What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Tech Conference

James Governor's Monkchips

What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Tech Conference

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This tweet really struck a chord on twitter yesterday, after being shared by Jessie Frazelle, newly minted as a Microsoft developer advocate, so I thought I would share it here. Ilya Dimitrichenk0, developer experience at Weaveworks, shared it with me a month or so ago, but I didn’t expect it to get over 500 likes and 160 retweets when I tweeted it.

Chloe Condon’s Medium post is an excellent read. It’s funny, full of grace and charm, and definitely on point with a list of 5 Experiences women face at tech conferences.

“The more women who attend these events, the more we’ll have people thinking outside the box when it comes to “what a developer looks like”, the more role models we have for young women (like Shilpa), and the more female allies we’ll have at these events. Blog about it, tweet about it, and use #ilooklikeanengineer or #changetheratio hashtags while you’re at it. Thinking about attending a conference, but afraid of feeling out of place? DO IT. You belong there, and your gender should not dictate that.

And if you’re male, I hope this gives you an insight into the mind of the woman you see at your booth. Next time, make an effort to chat with them before they have to grab your attention at your booth. I have high hopes that we can all be more aware and open to changing our preconceived stereotypes of what an engineer “looks like”. There are so many flavors and varieties of engineers (not just wearing a start-up shirt wearing/male), let’s try hard not to discriminate.”

As a company that runs a few tech conferences – indeed with Thingmonk coming up next week (some tickets still available) – we do our best to run events where hopefully women don’t feel quite so isolated.

First- always have a code of conduct.

We put together diversity sponsorships so we can offer free tickets for underrepresented groups in tech, with mentoring and some ongoing support. Thingmonk is backed by Salesforce.com on that score. Moo provides free business cards to help our scholars with lovely little ice-breakers.

You have to hustle though. Tech conferences aren’t a field of D&I dreams – if you want better representation then outreach is required. No representation without hustle. To that end, we brought in one of our scholarship alumni, Bybreen Samuels to help run the program this time.

We also do our best to ensure that we have plenty of great women speakers at all of our events. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. Again – some active curation is required here, but the pipeline is definitely there, in any tech field, if you look around.

And yes – we have t-shirts made for women.

I don’t actually know what it’s like to be a woman at a tech conference, obviously. But I listen, read, learn and try to do better every time.


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