A couple of weeks ago, I was at a tech conference in New York City. There were many moments that had me saying ‘Deja Vu’, from incidents that occurred in other tech conferences I attended. And so I decided to write down my experience of being a woman in tech conference.
If you are a women, you already know the stereotypical behavior people have, to seeing women in tech conferences. So it is a good idea to voice out your experiences so other women can relate to the situations. It’s also a good starting point for our male counterparts to make a conscious effort towards inclusivity! 🙂
When I get too overwhelmed with the sessions, booths seem like a nice contrast-you can talk to people, learn about new products etc etc. Most times I feel like I am approached by a person to just scan my badge, hand me some swag and move on to the next person. Well, do I have to mention to them I was at the booth for more than just the swag? Here’s how it usually goes…
Person at the booth: Hello there, Can I quickly scan your badge?
Person at the booth: Here’s some swag for you
(And starts looking for other people to hand swag to)
Me : But I…..who can tell me what your product does?
Person at the booth: Oh! So you want to learn about our product? Let me see if I can grab anyone from the dev team
Me : (thinking to myself) I need to start wearing a ‘I know Tech’ tag!!
Sometimes when I have genuine questions about the product I have worked with, booths feel like a great opportunity to find resolutions to my questions. But guess what, I have had to wait for several minutes for someone to come speak to me, because they assume I am not a technical person? I still haven’t figured what it takes for getting my questions answered.
Wait there is something more funnier… Just approach any booth with a male coworker/friend. You are considered invisible. People are only addressing the males and assume we don’t understand what they are talking about.
We women would highly appreciate if you took note of us and answered out technical questions!
Women in Tech Luncheons
These days almost every conference has a dedicated women luncheon which I am sure all women are enthusiastic about. While this is a good place to network with other women, listen to inspirational speakers talk about their journey, programs dedicated to closing the diversity gap, there is a key aspect we are missing. The MEN!! We simply need more men to attend these sessions. It is designed to bring awareness of the current situation in the tech industry, and men and women being a part of it need to understand how they can help mitigate the issues we are facing.
I have tried to encourage male coworkers to attend these sessions, they enter and see a room filled mostly with women and leave! Well that’s another stereotypical act, assuming there is nothing for men in these sessions. To promote diversity, we need to join hands and create a more sustainable environment and to do that men need to start paying attention to circumstances where women feel violated, undermined and under utilized in their workplace.
Group of Young Women
Women, especially younger women who are attending conferences for the first time, tend to stick together. I remember feeling intimidated in my first conference, it was a new world culturally and technically! It was the first huge social gathering I was at, since I moved to USA. I had no idea what to expect or how to approach people. So I did find some women(coworkers more like friends) and stuck with them, attending session together,walked to the booths with them and shied away from asking questions.
I am not saying there is anything wrong in doing this, but if you resonate with the situation remember we have all faced it at some level! It is time to step out of the shell and embrace your capabilities! And to all young techies, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by meeting new people and striking conversations and going to the booths to learn about offering and get some swag while you’re at it!
Conferences are a great place to learn, share and socialize. It most definitely is a great place to bring awareness about diversity. I was glad to see the line up of female speakers, diversity centric events hosted at many conferences.
I hope we can all go to the next conference as a wiser, smarter and warmer person!
PS: I promise to post my (technical) learnings in the next post, so stay tuned 🙂