Female Code Camp Speakers?

Yesterday was the first day of 4th annual Nebraska Code Camp.  It is an opportunity for developers of all types to meet, learn, and network with each other.

Today is the free portion of Code Camp.  It is a totally free event.  All people are welcome, whether they work with Java, C#, F#, or Cobol (or even if they don’t and just want to learn).  The call for speakers is an open opportunity every year for knowledgeable professionals to share.

This year is a significant first.  This is the first year that outsiders have looked at the speaker list and judged it to be inadequate.  These people, to my knowledge, don’t even attend the event have said that we do not have enough women speakers at our event.  A reporter from the Omaha World-Herald wrote an article openly criticizing the event organizers and referring to the list of contacts notified as an “Old Boys Network”.

That hurts!  I am not an organizer, just a speaker but that really hurts.  And no, it doesn’t hurt because it is supposed to, it hurts because certain people are using this issue to draw attention to themselves instead of to something that is a real issue.  Instead of working to make positive changes, they are using this issue to promote themselves and their “issues”.  One woman, who will remain nameless since this effort appears to be an attempt to draw attention to her cause, did not submit a talk even though she seems to be a qualified technical female leader.  When specifically asked to participate, she calls the effort “tokenism” and declined.

“How did we get here in 2014?”
“How did we get here in 2014?” the reporter asks, and I echo that question.  How, when we have plenty of great female computer programmers in a field that, early on, was dominated by women (Ada Lovelave, Betty Holbertson, Grace Hopper, etc) do we have a severe lack of women in software development and an event with a wide open format and not one single woman submits a talk for consideration?  (Every speaker that submitted a talk was accepted again this year).

That is a far bigger issue than just the speaker count on a single Code Camp roster and I believe that solving it goes beyond just adding female speakers.

We need to get the message out there that computers don’t care what sex you are, what color you are, what your sexual preference is, how tall you are, etc.  We need to get more computers and software development tools in the hands of young kids and spark their creativity.  We need some women to step up and give presentations so that other women can step up also and know that they won’t be the only woman there, the “some kind of exotic bird” to repeat the quote from the article.

I am sure that next year we will put greater effort into recruiting female speakers.  We will probably be successful and get at least one (would that still be considered “tokenism”).  I will again suggest it to the amazing female software developers that I know.

But this is a bigger issue than just women in technology. Computers don’t care about race, color, creed, sexual preference, voting party, or anything other than what code you typed in.  The efforts to make everyone (men, women, young, old, black, white, asian, aboriginal people) feel welcome will be ongoing and met with various levels of success.

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