It's been a month since our Global Geekettes Meetup at Web Summit: an event that gathered over 100 Geekettes and Geeks from all over the world. Portugal Geekettes organised the event and the most amazing part was to see a panel that was planned to last one hour, but ended up lasting for over two hours by audience request!
We had incredible speakers: Ida Tin (Clue, Berlin), Lu Li (Blooming Founders, London), Filipa Larangeira (Orangeboom, Lisbon), Hollie Haggans (Digital Ocean, NYC) and the surprise speaker Leslie Miley (Slack, San Francisco).
The venue couldn't be better, thank you so much Uniplaces for hosting us! And thank you Ableton for providing dinner for everyone! We would also like to thank Unicer for all the drinks, Herdade do Peso and Mateus for the wine. Cheers!
Below is a video of the event for all the people who were not able to join us. Unfortunately, we will not be able to publish a full video of the panel, because for some reason the camera that was shooting the panel didn't record the sound. Still, and even though this blog post can never cover everything we discussed, we would like to share some highlights with you.
Inclusion first, diversity second?
Diversity is important, but if we don't focus on inclusion, the tech community won't be able to allow women to be part of it, nor have a successful career in it. In the end, and speaking in “tech language”, we are focusing too much on “user acquisition” and not enough on “user retention”.
Lu Li said that she prefers to speak in terms of inclusion than diversity, because it’s not just about getting a diverse team, it is also fostering an environment that will allow them to work well with each other.
As Leslie Miley mentioned, putting people together with different backgrounds, gender, ethnicities and cultures without fostering an inclusive environment will lead to conflict and this conflict is already seen in our companies in a smaller scale, and in a larger scale, the rise of terrorist attacks and Trump winning the elections in the USA.
He also added that there is nothing wrong with an industry or a company that is not inclusive to start focusing on being inclusive. We all need to start somewhere. The important factor here is that they transition with authenticity and back it really well with strong inclusive practices. In addition, companies must be open to feedback and communicate really well why they are making these changes, or it can backfire and create a more divided environment.
Women in Tech and other underrepresented minorities
First, we can't forget that women in tech are not just programmers. There are many jobs throughout this area and even though it's very important to encourage women to pursue a software developer career, we shouldn't force them.
However, Ida Tin noted that girls like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) when they are little and something happens when they grow up and we really need to know what it is to fix it, because we are losing incredible talent.
Currently, and even though white males make 10% of the world population, they make over 80% of the tech community. This means that we have 10% of the world population building the tech infrastructure of the future, and tech, as you may have noticed is going to be everywhere!
Ida Tin reinforced the importance of having more diverse teams working in health and Artificial Intelligence, and the problems of having more than half of the world population involved in this.
Diversity tickets and quotas
This question arose due to that fact that many of the women have been harassed during Web Summit because of the free tickets. Even though many people believe it's not fair that minorities get free stuff, these people need to be remembered that for them to have the life they have today, many minorities have suffered hundreds of years of oppression, so they didn't and still don't have the same chances as white men do.
The way that our society fosters stereotypes and the way we have been raising our children has not given them the same opportunities and this reflects on each individual's choices. This means that a grown up woman today can only be aware that she loves to code now, and that she can have a career in tech too, whereas before she was conditioned to be a teacher or something else more "suitable" to her stereotype.
Women need to support each other more
After getting some unfortunate feedback from men at Web Summit, Sara Bianchi decided to conduct an experience and used different types of clothes at the event. Even though she thought she would get more bashing from men, it was women who reacted the most. This was a controversial topic, and even though there are dress codes appropriate for work events, women have the right to dress how they feel like.
We tend to hold each other with very high expectations, maybe because we also hold ourselves with very high expectations too. It’s time for us to be more compassionate towards ourselves and other women. We are stronger together!
Privilege and empathy
Privilege is not a bad thing. But privilege without empathy is a bad thing. Only with empathy can we put ourselves on the other's shoes and understand their problems. This is the path to change.
White men seem to have many privileges but as we discussed more, we saw that there were many other privileges realted to religion, ethnicity, income, illness and so on. Ana Sofia told a story about two muslim programming students from Cairo who wanted to come to Portugal to a programming conference. They didn’t have the money and had to make a crowdfunding campaign. From religion, to money and a pratically non-existent community, they faced more obstacles than many European or USA women. In the end, the two students wanted to come to Europe to get help to bring one hundred women to programming in a year, and organize the first Ruby Conf in Egypt. This is a great cause to support!
Women and men: speak up!
One man asked how men could help more. The biggest advice here would be to speak up, independently if there are women present or not. If men speak up, they will educate other men and this is extremely important to change the culture of the community. People tend to listen more to people that look like them, so when men speak, there is a bigger chance that they will be listened to more than a woman.
Women who are survivors of harassment and see their careers halted due to unfair sexist, racist, xenophobe — amongst others — reasons need to speak up. Even if it's just to a friend or on their blog, they need to speak up. This is the only way we can change things.
Why do women keep leaving tech?
We as a society have been raising our girls in a way that they believe STEM is not for them. At the same time, we raise men to behave in a certain way. It is not surprising that women are 2 times more likely to drop out STEM than men. From them believing that their place in not in tech and being harassed and finding continuous blockages in their careers, this leads to “death by a thousand paper cuts”, as Hollie Haggans mentioned. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love your work, if you can’t be happy and evolve, you have to leave. And this is why we care so much about inclusion and that we do what we do at Geekettes.
We need to own our value
We need to realise that women are powerful the way they are. They shouldn't be obliged to behave in a more masculine way to follow a career in tech. The goal is to have a more balanced tech community where we can bring the best of masculine and feminine ways of of being.
It was incredible to see so many powerful women and men together on that day. This is a conversation to be taken forward, whether it would be on your communities and companies or on our Slack team (if you want to join Slack, please apply for membership here).
Thank you so much for being there!
See you around!
Ana Sofia and Portugal Geekettes tea