech from engineers to “web divas” pushes us into superficial territory and marginalizes our skills and contributions.  Instead of looking up to women in tech as problem-solvers and visionaries we get looked down upon as interlopers far from home.

Women are not all the same.  We don’t all want pink and flowers and glitter.  We don’t all think the same. We aren’t one dimensional creatures who will be drawn to the tech world because someone sent us a flier with pretty purple letters and butterflies.  We don’t all enter the tech world the same way and any strategy that relies on all women being alike is doomed to fail.

As a woman who also loves technology–I frequently waver between “Ugh, I don’t want to learn to code I don’t even like it” and “OMFG that was AMAZE you guys I am totally going to figure out how to code my way out of Codecademy this time”– I couldn’t agree with her more. Over the past year, I’ve seen more and more events pop up in the Silicon Valley that attempt to make technology more appealing to women, but for more reasons than I account, events fail miserably at building community and engaging women to take on more technical roles in our industry.

Pinkwashing your hackathon, conference or technology meetup  is a big no-no. Don’t waste your time on pink napkins, glittery plates, and magenta Solo cups– I only like one shade of pink (no, yours isn’t it), and I choose events to attend based on factors other than whether or not they conform to the color rules of an inspiration board you found somewhere on Pinterest.

Branding your event as a “Tech Diva Dish Session” or “Girl’s Night Out” is disrespectful. I am a grown-ass woman, and I’m tiptoeing closer to 30 every single day. In no way, shape or form am I just a “girl” and I am not okay with your cutesie attempt to be feminine and fun.

Don’t make me sit through another talk on the lack of diversity in technology and startups. Issues of technology, diversity and inclusion are a regular part of my career and do not suffer from an awareness problem, thanks. Can you please teach me how to do something awesome or educate me about something new? And by all means, do arrange for your diversity speaker to visit a room full of startup bros and give them the diversity talk instead? They need it way more than I do.

Stop pushing your corporate sorority version of feminism on women working in startups. If a startup has less than 15 employees, the females working there are not protected by federal discrimination laws that cover gender-based discrimination, and your methods will cause more harm than good between male founders and female employees.

Enough with the sexism, ladies. I’ve been told by more female engineers than I can count that I am not a *real* woman in tech because my job doesn’t involve hardcore coding– a similar tactic used by men against women joining their ranks in engineering. Do I work for a technology company? Yes. Do I identify as a woman? Yes. So by definition, I am a woman working in the technology industry whether you like it or not. #sorrynotsorry

Giving women pink-washed, watered down networking opportunities that skimp on technical content and learning experiences isn’t going to give us the tools (connections, knowledge, community) we need to get ahead in the tech world. If we are going to reach our true calling as women contributing to technology, whatever that may be, we need to stand up for ALL of our female peers and get hacking. To do that, we need to tap into what we are passionate about, and band together and give career women opportunities for hands-on technical learning and mentorship opportunities that they may not receive from the male-dominated cultures they work within. Thanks, but no thanks– ain’t nobody got time for that.


4 thoughts on “This is why your “Women in Tech” event sucks

  1. I agree 100%
    More so, it’s not just limited to pink-i-zation but also being projected as mega events wherein so and so was also seen. Sic. All have equal right to showcase their their talents.

  2. THIS IS SO GREAT! I laughed and “hell yeah’d!” my way through this post. Thank you for putting into words what I always find disconcerting and condescending about women in tech events. Although these events are a start and I’m glad there’s some acknowledgement and discussion… What I *really* want is practical career advice, women only hackathons, hands-on tech workshops where I’m learning a new skill or solving a problem, opportunities to be mentored, insight on how to mentor others – NOT PINK FREAKIN TOTE BAGS. Well stated. How can I be a part of this change?!

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