SXSW 2010: What Guys are Doing to Get More Girls in Tech

When I attended SXSW (you can read more about it over at Computer Wekly’s news blog) my interest was piqued by one panel in particular: What Guys are Doing to Get More Girls in Tech.

It was pitched as an opportunity to “learn about successful strategies and proactive approaches for supporting women you work with and participate in community with.”

Kaliya Hamlin chaired the panel, which featured BT’s VP of web services, Kevin Marks; Canadian collaboration expert David Eaves; Brandon Sheats, co-founder of tenpeach and WordCamp Atlanta 2010; and Obie Fernandez, co-founder of web design and development group Hashrocket.

The unifying theme is their work to encourage diversity across corporate culture and developer and user communities which remain largely male and white.

Marks summed up his experience of making tech more welcoming to women with a word of advice to men: Lesson one is for men to treat their female colleagues as human beings rather than sexual objects.

You’d think this was a no-brainer, but there remain those who think “working late on a presentation” is a euphemistic come-on. Marks related the story of a female colleague returning to a meeting room to find her male co-worker stark naked.

Fernandez related the shock! horror! anecdote of a large consulting company with progressive leadership working hard to try to hire more women for tech jobs… an ambition which then fell at the final hurdle as those responsible for the hiring proceeded to show bias to a candidate’s attractiveness rather than technical competence.

The clear message to emerge was that men in tech could do worse than to conduct a bit of self-analysis to see how they could be better allies to women in tech. As Marks said somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “What we need to do is make the tech world better for mediocre women in tech – because god knows it’s full of mediocre men!”