Gaining Momentum: Women and Technology Keynote Notes & Thoughts

The morning event was held at MaRS and focused on women in technology (but also including sciences), particularly as entrepreneurs and startup founders.

Keynote

Even women in the work place is still a rocky terrain.

Lessons Learned

Life is a marathon, so can’t just keep sprinting.
Women have unique challenges that men frequently do not understand.
Focus on what is important, since the emotional bucket was already full from personal life.
Need to work with people whom you like and respect on something that is important and contributes to the success of the country.

Some Observations

Women are everywhere in academia, but so few are in the upper echelon (still only ~19%).
In life sciences, women do better on impact factor, but only patent at 40% of men, and only ~6% serve on advisory committees.
In entrepreneurship, few own or founded by women, but tend to last longer and are more successful. Little participation of women in decision making positions.
What role will women have in the future of the economy?

What We Can Do About It

Kill off the stereotypes of entrepreneurs as young men. Need to accept that women may take a different approach, timeline, and need different support. Need to put women in advisory positions. Women contribute to diversity among other things in every organization.

Thoughts

The keynote along with the panel got me thinking about women in technology, especially in relation to Bess Sadler’s talk at Code4lib 2013. Many topics and repeated comments came up during the panel and discussion.

One is that girls growing up in Canada/US are discouraged from going into science, math, and technology whether actively (e.g. told this) or passively (e.g. not being allowed/bought toys “for boys”). Comments from the audience told us that there is no gender stereotype for engineers in many other countries.

Part of the issue seems to be that males tend to be encouraged to take risks, but females tend to need more affirmation, being less likely to take risks. Maybe it’s a matter of confidence, fearlessness, or simply not caring. Regardless, it seems the trait differences (whether innate or due to social/environmental factors) seem to contribute to many women in technology (and other areas) feeling uncomfortable. I’ve heard in particular that women feel like they’re ‘imposters’ in the technology world, and I’m also in that group. However, it seems we’re not alone, because many men feel the same way, which is Bess’ point that “we are all imposters”.

Another pervasive idea also seems to be that all there is to technology is to be a programmer of some sort. Anyone who knows anything about the technology industry knows this is totally untrue, and yet, many people (including my past self) do not know what’s beyond being a programmer. I think a big part of getting more women in technology is to educated girls that you can work in technology without even knowing how to program.

I don’t know what the solutions are, but I can definitely relate, which is probably why started volunteering at Ladies Learning Code. I’m always happy to make others more comfortable with technology and coding, and that there is a place to do it.

I will also say that I’m really glad that a few of the women I know started LibTechWomen for women (interested) in library technology. It’s nice to have a smaller channel to chat in, and it has built a stronger sense of community for me than the more general group (where I feel like an imposter).

On a side note, there was also discussion about whether women program different, that is whether they tend to use a different process and approach problems differently. I’ve never really noticed a difference, but an interesting thought.

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Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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