"What... exactly... were you guys looking to get out of today's event? Because..."
"Because we're girls?"
Kim impetuously opts for The Truth: "We're here to meet men."
Our interrogator looks round dubiously.
"No, really, why are you here?"
Phew. My reputation is intact1
Kim eloquently describes what her situation is as Product Manager and the criteria she's measuring third party products against. I explain how LMAX aims to be the fastest retail exchange in the world, and therefore low latency is a tiny bit important to us. I talk about how we created The Disruptor on our path to achieve that goal. The guys gathered around us look a little... shell-shocked.
I'm exaggerating for Dramatic Effect. Before anyone starts getting upset about the only two girls at the event who weren't staff or hospitality being singled out, you have to give the guys credit. They approached us, engaged us in conversation, and had a very serious question about what we were after, and was there anything the vendor could do to either improve their offering or to make their sales pitch more appealing.
And don't get me wrong - it's brilliant being different in a situation like that, if people are brave / foolish / drunk enough to talk to you. It beats the hell out of sitting in a corner trying to get up the nerve to speak to Strangers (been there, done that).
But it is quite a contrast, even from the Java events (JAX London, Java One). There, I was in a select group of people of the female persuasion. But I was also part of a community, and treated as A Developer. At very specialised events (low latency, high performance in particular) diversity is almost non-existent. You can count the number of women on one hand (if you can see any at all) and even the developers wear suits (poor bastards). However it would probably be better if you could hide your surprise at hearing technical terminology coming out of a woman's mouth.
But... I kinda like it. Yes, I'm an alien. Yes, I'm special. But if it means you make the extra effort to speak to me, I can live with that.
1 "Extra extra, read all about it! Blogger And International Conference Speaker Only Does It To Meet Boys!" Not quite Jordan Stalks Rugby Ace For Sperm Donor. Which I really did see this morning.
EDIT: oh yes, and of course I forgot to plug my panel at Devoxx next week: "Why we shouldn't target women"