A stage call for UX Rock Chicks


Yes, I know… we keep having this discussion, but the question doesn’t go away. It’s been around the traps again this week (see here and here).

I particularly loved two ideas that Shelley put forward a recent post:

programs like agile computing… are trying to compensate for behavioral characteristics that we’re finding out, now, cause more harm than good.

Hrm. I’d never thought of Agile that way before, but it kind of makes sense. You don’t have to develop and entire development methodology to get women to talk to each other and work collaboratively (ok. sweeping generalisation I know… but quite accurate in my experience).
And this one:

Computer Science is still too heavily associated with either the math or the engineering departments, neither of which reflects how computers are used today. Computers are used in business and in social sciences, in psychology, medicine, history, and on and on. We associate computer science with calculus, when something like the library sciences would provide more useful integration, with its better understanding of the gathering and categorizing of data.

Now you’re talking. This makes me think of the issues I have with the word ‘geek’ and who is allowed to claim it. Sometimes I think that developers use it defensively, only people who code all the time are allowed to be called geeks. What about the rest of us who might do the odd bit of code when it’s faster to do it themselves, but are still immersed in technology, just from a different angle.

If, like Shelley has suggested, being a geek encompassed these other disciplines and acknowledged their importance in IT/Computer Science, then there would be more women participating in this field more actively (even if they’re not all hard core coders) which would surely make it a much more appealing field for women to join.

Anyway, that’s not what I was really posting about.

Do we, as Interaction Designers, Information Architects, User Experience People, have the same problem as the Graphic Designers (see image above). Do the boy UX Rockstars out number the gal UX Rockstars 5 to 1?

I know there are a few pretty high profile female UXers out there (ok, i’m including all the disciplines that might fall under this heading even if that’s not what they call themselves).

As far as conference speaking gigs, mailing list postings and book publications go the boys certainly seem to be a whole lot noisier than the girls.

When you think of ‘Rockstar’ IAs, IxDs, UXers, who do you think of?

Should we start making a list of amazing UX Gals?

Should we, how can we encourage them to be more noisy?

what say you?

* Probably shouldn’t assume those acronyms mean anything to most people!
IA = Information Architect, IxD = Interaction Designer, UX = User Experience

angry, angry, angry…


A friend told me this morning that apparently anger is the difference between those who survive and those who don’t. That sounded kind of profound. The more I think about it, the more I think she might be right.

I’m not really an angry person… in fact, when I’m angry it’s more than likely I’m just frustrated… but the symptom is anger, so I’ll go with that.

So, why am I angry?

  • Networks – I’m angry at the power of networks. I know… sounds crazy, but when you’re not IN a network, networks can be very intimidating and not particularly inclusive. Networks can be hard to break into. Networks are powerful only for those who are a part of them, and part of their power can be keeping people out – although not necessarily deliberately the effect is the same.
  • Perception – I’m angry that people who are important and clever seem to look a certain way or have a certain energy about them. God knows what this look or energy might be, but there must be something that makes it so easy for people to pass others over as being obviously not important.
  • Self Promotion – I’m angry that self promotion, or the promotion/visibility that someone receives is not necessarily related to the quality or value of work that they do. It’s more often related to how shameless and loud their voice, with amplication effects via networks (see above).

OK. So the world’s not a fair place, and perhaps I should be louder and braver and more self assured… but sometimes I feel as though if these are the rules of the game, then perhaps I’d rather start a whole other game to play.

Image Credit: Maureen Fischinger @ Flickr

Jam On at Office 2.0 PodCast Jam!

Office 2.0 PodCastJam

The Office 2.0 Podcast Jam kicks off tomorrow – so be sure to go check it out and get involved. There’s some really interesting stuff happening from kick off including podcasts from Richard MacManus, Rosemary Stasek (talking about her experiences in Afghanistan, now that’s a perspective you don’t get at your average conference), and Eric Severson (talking about XML single-sourcing for document management, which is, for now, lost on me, but Anne tells me is very important and often overlooked!)

The online chat is open now, so that’s one very easy way to participate!

But it’s not too late to record a podcast and send it in as part of the jam!
For many of the participants, this is their first experience with podcasting, and I can tell you, it’s pretty straight forward. It’s even easier if you have someone you think is interesting and set up an interview with them! (or get them to interview you, or interview each other!). I’ll be doing some of that during the week using Skype (still investigating the best ‘recording’ option – anyone got recommendations)

One of the GREAT things about PodCastJam is that it allows all those voices who are usually absent from a conference like the Office 2.0 Conference to participate in the conversation. I’m particularly hoping to hear more women speak, more people talk from a design and user/customer experience perspective, and more people based in places other than the US.

So if any or all of those sound like you – let me encourage you to give it a go! Just a short 5-10 minute piece on whatever you think is interesting (you can really only cover one topic well in that time I reckon), and send it off for everyone to consider and talk about.

It’ll be great fun, so get involved! :)

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perhaps the women have something better on…?

Boys at BarCamp

I’ve been busy at BarCamp London the last few days and managed to miss out on the hubbub around the lack of women speakers at Office 2.0.

As you’d expect, women were significantly under-represented at BarCamp. On the upside, the girls that were there seemed were mighty smart and interesting, and they all got up and did their bit (as you do at BarCamp). Also, there was never a queue for the loo :)

And here’s where I feel as though I might be potentially letting the team down…

… perhaps women just didn’t want to come to BarCamp, and perhaps they don’t want to get up and speak?

Perhaps they have better things going on in their lives… or things that they’d rather do? Perhaps they have different ways of communicating with each other? (a la Anne’s PodCast idea?)

I know lots of women who work in technology, but I know *very* few who would be willing to give up their weekend to come to something like BarCamp.

It’s not that they don’t love their work, or that they don’t care about what people are talking about at BarCamp, or that they’re not bright and vibrant and passionate people. It’s just that they’re not willing to give up their free time like that.

These are the same women friends of mine who aren’t blogging. They’re too busy doing their work and then getting out the door and having a life. And it’s not because they don’t *know* about blogging, or they don’t have access or technical ability. Lots of them have had a go at blogging and just aren’t that into it.

And. Fair enough.

These women are different to me. I spend way too much time online, reading all your blogs, writing my own, going to BarCamp. I’m willing to scare myself crazy with fear and hop up and speak so that I get to meet more people, share my ideas with them and learn from them. But lately, I really feel as though I’m a minority (amongst the people that I know in the *real* world… the blogging world, obviously, is skewed).

I’m just thinking, perhaps we’re fighting a battle for a tribe who aren’t really interested in the war?

Which leads me to the other point… I know that in lots of cases, people who are organising conferences just don’t think to invite women. (I’m thinking, if they don’t *know* any women, isn’t this a *great* opportunity to meet some?!).

In lots of other cases, though – you ask the organisers if they’ll let you speak.

At this very moment, you could be writing up a proposal to get up in front of the UPA Conference and the IA Conference next year. I wonder how many women are writing up their proposals, or how many (like me!) are thinking that they don’t really have anything interesting or important to say.

If you’re a woman, and you know a thing or two about Information Architecture or Usability/User Experience – have you thought about putting together a proposal?

(And yes, I know there are a few women who hop up every year and do a fantastic job. I hope they keep doing that. But I’d love to see more.)

So, here’s what I’m thinking. Yes, there should be more women at conferences – both attending and speaking, but there’s more to it than that. Lots of conferences just aren’t so interesting. And lots of women don’t think they have to say that other people would find important or interesting.

Perhaps if we focus on those kinds of issues, the problem might go away?

Update: Just going through my RSS feeds – of course Robert Scoble couldn’t stay out of the debate…. but here’s the thing – he virtually offers an invitation to women to put their hand up to be on his new show – lots of heated debate later, there are only two women who have done anything like say ‘pick me’. I’m sure a lot more men than women read Scoble… but surely lots of the women who do would fit the geek profile he’s after? or not.