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.

innovation – give it ten years (girly geeks london)

Microsoft T-Shirt

So, I went to the Girl Geeks Dinner in London last evening. It was an interesting night. The first thing you need to know if you’re thinking of going, is that it’s not a dinner. It’s drinks and a talk. But it’s still good.

I went there knowing absolutely no one, and ended up meeting a few people (hooray to those girls who were brave enough to introduce themselves to people they’ve never met… this happened about three times throughout the night, I did it a few times but not as bravely as some!)

One thing I’m taking away from the evening is that I need to find a way to talk about what I do that sounds as exciting as I think it is. As you do when you don’t know anyone, you find yourself explaining what you do with your time at work. You’d know by now that I’m pretty enthusiastic about my work – but I know that when I talk about it, it doesn’t have that zing. That’s something to work on.

Someone who does much better at it is Abigail Sellen. She’s been involved in amazing HCI work for ages. At the moment, she’s working with Microsoft. Abigail gave a really interesting talk to the Geeky Girls. I loved her relaxed presentation style. Abigail has been doing this work and talking about it a lot. She has such an understated approach, but her CV is so incredibly sexy, I suppose it’s easy to be understated.

Abigail says – if you’re going to *really* innovate – really do something out of the square – then be prepared for a ten year wait to see it go to market- otherwise be prepared to engage in taking it to market (getting out of the research lab and going out for lunch with product managers, engaging with the economics and the politics of the organisation outside of the research lab). She was talking about projects they were working on ten years ago that we’re looking at today and thinking ‘how sexy’. Seen that two handed desktop interaction? That kind of thing. They were working on it ten years ago and now the market is almost ready to find a place for it.

If you want to take innovation to market quickly, then focus on tweaks. Find ways to make existing technology work better. And this is no small task. Abigail gave the example of the mobile phone and the way that SMS completely revolutionised what that device meant to people and how they used it. That’s a reasonably small innovation that came to market reasonably quickly (depending on what market you’re in) and made huge changes.

At Microsoft they’ve been looking at the home technology market. Their thinking is that up until now, home technology has been divided into two areas: time saving and time wasting. This is a pretty simple breakdown, they say, and there must be some more interesting opportunities for technology in this environment – like for using it to allow people to express themselves, to emote, and for supporting families.

Really interesting stuff – enough to turn some of us green with jealousy, I’m sure. Sometimes I really like the idea of working in a research lab. But then, they too have frustrations – such as the ten year wait, and the products that are designed but never get to market, and getting IP Patents for all your ideas can’t be that much fun either.

It was definitely worth the effort to make it to Geek Girls and I’d recommend it to other London gals. Get along and check it out!

Meanwhile – check out Sarah Blow’s great t-shirt (picture above). It’s a customised XXL Mans Microsoft .NET tshirt. Microsoft has never looked so cool. Mash-up of the year I reckon :)

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Check out a non-crunchy version of the photo here.

chicks & conferences downunder – the conversation continues

So, Ben Barren revved up the Downunder Conference conversation again this weekend. More conversation ensues at the Women of 2.0 post earlier on this site.

We’re talking about unconferences (what are they?), should a chick blogging conference be included as a stream in a larger Downunder Web Conference? (If so, which one). And, is Ben Barren the appropriate champion for Aussie women who blog?

Come, join the fun :)