Posts Tagged ‘girls in tech’

(View Discretion Advised:  This post is in fun.)

While next week will be packed with professional networking events, this week was one of parties and mixers, drinks and hors d’oeuvres, friendly conversation and new connections.  This meant a lot of interaction with men and booze, together, which can make for quite a variety of intriguing conversations.  Over the course of the week, four distinct characters began to make themselves known to me.

1)  The Don Juan. He’s flirting with you.  Its clear, he knows it’s clear, you know it’s clear, and he knows you know it’s clear.  But he’s good at it, and pleasant to the eye, and you’re flattered.  The conversation is flowing, a hand is laid on a shoulder, an easy smile is exchanged.  He doesn’t talk too much business; you both explore a few topics, and he shares as much as he listens.  He knows not to hover; he wraps up the conversation as easily as he began it in just the right amount of time.  He talks with those who are worth talking to, and not just the women.  He passes a look your way now and then, but is just as attentive to a half dozen others.  It’s fun, light-hearted, and not really meant to end in a date.   He’s out to make a girl smile, and he’s probably done it a few times tonight.  (Though don’t be completely surprised if he ends up with your number…or at least your twitter handle.)

2)  The Desperado. This guy thinks he’s a Don Juan, or at least wants to be one, desperately.  Really what he wants is a date, and that is the key distinguishing feature.  The minute your primary goal is to get a date, you move from Don Juan to Desperado.  This guy stands a little too close for comfort, and doesn’t know when to move on.  He may even travel with you from one conversation to another, if you even begin to suggest interest what he’s saying (this can be as simple as continuing the conversation, smiling, or even maintaining eye contact.)  He only talks business, since this is a networking event and he isn’t comfortable switching topics.  And if you are able to make it clear you aren’t interested, watch as he immediately pursues the next girl in the room.  (And, I learn, don’t be surprised if he DOES hook up with someone.  There are female Desperadoes too…)

3)  The Networker. This fine sir could care less about gender.  He’s talking business; and while that can mean personal stories and friendly interactions, he is sizing you up for your worth.  He’s learning what you do, and contemplating if you’re a good connection for him.  He’s sharing his story, and watching to see if you’re interested…in his business, not him.  He won’t tend to talk more than 10 or so minutes before finding a polite reason to step away, not before passing over a card if the conversation was positive.  He may follow-up, but strictly for a business deal or additional information.  Men can transition pretty easily from this to Don Juans or Desperados (depending on their personality and social skills), but it is a distinct category.

4)  The Friend. It seems most men hate to be this, but I don’t see why.  While it may take the longest to get you laid, you usually get the deepest relationships.  But anyway, I wouldn’t dare mar this otherwise perfectly objective post with personal opinion.  The Friend is something a guy needs to earn; not so defined by his behavior as by his relationship to you.  Its the guy(s) at the event you can go to in order to escape any of the above: the awkward Networker, the pushy Desperado, the touchy Don Juan.  Its who you come with to feel confident, to know you have friends and aren’t alone.  You rarely talk business with the Friend; generally you gossip about who’s there, what your plans are later, how other friends are, etc.  If you even talk at all at the event.  You know you’ll go out with a much smaller group (or 1-on-1, but NOT a date) before or after, so you may not need to connect at all there.  You need feel no physical attraction to the Friend, but be forewarned: if you do, it can be likely to become something more.

There was a 5th, The Taken, until I realized The Taken would act just like The Friend or The Networker – or The Don Juan or Desperado, depending on his partner and personal character – so he went away.

Now of course my pool is small and distinct: the men who attend mixers and networking events in the tech industry.  I make no promises that you’ll meet these gents in a bar, or that they are the only types to expect.  But I bet you’ll find some pretty strong correlations any time you go out to a social event with some strangers around.  So men, think about this the next time you go out, judge your own actions, and make sure you are falling into the right groups for your desires.


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Media eagerly awaits each new design

Media eagerly awaits each new design

This post is a bit late; I’ve been too busy working on a Halloween costume.  But it’s up, all the same

For those of you that missed it, Digital Summer was a party last Wednesday (produced by the lovely Liana Burtsava and Eliane Fiolet, and hosted by Girls in Tech and Ubergizmo) that brought together tech, photography, and fashion for one of the hottest mixers I’ve been to in awhile.  When all was said and done, they also raised money to plant nearly 1000 trees in Honduras!  Yay for good times and good causes!

But what exactly happened that made it oh so right?  While ideally I’d like to sit down with Liana and ask, here are some tips I saw that might help your next event get there.

  1. Set a high standard. By making their banners beautiful and artistic, by setting a dress code, and by announcing a semi-professional photo shoot area at the event, people came, and looked good.  People want to feel pretty, and be surrounded by pretty people, and Liana and Eliane made sure everyone knew this would be an event for that.  Man, I saw people in suits that I didn’t know owned anything other than their company tshirts.
  2. Keep a (pretty) line outside. This related to #1 – a line of people in tshirts and jeans is much less interesting than a line of beautiful women and international men.  Sure, people complained about the line, but really not that much.  And folks on the street asked what was going on.  Have the venue open 5-10 minutes late.  Tell the doorman there is no rush to get people in.  But be aware, this is a fine line (no pun intended), and keeping people out in the cold or out too long will breed discontent.
  3. Be liberal with media titles and promotion. Make people feel important.  When I knew I’d be able to skip the line as media, it inspired me to write more about the event; to earn that privilege.   I pimped this event to numerous friends and colleagues because my logo would be up there, and I wanted people to see.
  4. Unite sexy genres.  A tech mixer comes off as dull to the laymen.  Sure, he likes social media and all, but aren’t all techies just geek guys, he asks?  My most popular events have been when SFbeta teamed up with Virgance (green tech is sexy) and when we worked with Glam Media (with a name like Glam, what’s to miss?).  Liana and Eliane did this beautifully.  By working with tech bloggers, Girls in Tech,and local fashion and make-up artists, they were able to make a tech mixer that catered to women, to fashion, and to the media, without anything feeling forced.  This increased their audience without decreasing experience.
  5. Free drinks. Well, media got a free drink, but otherwise, thiey didn’t do this.  But they didn’t need to, since they hit the other points so well.  Offer a free drink to every attendee at your event, and you’ll draw the crowds.
  6. Hawt sponsors and partners.  Sponsors are most certainly not just for the money.  Sponsors promote the event to their clients, they give away schwag, and they get their name on everything.  If you can be picky, do it.  HP was there, showing off their awesome touch screens and mini-laptops.  There were also Coveroo iPhone etched covers going on and eye-lash extensions being added by star artists Bianca Lucescu and Candy Walker.  I dont know if either of those were paying sponsors, but that doesn’t matter.  They were a perk for attendees, and that will more than pay for itself.  Even if you don’t have sponsors as cool as these, work with them to design something engaging they can do or give away; it’ll leave them feeling more pleased with the investment, and will draw more crowds.

So congratulations ladies, on a wonderful evening!  And good luck to the rest of you; I’m sure you shall be fabulous!

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(Please note: I want to address the lack of racial AND gender diversity at tech events.  However, in this post I plan to make assumptions – as a woman – about women (already dangerous), and place some of the blame on women themselves.  I would not be comfortable saying these things about other races, since I wouldn’t have personal experiences to share.  That said, my goal is still more racial and gender diversity at events.)

Tech event coordinators have been getting a lot of shit lately about their speaker list: that it’s a white washed, testosterone infused boys club.  A lot has now been said on the issue, but it’s important to me, so I wanted to chime in.  Ironically, I feel this is an issue that needs less blogging and more action (as Cathy Brooks also ironically says).  Shouting into the void just seems to anger one side or the other, and isnt changing many people’s minds.  Organizers, female speakers, and leadership lists all need to take responsibility, rather than push it on.  This post includes:

  1. A summary of the debate and POVs, as I understand them.
  2. What conference organizers need to be doing.
  3. What women who care about this need to be doing.
  4. Why is this important?

1)  The Debate
So, no one (of merit) is saying women shouldn’t be speakers.  The basic organizer debate boils down to “I don’t want to choose a speaker BECAUSE she is female.  I want to choose based on merit and accomplishment.” and “There are incredibly accomplished women out there, you need to actively pursue them and not just wait for them to submit a speaking proposal.  Diversity takes work, and conference organizers need to allocate time for it.”

Stephanie Bergman has a wonderful post on BlogHer 2009, and the risk that comes with sticking women on stage just to have women.  In a nutshell, you risk finding people who aren’t really experts, and set back the entire movement to get women onstage.  Let’s avoid this.

The debate itself is also dangerous.  Now, when attendees see an African American on stage, or a woman leading a workshop, they may question if this was really the best speaker, or if its just politics at work.  Essentially, it’s the Affirmative Action debate all over again.  And as an organizer, I NEVER want to sacrifice quality for diversity.  Ever.  There are women out there with unique experiences and incredible knowledge, who will teach attendees new things.  You just have to work a little harder to find them.

2) What can organizers do?
It’s one thing to start a petition saying you demand an organizer have more women; it is good to raise awareness of the issue, and call out events (like O’Reilly’s) that garner press, have huge production teams, and set the bar for all others.  It’s another to set unreasonable standards.  I think, in a field roughly 25% women, having 20% of your speakers being female is pretty darn good.  I think having an event of entirely white men is terrible.  As an organizer, some things you can do include:

  1. Be aware of the issue: think about it while you design an agenda.  It’s easy to be all male: I have received 65 speaking submissions for SNAP Summit. 2 of them are from women.  If I want qualified speakers and a balanced roster, I need to do some research.
  2. As Allyson points out, contact Girls in Tech, Women 2.0, WITI, and dozens of other organizations.
  3. Look at the agendas for events hosted by the above organizations, as well as BlogHer and She’s Geeky.  These can be great leads.
  4. Diversify your team.  For FailCon, I’ve got a female assistant, an African-American PR rep, and dozens of student, women, and minority groups working on outreach with me.  This has been, thus far, one of the most creative and exciting teams I have worked with, and I have already begun reaching groups and speakers I never talked to before.
  5. Check online for Women Leaders of 2009, Top Entrepreneurs of Color, etc.  These are great people to reach out to: they’re probably experts AND they diversify your agenda.

3)  What can women do?
For FailCon, we have reached out to easily over 20 female speakers.  15 of them responded to our emails, only 3 of them said yes.  As I mentioned, of the 65 speaker submissions I’ve received thus far, 2 of them were for females.  Does it sound like OUR fault this conference is mostly masculine?  So, what can women be doing?

  1. Come on ladies, as Susan says: promote yourselves!  Kaliya Hamlin, from Identity Woman, points out “Women don’t self-promote like the alpha dog’s in the industry do. Sorry it is just true.”  (Kaliya goes on to give some great speaking suggestions for women, and prep advice for organizers in that article, so I’m just picking at details :\.)  But I still feel compelled to point out that women need to start putting themselves out there more, that we can’t hide behind this stereotype that we are not aggressive all the time.  My speaker submission rates continue to surprise people; hell, they continue to surprise (and sadden) me.
  2. Come up with an inspiring, relevant, unique, and informative topic and start submitting it.  If you get a “no,” don’t complain, but instead politely ask why, and for help making it stronger for next time.  Usually, my “no” is because I got 5+ submissions just like it, because it wasn’t relevant to my audience, or because I wasn’t compelled by the topic.
  3. Promote each other!  Rather than write organizers to complain about their agenda, email them a number of speakers you feel would make it stronger.  I LOVE getting those emails: they are more positive and inspire me to help.
  4. Maggie Fox also has some great, concise tips on how to get noticed on Technically Women.

4)  Why is this important?

A lot of people argue that it will fix itself; that as more women get into the field, the numbers will even out.  Too bad the ratio of women is dropping in tech.  Why?  Well, one thing I’d say is a lack of role models.

Some do say that tech just isn’t for the estrogen inclined; that whether it be society or evolution, women aren’t fit to take the risks involved with a startup, or do the math involved with high tech.  One of my (many) issue swith this is that it is cyclical logic.  If we keep saying this, we discourage women from joining, so we assume women aren’t fit to join, so less do.  We miss an entirely new perspective on the issues we all face.  I have frequently found that the startup teams I meet that seem most balanced and likely to succeed are 2-3 co-founders, one of which is a woman.  I’m not arguing the two genders are identical.  It is in fact our differences that make it important we all be recognized.  If women are making up easily half of your users (as we see in blogging, online gaming, and twitter), shouldn’t you have a few women on the team?

And finally, it is an issue of understanding.  I hate the casual remarks I get now and then: “You have a pretty good hand shake for a woman” or “I don’t need to get into the details, I don’t think you’d understand” or “You know, getting women on stage will get the boys there!”  (Yes, Ive had all of those said to me.)  No, I am not being a “too sensitive” when I get irked by this, but I don’t fully blame the men who say these things, either.  How many female equals do they work with?  How many women have challenged one of their ideas, or countered them in an argument?  How often have they had to try a different tactic to reach an understanding?  We need to work together to create the most innovative software and useful social media tools, and to do that we need to be able to communicate with one another in a respectful manner.  Hearing these experienced and confident women on stage will be the first step for both genders.

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