Response: Women Aren’t at Philly Tech Week for You To Look At

One thing Gene Marks got wrong in “The 56 Things You’ll Likely Overhear at Philly Tech Week.”

Tracey Welson-Rossman of TechGirlz

Tracey Welson-Rossman of TechGirlz

“That Tech Girl Talk session? Seems pretty hot,” wrote Gene Marks in his article “The 56 Things You’ll Likely Overhear at Philly Tech Week” on this website.  While the author was clearly attempting to satirize the event, this part missed the mark.

With that one line he brought to light what is wrong with so many technology events and conferences around the world.  First, the statement is clearly from a man’s point-of-view, as if they are the only people attending Tech Week events. Worse, it marginalizes the involvement of women, not only with Philly Tech Week but also within the technology community, by reducing it to a visual spectacle.

For four generations, women have been cut, prodded, and dissuaded from the technology picture. The first computer programmers on the ENIAC — women who lived and worked right here in Philadelphia — were simply cropped out of the Army’s publicity shots. In the 1980s, the percentage of women studying computers in college began its decades-long decline. We can’t forget the first Danica Patrick ad for GoDaddy in 2010, though I wish I could. “Hot” was the word many used to describe it, not coincidentally.

There is an economic reality to this conversation that is far too important to overlook: The number of job openings versus the number of qualified tech workers is widening. The Department of Labor forecasts that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million new information technology job openings in the United States. Our universities are expected to produce only enough qualified graduates for 29 percent of these job openings, leaving  71 percent unfilled. At the same time, a recent study showed that women are leaving technology companies at twice the rate of men. Some of the reasons cited were corporate culture, work/life balance, and lack of advancement.  There are not enough men to fill open jobs, particularly here in Philadelphia, but the current environment doesn’t invite women to fill them either.

Not all technology departments, workplaces or events are welcoming but the organizers of Philly Tech Week and the Philly Women in Tech Summit on April 12th are trying to change that with a Code of Conduct and other efforts.  In a recent interview (also on this website), Technically Philly’s Chris Wink said, “… Philadelphia genuinely is a community that’s among the leaders nationally about inclusivity.” But that message was lost in Mr. Marks’ article.  It’s not a stretch to think women readers could perceive it is just another tech guys conference where women are there to be “hot.”

The only way to maximize the value of the untapped resource that is women in tech is to change the culture not just in the workplace, but also in society.  For more than a decade, I’ve been working in technology and studying this problem up close, which is how I came to realize there is no one silver bullet to this issue. The solution involves many steps and many people pitching in — beginning with this response.

Women must stand up for ourselves when we see, hear, or read something that reinforces the attitude that we are not equal members in the technology community.  I invite Mr. Marks to join us by changing #31 on his list to “There’s a whole day dedicated to women in tech? Awesome!”

Tracey Welson-Rossman is the founder of Follow her on Twitter @TWelsonRossman. She will take part in Women in Tech Startups: Tech Girl Talk on Tue., April 8th from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

She spoke at last year’s Philly Mag ThinkFest on “Why Women Are The Future of Tech.” Watch that talk below:

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  • justthetruth

    “Current environment doesn’t invite women” – women don’t need to be “invited” when they’re half the population. Just do it. Unless, as this author apparently believes, women are these delicate little creatures that can’t do something unless they’re catered to and “wooed.” I suspect most, or at least many, women actually look down on tech as being not good enough for them (what would their women friends say!). Tech men are sexist and all that? Of course, but I doubt if that’s the reason. God knows there were – and are – enough sexist and boorish male lawyers but that didn’t stop women from navigating through that profession.

    • critical mass

      you should change your name to “justthepartyline”–it’s good that you acknowledge sexism, but then you go on to suggest that women should just accept its presence in the workplace because, after all, they seem to have done so in law (not exactly a clean analogy, since lawyers know how to sue other lawyers for sex discrimination). Anyway, I’d love to hear you advise African Americans to do the same in racist workplaces: Just do it! Surely men in tech are not so stupid or so frightened of women that they are incapable of change.

  • PhilipJames

    Lets see…. women think about clothes, hair, makeup, breast implants, perfumes, etc. on a constant daily basis and then say “don’t look at me”?
    This bull crap article is more about femenazi lesbian thinking than anything that men might do.
    And don’t blame Danica Patrick for your failures… she makes $10 million a year and is the best female race car driver in the world… so I don’t think she has to apologize for anything she has done.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Ms. Welson-Rossman for a great article. My wife works in tech and the stories she’s told me about discrimination, unwelcoming atmospheres, and outright sexism are appalling. Anybody who denies that this is a problem has their head in the sand.

    And thank you, justthetruth and PhilipJames, for so perfectly proving the author’s point.

    • justthetruth

      You’re welcome. But what your wife is experiencing is the effect of women refusing to work in tech, not the cause of it. Many women still believe tech is not “womanly” enough, unlike, say, top law partner or upper level corporate management which they embrace like there’s no tomorrow. And by the way, dude – I said tech men were sexist before you did, so what’s newsworthy about your remarks….

  • Liz

    I’m still wondering what #20 is all about: “Is that a guy or a girl?”

  • wggglassss

    Seriously this offended over one line in a joke piece? Moron.