This is just sad. Reboot is a conference to be held in Copenhagen in June, and so far there are 23 male presenters and one woman presenter. The organiser claims innocence:

i hadnít even thought of it this year. Take that as reboot not having any preference on the subject. rebootís speakers are selected out of strict quality criteria – and nothing else.

Isn’t that cute? He really thinks that the reason he thinks he’s only invited men (well, OK, there’s a woman too: that brings us to about 4% women speakers) is quality.

You know I was just at a seminar on social networks. Strikes me the point about the importance of weak ties must be relevant here. Most people remain ensconced in their own little clusters of people who are more or less like them and who basically have almost all the same information as each other. That’s why bridges to other social clusters are vital: if you find people who connect to people who are different from yourself and your buddies, you’re going to get a whole lot of new information and new ideas. That’s important.

I also recently read Blink! It’s a very easy read, and I have the feeling I’ve read a lot of it before somewhere – online maybe? But it also brings together some important points. The book is an examination of how we make snap judgements based on pattern recognition that we can’t really verbalise. That can be extremely powerful, but it also means we act on biases that we’re not even aware of. This is probably the most interesting — and frightening — section of the book, really. (I wanted to link to an online research site mentioned in the book where you can test your own biases, but can’t find it?)

There is no such thing as selection from strict quality criteria and nothing else.

Seems to me it’d be in mens’ interest to get a few more women involved in their conferences. A few connections to other clusters couldn’t hurt, surely?

I won’t be going to Reboot. Sure, the topic interests me, and yes, it’s in Copenhagen, and I can get cheap flights and I have friends there. No, I’m not going because I find it too exhausting to be in a constant minority. And heck, I’m a white woman who passes as native: if I’m exhausted, what on earth must it feel like for those who are even more marginalised in meetings like this? (via Caterina at Misbehaving)

12 thoughts on “96% men, because they’re just better than women

  1. ¡lvaro

    Jill, you could not have phrase it better. It is not only a matter of including women- It is a matter of taking care of that “quality” is not an alibi for marginalizing “the other”.
    Elite research and democracy… a thing to discuss…

  2. Thomas Madsen-Mygdal

    I’m not gonna take this the women aren’t doing interesting things/quality angle which in my mind isn’t the discussion. I think the situation is getting better – but in terms of getting to a 50/50 situation we still have a long way to go. reboot could perhaps help with that – but if you take the “practical visionaries” for lack of a better term we’re still at one woman for each 10 men doing interesting things based on technology. It’s a sad fact that for each man of the speakers it would be a tough call to find a women doing similar work impact full work, being recognized for it, having practical experience, etc. It might if reboot had another focus – but reboot’s focus is on practical implementation.

    But you do hit the nail pretty hard on the weak link issue. And off course women will in general hopefully add something else – the fact that a lot of the people you list are in academia is a start. And here i’m all with you – reboot would be more interesting if there were more people from academia participating giving another perspective – and the other way around people in academia could gain a lot of the perspective of the bottom up change/innovation that’s happening instead of chasing corporate partners living in paradigms 20 years from today.

    How could reboot be more inviting to these audiences – you made the first task – having more women speakers in order not to have a “men, men, men” experience. But what else?

  3. Anthony

    “Blink” was a good read. I may be adding it as a recommended reading to one of the neuropsychology courses I teach. I think I enjoyed “The Tipping Point” more, but not because “Blink” was lacking in any way.

    Is this the website you were thinking of? –

  4. David

    Isn’t not going just validating their lack of vision?

    Doesn’t just seeing women in the community help to move things in the right direction incrementally? I don’t mean to be picking on you for what is clearly their problem. What do I know afterall.

  5. Jill

    Thomas, I’m glad that you’re not sticking to the lack of quality argument, and I do agree that today it’s certainly easier to see men doing cool technology stuff than it is to see women. Itís a vicious circle where itís quite obvious that the lack of female role models makes it less likely that young women will see themselves in technology. Also, women often unfortunately donít ask to be included in this kind of thing. Thatís a real shame, and clearly we need to take some responsibility for that, but the way our society works, women are trained from an early age that putting your hand up and volunteering, or speaking about your abilities, is going to get you in trouble. Thereís lots of research that shows this, although many men and even women arenít consciously aware of it because itís so deeply ingrained in our culture.

    Look, I wrote a blog post about this a week or two ago, with some references to research and showing the many parallel and false assumptions you end up with: ìWomen donít want to have powerî; ìwomen donít want to play video gamesî; ìwomen donít want to be practical visionariesî.

    I think it’s our shared responsibility – and also in our own interest – to try to see past our biases and very consciously look for the kinds of people who aren’t obvious to us. Of COURSE there are women who are practical visionaries, but yes, we might have to look harder. For instance, one could ask big companies who are doing innovative work whether they have a woman who could speak: Lego (though they stopped doing mindstorms, didn’t they?), Nokia, BBC New Media, Google, there are heaps more obviously. One might go to the places women hang out and ask – some of the women’s gadget blogs for instance, they’re likely to have some gadgets described that are designed by women.

    The list I gave of women who might be interesting who are near Copenhagen has some academics on it, but actually only half the women on the list I posted over at the reboot blog are academics.

    You ask how else reboot can become more interesting to women (and academics, that’s an added question, right?) in addition to including more women (and academic?) speakers – I think that’s the main way to do it, honestly. Other than the rather extreme male dominance on the schedule, Reboot looks like a great conference.

    David: In a way I agree with you, women should just flood these conferences and change them from the grass roots. But you get really tired by that. I would simply rather go somewhere where there are more women.

  6. Jill

    Oh, and Anthony, Terri Senfft’s also considering teaching Blink!, you may be interested in the discussion on her site about whether it’d be good as a set text.

  7. Anthony

    Thanks, Jill. I’ll go over to her blog and post a comment.

  8. Lesley

    There’s a similar discussion on women and bloggingin the comments at Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger. It makes depressing reading. In the MS world, if you don’t network the man way, you just don’t count.

  9. Jill

    Oh dear. Makes you just want to give up hope, doesn’t it?

  10. Tore Vesterby

    Well, Jill, don’t give up yet. We need to get women in technology to begin sueing the pants off the companies they work for – at least if they’re based in the EU. Apparently three women working at IBM in France just won a discrimination lawsuit against the company [article in Danish]. It seems that all the men who were hired in the same positions as them were the only ones not getting a promotion in 20 years. Now that the case is won prehaps these predictions in Business Week will begin to see the light of day. Perhaps with more promotions of female employees we could be seeing more women at tech conferences. That is if this story breaks a little wider than Danish feminist news sites.

  11. ghani

    Jill, I thought of the Scoble snafu when i read your post, and i think you articulate very well the problem, people not bridging over to new people and new ideas. That really clicked in my mind about what was bothering me, but i could never articulate it properly. I wish more people were speaking so intelligently about this issue, instead of making stupid remarks or having huge rows.

  12. Jill

    Of course, I was angry and made a row, and Thomas has been very concilatory in backchannel email, even asking me to come to the conference.

    I’m reading “Women Don’t Ask” this week, and it cites piles of studies showing that women have more influence when they’re nice than when they’re assertive, whereas men do better being assertive. Sigh. I guess none of the “rules” are going to really work, are they. Though it’s true that the point about needing women and other people not in your own social cluster as bridges is both a good point and a rational, calm point which seems to make sense to people.

    Tore, I won’t give up 🙂

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