Why Women Shouldn't Write about Why Women Shouldn't Attend Tech Conferences

August 4, 2011

Originally posted on The Lady Who Lunches blog: http://www.ladywholunches.net/blog/2011/08/03/why-women-shouldnt-write-about-why-women-shouldnt-attend-tech-conferences/

I attended my second tech conference called TechWeek...as a woman. I moderated my first panel at a tech conference...as a woman. The panel was called (a bit ludicrously) Social Media Magic: A Woman's Touch.

One team won the COMPETE section of a part of the conference called midVenturesLAUNCH - the founder of the company called BabbaCo was a woman. She wasn't just a finalist, she WON.

Another company's team won the People's Choice Award at TechWeek - the two founders of the company called Dabble were women.

I wish I didn't even have to say those facts. However, the truth of the matter is that we're a minority in tech. That's true. We're a minority, and to some, a very welcome minority.

Women also bring something different to tech than men...I believe that's also true. Not bad, just a fact. And actually, I think, a good thing.

Just like in life, in tech, women and men are not normally interested in the same things, nor do they speak about the same topics, dissect topics the same way, and the majority of the time - the companies that women entrepreneurs start are...well, more woman focused. For example, the winner of the COMPETE section - her company makes educational products for children. Not exactly an API or a cloud-based service, but a GREAT company, nevertheless.

So, why am I even bothering talking about women and tech conferences?

Well, I am proud that there were four women that attended the tech conference.

Oh wait, there was a fifth (actually there were at least a dozen, but you get my point). Her name was Susannah Breslin. In fact, Ms. Breslin is a writer just like I am, but unlike me, she decided to use her writer prowess to pen a recent Forbes article called Why Women Shouldn't Go To Tech Conferences. She also more specifically referenced me as a moderator in the article, and the panel that I was moderating.

You know what, I won't call her Ms. Breslin. That's what people say when they are pissed off at someone. Well, Mr. Smith can shove it up his *$%&. Or Ms. Lipshitz thinks she knows what she's talking about, but blah blah blah.

No, I'll call her Susannah.

I'm not mad at Susannah. I'm just well, disappointed. She had an opportunity to write something different. She had an incredible platform - Forbes - and yet, she made the conscious decision to write this article. Not only that, but she blatantly titled it in an inflammatory manner. She clearly wanted a reaction, a shock factor.

However, when you actually read the article, she just seems bored. I'm not sure if she's bored of being a woman, or bored of tech conferences, but the writing doesn't really have a point. A bit Brecht-like and detached, Susannah describes a few panels, uses words like sort of, she says I wonder 17 times, I think 30 times, and other vague words that only make you wonder - why is she writing this?

But honestly? I expected to get pissed off by reading it. I wanted to get riled up, and feel something by her writing. But was that exactly her point? Did she intentionally write an article so bland, so technical, and so pointless just to make her point that not all women do in fact feel?

She attended my panel, and writes about it. She decided to begin the section about my panel with the subtitle Women are all about feelings.


She's right.

When I asked the panel why they believed women were the reigning queens of social media and what the magic touch was, one of the women answered that she believed women were able to feel it out better than men could. However, there was also a woman who completely disagreed with her. Hermione Way thought it was ludicrous: I completely disagree, she said. There is no 'magic touch.' Just like everything else in life, you get there by working your ass off, by grafting, and by trying different things.

Susannah failed to mention this part. Like Fox News shows the other side, Susannah only showed one side to make a completely invalid point. After pulling a couple of bad quotes from the panel for her article to further prove that these women were vapid, unintelligent and shallow, including such classic sound bytes as I lived out the American dream. I moved to San Francisco, and They wanted a young, cute chick to host, she ended the section by wondering further.

I wonder what all the men in the other rooms of this conference are doing. I imagine they are talking about apps they have created, and companies they have founded, and complicated technology things that they want other people to buy. I wonder if anywhere at this conference men are talking about whether or not they have feelings.
Complicated technology things that they want other people to buy. Right. Because that is what we need more of in this world.

But let me say this - she ended on an uplifting note, and where she ended, I agree with. There is more to it than this. There is more to it than being sponsored by Mountain Dew, by making complicated things that people want to buy.

She ran into a guy who has a non-profit, and helps people, and apparently that moved her.

She ends by saying that she doesn't really think that women should attend tech conferences, but maybe they should because there is always that one fleeting moment amidst all the bullshit when you realize maybe there is more to this world than getting sponsored by a soda.

Fair enough. Maybe it's up to the woman to point that out. Maybe it's up to the woman and her feelings to notice that a man is doing something good in the world...and then to write about it...after the tech conference.

But why TITLE the article something so inflammatory? Simply by using the title Why Women Shouldn't Attend Tech Conferences she is in fact worse than the girl who talked about being sponsored by a soda.

And still, she never answered why the ENTIRE female gender shouldn't attend tech conferences. We shouldn't attend because one panel about social media talked about feelings, about how proud they were of their jobs, perhaps boasted a bit too much about how they got to where they were, and were honest about the fact that being cute didn't hurt? Is that what she's saying?

Because if she has never been to a tech conference where a woman had a valid thing to say, or gives a different take to a complicated problem, or stood up to a man who was becoming too passionate about a topic, and needed a logical, rational woman to step in and put him straight - then perhaps she needs to go to more tech conferences, not less. Her problem might just be that she doesn't go to enough.

There are so many other things to say about this - but the main thing I want to say is this - Susannah, you are a woman, and you attend tech conferences.

It's sad - there are so many wonderful things to say, and this is what she chooses to write about. It particularly bothers me not just because I was on the panel, but also because four other women - Arabella, Kathleen, Crystal and Cate helped to put on the conference. Without them, it wouldn't have worked. Yet, she didn't think about writing about that.

Photo by Michael O'Donnell of ZatPhoto: http://zatphoto.com/