Hacking the Gender Gap
Between our rise to fame in The Philadelphia Inquirer and our collective experiences in science and technology, a traditional play-by-play of GGD PHL #8 “Hacking the Gender Gap: A Hands-On Workshop for Boosting Gender Diversity in Tech” is not going to help us tackle this issue. Instead, here is a super quick recap of where to find more information followed by some ideas for future action that came from our discussion.
Our wonderful speakers, Amy Guthrie and Stephanie Alarcon, clearly introduced the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, showing that while the number of women in these fields has increased, there is still a significant gap. The resources referenced in their talk are available on The Hacktory’s website.
What followed was a thought-provoking exercise that helped us identify this disparity in our own lives, the sharing of war stories, and an interactive experience that spawned some possible action steps. The timeline activity, a staple of Hacking the Gender Gap talks, brought forward our experiences with technology and catalog both the positive (which included a lot of “firsts” and getting things to work on our own) and the negative (which exposed the significant potential for people in authority to put us down). Our experiences will be added to the official online timeline for the project.
The gender gap is a complex problem, and it’s hard to find concrete solutions, but that should not stop us from taking action. Here are some ideas that came up during the presentation and discussion.
Mentors, role models, peer support are super, super important.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people, and look for mentorship opportunities, whether those are formal programs or asking a particular individual or organization for guidance.
- Join communities, such as Girl Geek Dinners, Girl Develop It, and Web Start Women, to gain peer support and find women with shared experiences.
- And finally, consider being a mentor yourself.
If you see something, say something. Ask for antidiscrimination policies at conferences, refuse the status quo, and have comebacks ready to counter the chatter.
For future generations:
Improve K-12 education: Include earlier spatial training and work to eliminate bias among instructors. Equal expectations yield equal performance.
Equal pay: Ensure women can earn the same as men regardless of field.
More than circuits: Expand the vocabulary of science and technology to show the wide range of opportunities available.
Recap written by Catherine E. Odson
Catherine Odson is a librarian, overly enthusiastic reader, techie in training, and utility infielder for one of Philadelphia’s greatest co-ed softball teams. Born and raised in South Dakota, she recently acquired her first grown-up couch and intends to stay in Philadelphia. She occasionally blogs at http://catherineodson.wordpress.com and can be found at various events around the area sharpening her writing, communications, and UX skills, which she plans to use in libraries in the near future. Her dream job is copy editing the sports references in romance novels.
Photos taken by Lisa Yoder
Lisa is a recent transplant to the greater Philadelphia area, having grown up on a dairy farm in the wilds of Central PA. She spends her days proofreading and her nights reading, writing, learning to code, and dreaming of where to travel next. She aspires to mash up all of these pursuits into something beautiful.