Sarah Taraporewalla's Technical Ramblings

JAOO and Women

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A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend JAOO, an awesome conference for software developers, architects and PMs, for one day. How did I get to? Well, a few weeks before the conference, the organisers (Trifork) noticed that while conferences usually have around 5-10% women attend (and that is considered good), JAOO only had about 3.7%. So, the organisers did a really cool thing…they decided that for any full paying pass that you bought, you could bring a person of the opposite sex free for a day! They also added a Women in IT meeting to their user geek night. As a result, they managed to get a whopping 14% women attendance!

The Women in IT meeting was quite fun and well attended - it seemed like it was the first time many of the people there met with others to talk about being a women in IT. I was also glad to see that this was not attended only by women - four of our ThoughtMen came along. I thought this was fantastic - how cool is it that I work for a company where the guys not only want to find out more about the problem and help where they can but are also willing to miss out on other user groups, such as the Java and Ruby groups which also met at the same time.

During the session, we had three of the conferences speakers (who were also women) form a panel to share experiences and exchange ideas. These speakers were Rachel Reinitz, Linda Rising and Rebecca Parsons. I have been to many of these sessions before, but I was entered a little skeptical and a bit jaded but I left reenergized to helping solve some of the problems.

During this discussion, I think I realised that the topic “Women in IT” was such a broad one, and there are so many issues surrounding it, that when you get a group of people to talk about it as a whole you get too many cross cutting conversations. So, I am going to attempt to list the issues that I see comprise the broader “Women in IT” ‘problem’.

  • Not enough women entering maths/science/technology
  • Lack of self confidence to speak up
  • Lack of involvement in the community and open source projects
  • Lack of women at conferences (attendees as well as speakers)
  • Lack of role models
  • Perceived glass ceiling and salary offsets
  • Perception around women as mothers vs women as employees
  • Employees don't do right for humans
  • Women are not networking as well as men are
  • Treatment of women at social events/in the workplace/lack of respect for other humans
  • When you try to do something positive, you get hit with people crying discrimination
  • Filters women apply to situation to make them seem worse than they actually are
  • Subvert harassment through jokes and conversations
  • Lack of awareness with men to understand what is OK
  • Women not respecting the problems other women have faced.

I hope to build out a series of posts around these points, explaining what I believe is the issue, suggestions of some solutions, and what I have seen the community do to try to help address these problems.

If you think there are parts to the problem that I have missed, tell me about them in the comments section!

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