Lean in and say something.

someecards.com - This International Women's Day, let's band together on something other than Pinterest

In the last months, I’ve started seeing a lot of traffic to blog posts about how hard it was being a woman in tech, how horrid conference organisers were, how sexist technologists were and how Sheryl Sanderberg had joined the rest of us in her recognition of the basic principles of feminism (this coming from a woman who used to hide her good grades to get dates is no small feat). I looked around in dismay, wondering if I’d ended up in one of the American rom coms I love so. Geeks as jocks? Really?

Considering I’ve been working professionally in and around technology since 2006 I thought the days of Kathy Sierra’s terrible ordeal were behind us. I thought “phsssh, I’ll keep calm and carry on”.

Then, last month I went to do a keynote presentation at a workshop week for students in a product design course in Antwerp. One of my co-speakers is one of the founders of a local trends company who found it essential to show a picture of a scantily-clad young woman not once but twice, saying that his job didn’t involve looking at women like that but talking to men in suits and she didn’t have any money anyway. My heart stopped. Really? This was an acceptable image to share to young designers in the making? This was an acceptable metaphor to young men and (some) women who were making decisions about where they wanted to throw their weight in the brave world of design? I ignored the rest of his talk and busied myself thinking really hard about how I would react. I could slander him on the internet which i sortof did. But I felt that wasn’t enough. After all the talks were done, I went up to him and told him in no uncertain way that that slide had made me stop listening to him, that it might be more advisable to try to make the point in another way, with a different image. I told him that he was telling a story to these young people that didn’t need to be told in that way, stories about the world out there that were damaging. I tried to be constructive in speaking to him. He had come in late so didn’t know who I was and was obviously troubled. He said he didn’t intend for the message to be perceived in that way and thanked me politely for my feedback.

That was the first time in my career I’ve had to apply the thinking of the “If you see something, say something” ads in the New York metro but I felt good about it. Maybe I’m of a generation of women who’ve had it easy or refused to see what was under their nose all along, but I felt I did the right thing for my industry and realised that perhaps I ought to get involved further in creating a pro-active, positive environment for women like me who are getting on with work, doing interesting things. And also for younger women who are wondering what to make of their careers. We owe it to them at the very least.

Keen not to wallow in the Antwerp experience, I shouted out on Twitter about organising some kind of show and tell for International Women’s Day in Shoreditch on March 8th. The lovely Natasha Carolan, Ana Bradley and Becky Stewart raised their hands in wanting to help and in less than a month we managed to put together what I’d like to think was an absolutely awesome evening. We showcased the work of more than 20 women-led organisations or projects in London and Brighton, hosted by the lovely Poke who served drinks & sushi and Redmonk who gave us craft beer. We need to see these kinds of events more often and not only lean in, but say something clearly, concisely: we are here.

Ada Lovelace: Carole Collet

Carole

That time of the year again and right on time considering the amount of ink that has been spilt (that expression I guess will have to be revised when the infamous death of paper things happens, oh well) recently about feminism, its impending death (we’re trying to kill off all of our large cultural concepts it seem). My choice this year is my very good friend Carole Collet.

Course Director of the Textle Futures course at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, she is originally French but moved to London about 13 years ago. She founded the course on the back of the Fashion department and grew it into a multi-disciplinary department that teaches students about using their traditional textile skills in completely different fields: environmental, science-based, architectural approaches alike. Their graduate show is the richest and most diverse work I enjoy seeing, year after year.

You could claim she is working on the outskirts of the “women in tech” definition, but I think the definition of technology and where it is applied needs to be constantly revisited. Something Carole does very well both as an academic and her own research and work.

Carole's work

Stupid women events

Received this in my inbox.

“As one of the most influential women in the Web 2.0 right now, it is my pleasure to invite you to participate to the Women’s Forum Global Meeting 2009″

What is wrong with this statement?

1. It sounds like spam. Influential according to who?

2. It’s impersonal, if anything I’ve co-founded a very non-web2.0 business.

3. Tickets are 2.5K

4. Any event named XX Forum will receive a polite “I’d rather be dead”

5. Any women-centric event is unrealistic in my field of work.

Someone please fix this.

Ada Lovelace post: Maja Kuzmanovic

Better late than never I say…

Blue and green

I met Maja at Doors of Perception in 2007 in Delhi, we were roommates along with the fantastic Margaret Morris. Maja is the President of foAM a research group in Bruxelles who explore and support research around food, technology and ecology.

She is probably one of the most driven and fascinating people I know who is constantly on the go (probably explains why she was voted Top 100 Young Innovators (from MIT Technology Review 1999) and Young Global Leader (at World Economic Forum 2006) ), on top of everything that’s going on on the bleeding edge of technology and culture. As if that wasn’t enough, she is charming and amazingly charismatic.

So there, there are great women out there in technology and if i hear another “we couldn’t find any women to speak”, they’re definitely not trying.