I'm the only woman, out of 100+ attendees. I'm relatively used to these ratios—when you're a developer, a rock climber, and a sci-fi geek, you spend a lot of time with boys—but I'm still puzzled as to why. This evening was unusual because someone actually commented on the imbalance; it's usually the Awkward Unstated Obviousness that seems too gauche to acknowledge.
I've been formulating some guesses about why there are so few women at software conferences. Do you have any ideas?
- This was only the kick-off. Two or three more may show up tomorrow. This doesn't really change the point, though.
- The programmer community is not as gender-balanced as I had thought. The multitudes of women around my workplace are actually managers, project managers, business analysts, test leads, dev leads, and administrative assistants.
- Women don't hear about the conferences. (I'm only starting to tap into the info channels, myself.)
- Women feel less entitled to ask their employers to fly them to an expensive conference. (Although this one is free. But, in general.)
- It takes courage to jump in and be the only girl. When all of a conference's featured speakers are men, you know most of the attendees will be, too. (I was heartened to see Wendy Friedlander on the organizers list of Alt.Net; I hope I get to meet her.)
- Women prioritize relationship-building over career development or skills growth, and so do other things with their weekends.
- A roomful of men can be tiresome. They shout a lot, often fruitlessly and without seeming to listen to anyone else.
- Math is hard.
I don't blame the men. If anything, they are guilty only of being men. I always find them to be polite and inclusive. When they're shouty, it's because it's their nature to be shouty, and you need to shout right along with them (They like that.), or communicate with your own quiet confidence (They'll listen.). You don't have to be like a man to hang out with men. You don't have to be like a girl, either. You can just be a developer, be a thinking person with ideas, be yourself.
But you have to show up.