March 24th, 2010 catnip
As an intelligent human being, I am, quite frankly, horrified by the idea of Ada Lovelace Day. I also wonder whether Ada Lovelace herself would be too.
Why do we need a special day “to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science”. To me, that’s a caveat that screams “women are not good enough”. The only way to equality is to stop treating women differently. That means we don’t need separate days, groups, awards, events and so on, just for women. We need to make sure women are part of the existing days, groups, awards and events in the name of technology and science, not in the name of gender.
I read with similar horror recently of Geek Girl Dinners, as there is talk of setting them up in Birmingham. This is what they are about:
The Girl Geek Dinners were founded on the 16th August 2005 as a result of one girl geek who got annoyed and frustrated about being one of the only females attending technical events. She was tired of being assumed to be marketing, tired of constantly having to prove herself and decided that she just wanted a change and to be treated just the same as any other geek out there, gender and age aside.
Couldn’t her experience of technology events simply be the one that the vast majority of people feel when attending events, regardless of gender or subject? It’s quite nerve-wracking for everyone going to an event on their own, perhaps she just needs someone to go with (male or female). I have plenty of male friends who are equally terrified turning up to technology events.
We all judge people on their appearance whether we like it or not. I’m sure my brain subconsciously tries to distinguish the males that were are in marketing or whatever at such an event. Your brain naturally tries to categorise things to cope with the volume of information it receives. It’s only by talking to people that you can find out who they really are.
And all humans feel the need to ‘prove themselves’ among their peers, don’t they?
If I’m at a technology event and I feel that someone is not taking me seriously, I just dismiss their opinion as not valid and go and talk to someone else.
What does it say about us if we feel we always have to be surrounded by our own kind?!
The answer to discrimination (or perceived discrimination) is not segregation. Organising events by any criteria other than interest is a bit old fashioned isn’t it?
As for there not being many women at technology events, could this just be that women are naturally less inclined to be interested (I’m sure someone has done some research into this). If it is the case that women do want to get involved in science and technology, but are afraid to, then this probably needs to be tackled at school age.
Let’s stop obsessing about what gender people are and, like Ada, just get on with it. I really hope there is no need for an Ada Lovelace day next year, and if there is, that it is a celebration of her life and work as a scientist, not a female scientist.