There is a lot of discussion regarding picking keynote speakers, speakers in general or even recruiting. Some say we need more women speaking but many women say that they don't want any special treatment, they want to be selected based on merit.
Like many, I dream of a world where this isn't an issue. In my dream world, there is a natural mix of people from different origins, ages, sexes, etc in our industry. In my dream world, I even leave room for people who prefer Star Trek over Star Wars (I'm generous that way).
Until that it is a reality, I'm not scared of being selected based on my gender. I used to feel sad about it, getting job offers and invitations to speak just because I'm a woman (you can often tell. Sometimes because they say "we need a woman".). I questioned if it really was my competence that was attractive or just my gender.
But I have come to realize that the truth is that because I'm a woman I bring more to table than my male equivalent.
You know what, I even bring more to the table than then my male superiors!
What we are lacking in our industry isn't talent. There is plenty of talent to go around. What we lack is diversity and all of the benefits diversity brings with it.
So I'm not only bringing the audience competent ideas, I'm showing that it's as normal for a woman to have competent ideas and to present them on stage. I'm bringing in my perspective on things and unfortunately, because we raise our boys and girls differently, my perspective will differ in a general sense from men's. By bringing all of this, the audience's world is growing.
Until we have a more equal proportion of women and men as speakers, I'll always wonder if I was picked based on gender or merit. But I have decided that this will be the price I have to pay in order to give more women the ability to speak at conferences. I'm willing to pay that price because I believe in the end result.
I have come to realize that my ideas + my gender is more valuable than just great ideas and one particular piece of information made me change my mind.
I listened to Sharon Vosmek presenting at Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series and she talked about some interesting research.
Researchers at MIT discovered that three factors have an impact on the collective intelligence of a team:
- the ability of the team members to interpret other's feelings (can I tell that you are sad?)
- the equality in the conversation (is everyone given enough room to speak?)
- the number of women in the team.
The natural question is of course, up to what proportion do women increase the collective intelligence of a team? Up to a 100% according to the researchers. The theory is that women are in general better at the two first factors than men (probably from how boys and girls are raised).
The implications are huge. It means that we should acknowledge that the interpersonal skills are very important for software development. It means that you can favor picking a women over a man without feeling bad about it. It might even mean that you are making a bad decision if you don't.
My wish is that more women would accept that the world right now is unequal and that they, like me, start to pay this uncomfortable price to pave the way for more equality.
My wish is also that more men would make the equally uncomfortable choice of picking women over men sometimes to pave the way for more equality.
Until we are in an equal world, I want you to pick me for my gender.
One thought on “I want to be selected for my gender”
Additionally, as long as society favours men, you have this to bring to the table: you weren’t given the multiple advantages patriarchy bestows on men (for no other reason than that they are men). If you are working in an industry that is, by default, dominated by men, you had a harder path getting there than the men did. All other things (e.g. race, disability, etc) being equal a woman will be more competent than a man at the same level, simply because we are not the default and do not have the default privileges afforded to men.
I hope that this will, someday, be false. In the meantime, in situations where a man is the “default” option, it is actually men who are selected based on their gender rather than merit.