Day two of the All Things Open conference. One of the opening keynotes (here in the modern era, every non-breakout talk is a keynote, I guess) was by the Chief People Officer at Red Hat. She spent the whole time speaking in kind of vague terms about the need for diversity in tech, citing the current heavily skewed numbers, and talking pipeline.
Which is certainly important – we could still do a million times better at eliminating all the cultural biases that work against girls who like math, science & computers.
However, among people who actually regularly think and talk and write about this topic, the consensus is that it’s utterly pointless to work on pipeline issues until we’ve done something substantial about the actual culture within the industry first.
And that’s one subject that the CPO of Red Hat was pretty much silent about.
After the morning’s breakouts, the CPO was back to moderate a panel discussion about women in tech (the panel consisting of about half of the women who were speaking at the conference). I’m going to see if I can embed all of my tweets from the panel here:
Women in tech panel starting out with the panelists talking about their varied & non-traditional routes into tech. No “right” way. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Going from being geekiest person in entire high school … so weird when ppl assume yr not technical as a woman. #ATO2014 #womenintech— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Men in Estelle Weyl’s cohort still in enterprise; women are contracting/solo, because enterprise wanted to channel them into mgmt. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
The RedHat VP from this morning is trying to direct the discussion back to pipeline. & now trolling us w/ “is diversity important?” #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Now Megan Squire is laying into media/pundits who like to pick up on superficial correlations/guesses and won’t do the research. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Estelle Weyl speaking up for ALL the ppl who are underrepresented in tech: different races, genders, orientations, religions, ages. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Megan Squire gets a round of applause when she says we can’t just focus on pipeline & then drop those folks off at the same industry door.— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Finally a (vaguely stated) question from the moderator about ways to maybe improve the culture. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Megan Squire: when she teaches, she makes a point of varying the coding exercises, not just the standard dry number sequences. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Lots of applause when panelists start talking about being interrupted, talked over. Amplify & acknowledge women’s voices & ideas. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Estelle Weyl: In tech there is a Dave:women ratio: average team has as many guys named Dave as it has women. #ATO2014 #changeTHATratio— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
. @ericastanley talking about the low ratio being self-perpetuating. Hard problem. Mentoring is crucial. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Make job descriptions more approachable – women & men (at present anyway) read “nice to have” skills lists differently. #ATO2014— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
Simple thing you can do: read #ATO2014, follow & RT women in tech. @anildash RT’d only women for a year, so you can at least *try*.— Ross Grady (@rossgrady)
(note that in that last tweet above, I was suggesting that conference attendees should find women tweeting in the conference hashtag & follow them – more generally, if you’re on twitter & are interested in women in tech, there are hundreds – try this list.)
It was awesome to see the panelists sort of take matters into their own hands, and [repeatedly] bring up culture & institutional sexism, even in some cases by ignoring the questions the moderator was asking.
I saw some great talks, some merely good talks, learned a few things. Oh, and thanks to the conference organizers not ordering enough box lunches to go around, I got to walk up the street to Capital Club 16 and have a beer & a schnitzel sandwich for lunch.
Came home, ate some fish collars (!) from Saltbox. Ricky described them as like eating chicken thighs, and that was actually oddly apt.
Watched the last episode of Lonesome Dove. Tommy Lee Jones finally got to do some actual acting – and he was great. On the gore front, got to watch one character try, and fail, to shove an arrow the rest of the way through Robert Duvall’s knee. Also got to see Ricky Schroeder with a terrible mustache.