I was skimming through Planet Fedora today, and came across a post by Mairin Duffy, one of the designers at Red Hat. She was writing about a conference called Ada Camp, which exists to support women in the IT industry especially in open-source software. I always jump on these sorts of posts because I care about equality in life and, not being a woman, I don’t get to have (maybe even can’t have) the sorts of conversations that happen at these things. I was, therefore, very interested in what she and the other women had to say. While I’m more of an enthusiastic onlooker (and user) to Open Source, I believe there are parallels to any other field where women (or any other group) are a minority, such as my beloved physics.
I started going through the links in her post, and pulling out book names, because my reading list isn’t big enough already. On one book about breaking into the IT industry as a woman, I noticed this comment by ‘kittenchicken0398,’ which made me think about the different ways we react to attempts at inclusion.
Reading about the changes they instituted made me retch a little bit. They talk about specifically approaching female students and having “women in CS” gatherings. While I’m all for creating a supportive community, if my university had done this, I would have turned and run the other way. The reason I enjoyed my CS department so much was because nobody talked to me like I was any different, or made an issue of my genitalia, I was just another computer science student.
I agree with her! I certainly wouldn’t go to some group that’s trying to get me to feel involved! Religion and other things have taught me to be afraid of those because they usually want to sell me something (or want me to sell other people something). It’s more complicated than people just shying away from peer groups, because as Mairin also talks about, people tend to stick with a working group longer if they’re in a more homogeneous minority group. That is, if there are two Caribbean women in a group of (probably) white men, they’ll be more comfortable and friendly than one Caribbean and one Chinese woman. Weird!
I think it’s at least interesting that attempts at making people feel comfortable with people of other races/genders can be hampered by how different people’s personalities are! Not terribly helpful to a first approximation, but interesting.
In the final estimation, I think all the programs need to continue, and all the bonding over favorite video games in the hallways needs to continue. Some people will be made more comfortable through meetings and organizations, and some will find their own way.
I’d like to hear more about about
3. We’re all fighting for that “token women” position.
So sometimes it feels like there’s a bit of cattiness when two women encounter each other in a male-dominated group – it’s this weird thing that happens when there’s less women in a group. There was another session on day 2 devoted to this topic that I also sadly missed. “
because that sounds tough, and the explanation that it’s just some “weird thing” makes me want a better explanation.