What Can Conferences Do To Attract More Women Speakers?

Trisha presenting at JavaOne

Now I've been speaking at (mostly Java) conferences for a while (six years now), I get asked to present at a lot of conferences. Obviously all these conferences are mostly interested in my terribly educational talks, but it's also because I'm a technical woman and there aren't very many technical women speaking at conferences.

In my experience, conferences want to do the right thing - they want a diverse line up of speakers, they want to attract diverse attendees. Often this is not as easy as it may seem, and frequently conferences are Twitter-shamed for not having enough women speakers. When it gets to this point (and often before), conferences frequently ask me for advice on speakers they could invite, and how to attract more women.

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What Can Men Do

Trisha and Dan North presenting

So, I wrote a long email to the London Java Community in answer to an excellent question: "What can men do to support Women in Technology?".

It's a bit of a brain dump, by no means comprehensive, and is in answer to a specific question in a specific context, but I've been asked to make the information public so it can be useful in a broader context. So here it is.

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Are Blind CFPs Really The Answer?

Off the back of yesterday’s post, I received a number of comments and questions around blind CFPs (Call For Papers - usually to get into a conference you submit to a CFP) for conferences. I often hear it said that a blind CFP will fix, or at least improve, the diversity imbalance at conferences.

I don’t believe this.

Firstly, I should caveat this with: this is going to be a blog post based on my experiences and chats with people, and I have zero science to back this up. Sorry. But I do have some numbers.

There are a couple of London conferences that I won’t name (because I haven’t asked their permission not because they’ve done anything wrong) that in some years have received only 2 from around 200 (or more) submissions from women. These conferences have accepted 100% of the submissions from women, and then been open to criticism for not having enough women speakers.

A blind CFP to remove unconscious bias from the selection committee might have resulted in zero women speakers.

Now I know the next argument is that advertising a blind CFP might encourage a wider diversity of speakers to apply. This does seem to work in some parts of the industry (I’ve been talking to women from tech scenes that don’t intersect with mine and I’m starting to see that we have different problems in different segments of the wider development world). But for my world, which is largely Java, with some forays into Agile, NoSQL, Open Source, and Enterprise, the women I speak to aren’t scared they’ll be discriminated against if they put their name on a CFP. Besides, they don’t have anything to lose by submitting and being rejected. They’re more afraid they’ll be accepted, and then they’ll have to give a presentation! No, the women I’ve spoken to in my world don’t submit because they don’t feel ready, they don’t think they have anything to talk about, and they’re worried about the sorts of questions they’ll get asked when they’re standing up there. Those fears aren’t allayed by having a blind CFP.

If there are any fears of being judged as a woman, it’s when we’re standing up in front of people at the conference, and no amount of blindness during the CFP process is going to make us feel better about that.

For me, personally, I find the idea of a blind CFP terrifying:

  • Firstly, if you have such a problem with judging people based on race or gender that you have to anonymise the selection process, I’m not sure I want to speak at your conference where my gender will be blatantly on show.
  • Secondly, when I was starting out as a speaker, I was new to writing titles and abstracts and expected that they would not be good enough to get in. With a blind CFP I would never find out why as I could never ask for feedback on my anonymous abstract. As a novice speaker, I expected my gender would help me be selected, not hinder.
  • Thirdly, as an experienced speaker I know my abstract-writing has not really improved, but I know my presenting has, and I know there are videos of me out there doing a good job as a presenter, this is my audition tape.

When I was starting out as a speaker, I knew there weren’t enough women presenters around. And although I hate the idea of positive discrimination and hate the idea that men might think I got into my position merely because I’m female, I knew that being a woman made me stand out in all those submissions. And I knew that enough conferences would take a chance on me, if only to improve their diversity, and that’s all I needed to bootstrap my speaking career - once I had spoken at enough conferences, once I had videos of me doing that, I would find it much easier to get into the next conferences. And that’s worked. And now, as an experienced (female) speaker, I fear blind CFPs as they won’t know who I am or what I’m capable of.

So that’s my opinion as a female speaker. But I’ve also been fortunate enough to be on the programme committee for a couple of conferences, and after three years or so of speaking at conferences I know a lot of conference organisers. Let’s assume you’re “merely” trying to build the best conference you can around your subject whilst not discriminating against anyone (i.e. let’s assume you’re not going out of your way to actively promote diversity). How can you do this when you only have abstracts and titles to go on?

I am aware of the studies around blind auditions for orchestras. And I understand how tempting it is to try to apply that to our world, since it has had an effect on the number of women in orchestras (but let’s not get too excited here, we’re talking about an increase from 5% to 25% over thirty years…). I think blind auditions would work really well for coding - we can look at just the code, without knowing anything about the physical body behind the code, and figure out if that person is good enough for us. We could even do blind pair programming, using screen sharing and chat (actually that’s a great idea, I think I’ll patent that!). Because the thing you’ve anonymised (the code) is the output you really care about in a programming job. If you communicate via chat you can even measure someone’s communication skills without judging them physically, another vital skill for being part of a team.

But a talk abstract is not the output we’re looking for. Sure, a good title and abstract will attract attendees to the conference and bums on seats in the actual talk. But the output you’re looking for is the presenter - their style, their approach to the topic, their ability to hold attention, their ability to impart information. We’re not always looking for the same things either, an interesting topic presented nervously but logically is fine, as is an entertaining presenter reminding us of fundamentals we already know (and any other combination of strengths and weaknesses). An abstract can’t tell you how good the presentation is going to be. Evaluating a presentation on a blind abstract would be like evaluating those musicians on a couple of paragraphs explaining what they’re going to play and how they’re going to try to make you feel when they play it - the words could sound great, but the musician might not even be able to play the instrument.

The best audition you can have as a presenter is to, well, present. Videos, audio clips, even screencasts. But the problem with presenting is that it’s so freaking obvious that you’re a woman (or other variation on non-white-straight-male). If you can’t objectively evaluate a presentation without taking away the presenter’s physical body (for colour or gender or whatever), then you’ve got real problems. Your audience is going to be faced with that physical body for an hour of their life, and you can bet they’ll be judging them too. You want to be damned sure that you’ve selected a competent presenter, and you’ll need to stand by that choice. Saying “oh, well, they didn’t seem boring in their abstract” is not going to make the audience feel like you did a good job of the selection.

There’s another point about non-blind selection processes, other than the process allowing you to select on presentation ability rather than abstract-writing ability: you can be more active in promoting diversity. I am against “affirmative action”, but if the proportion of women submitting presentations is lower than the proportion of women in the field, there’s something missing. Here are some of the things you can do if you identify a lack of a certain demographic - as usual, I’m going to use “women”, but you could equally argue this for any demographic, even not-enough-C#-developers or too-many-startups-not-enough-enterprise:

And there’s more - you don’t just have to drain the pool dry of known competent speakers-who-tick-some-diversity-box. With a non-blind process you can actively improve the submissions you do have, assuming you’re not one of the conferences suffering from a complete lack of submissions from those people. For example, if you’re looking to increase the number of women presenting at your conference, if you have women submitting but they don’t quite meet your criteria (maybe the abstract is weak, the title isn’t catchy, or maybe the presenter simply isn’t quite ready yet) you, as the conference organiser, are in the perfect position to mentor these people: you can help them re-write their abstracts; you can offer them mentoring and training for presenting. If there’s no record of them presenting but you’re interested in evaluating their ability, you can set them up with a user group to present at - as a conference organiser, you have the network contacts that new speakers might not. You can run sessions aimed at people who have never done public speaking (I’ve run a session like this four times now, at the LJC and at Ladies Who Code - I had over 70 RSVPs for the last London Ladies Who Code session, twice the number of the last LJC session, so there are plenty of women interested in breaking into this field, who are looking for training, who don’t feel ready to present yet).

So, what are my points?

  • A blind process of selection can be applied to something where the output you’re selecting for can be effectively anonymised: music auditions, code, technical writing, etc.

  • A blind process where you select based on criteria that are not the end result will only be effective if it’s the selection process is biased, or if submissions to the selection process are lower from discriminated-against-groups because they fear a biased selection process.

  • For those conferences that are getting very tiny numbers of submissions from women (I’m picking women as the example but you can pick any group you want), a blind process could lead to even fewer selected women speakers. Instead of switching to a blind process, you’re probably going to want to check:

    • the messaging around your conference (remember masculine words like rock star, ninja, competitive, hardcore, challenging etc put women off applying to jobs, the same probably applies to technical conferences)
    • subliminal messages on your website/info (one of the conferences I mentioned, for example, sent out a couple of emails containing photos of previous years’ conferences which happened to only show men - this was not even representative of the conference, but it can have an unexpectedly big effect on the subconscious)
    • have you showcased the diversity of the conference, or previous years’ conferences, with photos, interviews, testamonials?
  • A non-blind submission process allows you to be more active in promoting diversity - instead of hoping that the submissions are representative of the diversity in your community, and that selecting the most interesting talks will naturally lead to improved diversity, with a non-blind process you can track exactly how many women are submitting, address problems in this area early and offer mentoring to those who aren’t quite ready yet. Remember that women only apply for jobs they feel 100% qualified for and take fewer chances, they might need that extra push.

So, no. I don’t believe that implementing a blind CFP will address the lack of diversity in conference speakers. I know it helps in some circles, but I personally think that conference selection committees should a) be much better at identifying their own biases and actively attempting to overcome them b) be active in improving the diversity of their conference, and c) be offering feedback and mentoring to those who are not quite ready yet in order to improve the overall ecosystem.

Diversity isn’t going to accidentally happen when we stop looking at gender and race and other visible you-don’t-belong-here cues. Diversity is only going to happen if people fight for it, and if we actively train, mentor, and support those trying to break through the barriers.


I wrote a follow up based off responses to this post, covering additional questions raised.

Should you notice I’m a woman? Should I care?

So, following on from my observations of being an outsider at FOSDEM because I’m not an open source developer, I do have another story to tell where my female-ness is actually relevant.

I’m going to give specifics, but it’s not to name and shame or anything like that, it’s just that anonymising it will probably erase some of the subtleties.  But I’m not telling this to make anyone feel bad, because this is not an oh-poor-me story, this is just the way it goes sometimes and I want to share what it feels like.

At JFokus (a conference I really enjoyed, where I got a chance to spend time with some awesome people) I was on a panel (well, game-show really) about static vs dynamic languages.  Not unusually, I was the only woman on the panel.  Also not unusually, one of the reasons I agreed to take part is to do my bit in demonstrating that women have technical knowledge too (in my opinion, it’s important where possible to avoid a stage full of white men of a particular age, and I’m in a position to be able to do something about that).  And, as per usual, I was a bit nervous about this in case the only woman on the panel also turned out to look stupid, but hey, looking stupid is one of the risks of this job.

During the session, my gender was mentioned twice - once with “ladies first”, and once to specifically point out that our static-languages team was somehow superior because we had both genders represented (well of course we’re better, I’m on the team). Note that neither of these was derogatory at all - both were, in fact, positive towards me, and I wasn’t troubled or offended by them. I’m used to people noticing and commenting on my gender.  I got used to it in the same way you get used to your commute to work, or dealing with merge conflicts - it’s something you do, it’s not always comfortable, but it’s no one’s fault and they’re not out to get you.

I didn’t really process how the gender-mentions made me feel until after, at which point I was drained from giving yet another new talk that day, as well as the surprisingly physical panel discussion. But afterwards, when I was back in my hotel room packing for yet another plane journey, I was thinking “is it normal?".  Was it inevitable that someone was going to notice/point out that I’m female?

Was it down to my choice of clothing?  I debated long and hard with myself about wearing what was definitely a ridiculously short skirt for a session like that, but in the end I decided I didn’t want to wear jeans like everyone else, and wearing tiny skirts is something I find fun. But I did think I’d be behind a table and it wouldn’t be too obvious.  Should I worry that much about what I wear?  I used to plan what to wear for work, I used to love dressing up for going out with friends, so over-thinking my clothes for a conference is part of who I am.

And one of the reasons to wear the skirt is because I’ve found myself wearing jeans and t-shirts more than ever.  I think the combination of travelling a lot (I hate packing, so packing a couple of pairs of jeans and a bunch of t-shirts makes life easy) and being part of a tech company where that’s basically our uniform has lead to extreme laziness in my clothing choices, and I want to change that.  Who wants to look like everyone else?  Not me.

So back in that hotel room, at the end of a long day, knowing I have to get up at 5am the next morning to get on a plane to New York, I felt drained.  I felt… vulnerable? But if I dig down to find out what’s really making me feel not-cool, it’s not because a couple of people noticed I was a girl.  It’s because I was tired, because I was on display, because I had been worried about my choice of clothes, because drawing attention to yourself is not terribly British, because I didn’t know if my new talk was any good.

It’s easy to blame impostor syndrome, or something similar. And maybe this is what impostor syndrome feels like. But I’m pretty sure every conference speaker, whatever their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, has felt this way.  I don’t think it’s because I have two X chromosomes and I’m in a male-dominated environment.

I’m not really sure what conclusions to draw from this experience.  I did want to share it so that other people know what it feels like.

Possible conclusions:

  • When you’re tired, it’s easy to blame the first thing that springs to mind for your lack of shiny-happy feelings
  • When you’ve got a lot on your plate, seemingly-innocuous (even those driven by positive intentions) comments or actions can increase your stress levels
  • Don’t think too much.  It can drive you mad.

JavaOne: The Problem With Women – A Technical Approach

Yesterday dawned, with a sense of foreboding (actually it dawned with me coughing my lungs out, but we've heard enough about the sub-optimal state of my respiratory system this week). On this day, I was giving the talk I was dreading when I got asked to do it. It's the talk I actually put more work into than any of the other sessions I was presenting at this JavaOne. It was the Women In IT talk.

Continue reading "JavaOne: The Problem With Women – A Technical Approach"

On The Evil Of Stereotypes

I attended (one way or another) two events last week that got me thinking

The first was Girl Developers will Save the World - a session that had me a little confused as to whether that referred to me, or actual girls, i.e. those that are not yet legally classed as adults.  The second was the Remarkable Women Twitter party the following day.
Firstly, a caveat/disclaimer (as usual) - both events were useful, thought-provoking and overall worthwhile.  But the alarming thing to me was the number of times I heard "boys are…" or "women think…" or "girls prefer…".  And I know we often make generalisations to stress a point, but I'm becoming extremely wary of statements that group people together along some arbitrary boundaries.  

  • "Google+ failed because it's design by men for men" - no, it's because it's not designed for anyone.  Its only purpose was to compete with Facebook.
  • "Women are better at communicating and social activities" - what, all of us?  I'm better at communicating than every man I've ever met?  Than someone like Obama or Steve Jobs or John Stewart? 
  • "Women do better with female role models" - where are the statistics?  And do men do better with male role models, or do they do better with female role models too because women are so much "better at communicating"?
I'm not saying these statements aren't ever true.  I'm not even saying they're not true "most" of the time (although I want to see proof).  But any kind of strategy based on gross generalisations had better take into account the fact that these are generalisations, that they are based on Statistics1(and sometimes not even those), and that they frequently correspond nicely to things we'd like to think or we are trained to think.
Humans are great at categorising.  It's a survival skill - "yummy", "warm", "safe", "funny coloured = hurty tummy", "things with sharp pointy teethies like to eat me".  Without this skill we wouldn't have made it as a species.  And marketing people, who have to use psychology to get us to part with our money, understand this.  They identify trends and target their shinies to these trends (YuppieBaby Boomer, etc).  By identifying these groups and aiming at them, they make them real.  And since humans are a clan-based society, who (again for evolutionary reasons) need to fit in with their gang, these groups become aspirational.  Essex people drive BMWs and wear white stilettos?  I don't and I live in Essex, oh no! I'd better get on that right away, otherwise people will see I'm An Imposter.
So when people go around saying "Women are great at communicating", we believe it.  Those of us who are a bit sucky at it or maybe don't care about it wonder if we're aliens.  Or we believe we're great at it because we should be, and we don't work at improving our skills.  Men are terrible at cleaning?  Great!  I don't have to clean the toilet!  Women's minds aren't programmed for engineering because they're more communicaty than logical?  Fine, I'll teach physics instead of using it.
If I hear one more person say women don't do well in IT because they prefer more soft-skill-based roles, I'm going to scream. In that case, why are there more women entering accountancy than men? In that case, how do men ever get to manage people, and why does pair programming work so well?
If I hear once more that men put women off these roles because of the macho male environment, I'm going to drag that person through a tour of every office I've worked in - I'm constantly disappointed that my male colleagues enjoy football even less than than the girls I went to school with.
So, using stereotypes to try and address things like gender disparity in IT is not going to work.  The men in our industry are not beer-swilling, football-watching, womanising alpha males.  So why, when we talk about the missing women in our industry, do we assume they will be pink-obsessed, fashion-conscious, gossipy socialites who only hang around with other women?  Do you even know any women like that?  This is not Desperate Housewives, this is Real Life.

Really good marketing people don't target people as they are - no-one wants to be considered poor - you're a bargain hunter or great at identifying value.  Similarly, if you want women to use your product or  work for your company, you don't target to weight-obsessed, soap-opera-watching, child-caring fashionistas.  Instead you target how a person wants to be seen.  You might say using your product or working for your company makes a person look smart, savvy and awesome.  And who doesn't want to be all of those things?

Saying people in IT are sexy and intelligent and earn loads of money and have oodles of job options and can find work globally might be a compelling story for people.  Some of those people might even be women.  Some of them might even be the other missing minorities

Thinking in stereotypes can be damaging to everyone.  Gender stereotypes in both directions are so sweeping they are unhelpful, you can't categorise fully half of the world's population as one thing or another.  I hear men doing men a disservice by saying things that aren't even true for themselves, and the same for women.  It's something we're trained to do, and something the media loves to do.  But it's wrong.  

So the next time you find yourself saying "men prefer..." or "women are...", stop and think if this is actually true for all of the men and women you know.  And if it's not, just don't say it.

1Lies, damned dies and…

On The Similarities Between Girls And Aliens

I discovered, through the power of the search words that lead to my blog, that there was an incident at JavaOne that once again opens the can of worms that is Sexism In IT.

This Makes Me Sad.  I had a really positive experience at JavaOne.  In fact, I would say it was the one conference I’ve been to in the last 12 months where I felt like my gender wasn’t a problem - I even got away with wearing hotpants (tweed is business-casual, right??) without being mistaken for anything other than a developer.

I know incidents like this cause a lot of tension, and I want to explore why.  Get ready for some gross generalisations: women get upset because they feel they’re being marginalised or treated differently; men get upset because they think we’re being over-sensitive, especially when the cause is something unintentional.  I sometimes wonder, as I’m sure other people do, if perhaps picking up every incident harms our cause more than advancing it.  But then I feel that the unconscious stuff is exactly the stuff that needs to be pointed out - if you don’t realise you’re causing a problem, you can’t change your behaviour.

So what I wanted to do was… well, what I wanted to do was not rant about gender (again) and be a good little non-gendered programmer.  But then I thought that spreading a bit of understanding might be A Good Thing.  After all, we’re all about continuous improvement, right?

I’m sure many people have been one of a minority at some point in their lives (brace yourselves for a litany of stereotyping) - the only man at their daughter’s dance recital; the only white guy on a basketball team; the only straight guy in a gay bar (accidents happen!); the only girl on the development team… Speaking for myself, in those situations I’m not actually looking for things which prove that I’m Not One Of Them. I’m sub-consciously seeking reassurance that I’m not an alien, a freak of nature, the odd one out.

I’ve been in mostly male environments for the last 16 years - this is the norm for me, it’s my life.  It freaks me out if I’m surrounded by women actually.  What’s jarring and uncomfortable is when the difference of your gender becomes apparent: when all the t-shirts are boy-shaped and boy-sized; when someone makes a joke about “women”; when someone addresses the room with “Gentlemen” - or worse, they try and make up for it: “Gentlemen.  Oh, and Ladies.  Well, Lady <nervous smile>".  Thanks, that doesn’t make me feel like an outsider at all.

Something else that really highlights the difference in genders is when you have plenty of women at the conference… but they’re not the attendees.  They’re manning the booths (marketing/sales or just plain hired “help”), they’re taking tickets, they’re dishing out the lunches.  In these cases, it becomes normal to assume that “girl” = “staff”.  Not guest.  Not equal.

TradeTech was one of the worst examples of this that I’ve experienced.  Those (wo)manning the booths had been chosen for their aesthetics not their knowledge.  There was even entertainment consisting of scantily clad stilt-walkers - at a financial conference!  I made the mistake of turning up in a skirt - for those who know my dress sense, it was not one of my arse-length ones, it was just above my knees - and everyone assumed I was selling something. I had a job to persuade them that I had actually paid for my ticket.

So.  What am I trying to get at?

  • We’re not trying to make you uncomfortable when we point out tiny accidental possibly maybe sexist or sexist-seeming comments/incidents.  We’re trying to stamp out behaviour that can subconsciously be pushing women (or other minorities/groups) out of our industry.  We like it here, we want to stay, and we want others to join us.
  • It’s very easy to alienate people who are not 100% comfortable in your environment.  Every time I see t-shirts in boys size only I’m reminded I’m Not One Of You.
…and what can we do?
  • Well, the t-shirts is an easy one.  So easy, and so stupid, you might not think it’s worthwhile.  Especially as people like me don’t even want your free t-shirt.  But I want to feel like you wanted me to want it.  Please stock some skinny-fit tees in multiple sizes, and stock smalls and mediums of the normal shape.  There are guys who would like this too.  Even if you can’t get rid of your skinny tees, it will do wonders for your image.
  • Never assume your audience is all male.  Never even assume it’s “mostly” male.  If your sister/girlfriend/mother/daughter might frown at something you’re saying, don’t say it.  You’ll look like an idiot.  You can assume your audience is all technical, and joke about managers, or is all Java, and take the mickey out of C#.  Don’t draw arbitrary battle lines based on gender/race/origin - any jokes should make all the audience feel included, not like specific individuals are excluded.
  • There’s already been a lot said elsewhere about encouraging women speakers at events.  I’m totally behind this, but it’s a fine line because I’m also totally against positive discrimination.  For the purposes of this blog, I would just say make sure you have some women on your speakers list, in the same way you would probably ensure you have a Java 7 talk, or a talk on the shiniest new technology, or other miscellaneous checkboxes you need to tick in order to make your conference a success.
  • Not sure what to suggest around many of the girls there being staff… I guess something simple like clear uniforms would stop people assuming female delegates are there to hand out lunch.  And making sure that your staff/helpers/organisers are of both genders too.
If you’re interested in this whole topic, or want to tell me I’m wrong to my face, come along my panel at Devoxx - Why We Shouldn’t Target Women.

Sexism in IT?

Let’s celebrate our IT women

"Everyone" knows that there are more men than women in IT.  That it’s a "boys" job.  Not a lot of people know that the first programmer was a woman.  Not a lot of people realise the number of women in IT is DECREASING.  And has been since the 80s.  In a working world where I honestly believe that in general there are more opportunities for women (OK, inline with the other stuff I’ve been reading I’ll caveat this with white, middle-class women), it seems shocking that such a growth industry as IT is actually losing women, and appears unable to determine why, or stop the flow.

I get asked a lot, as a girl programmer, why there aren’t more women in IT.  This is a complicated issue and one I’ve been thinking about for years and still don’t have any good answers, but I personally think it’s more about perception than anything else.

I don’t think it’s because you get more outright sexism and laddish behaviour in IT than anywhere else.  I’ve worked in half a dozen companies, in a range of industries, including very male industries like manufacturing and banking, I’ve been a consultant so been onsite at a bunch more companies.  And I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sort of behaviour that is mentioned in the article.

I would go so far as to say IT, certainly in terms of programming or IT support, actually attracts men that are quite the opposite to laddish.  So here I will succumb to gross generalisation and stereotypes myself, but the guys I’ve worked with are highly intelligent and more likely to rate you on your ability than on your colour, sex or background.  These are often guys who were actually studying at school rather than absorbing anti-female sentiments in the pub or from The Sun.

I find being a woman in IT both a blessing and a curse.  As a girl, you are, I believe, more likely to get through to interview, and since you stand out as different are more likely to be remembered and called back for a second interview.  I think once in the organisation, we suffer more with low self-esteem and find ourselves constantly trying to "prove" that we’re not just some token bimbo hired by HR.  And do you know why?  Not because anyone ELSE thinks that, but because WE think that.  We are our own worst enemies.

We need to take a leaf from the boys’ book and have more faith in ourselves, more confidence.  We might not be as good as that person over there at this particular thing, or this other person at something else, but we are good at what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t be there.  And if we express our insecurities instead of our confidence, other people will assume we’re as mediocre as we sometimes think we are.

Some of the very worst culprits for sexism in our industry are us, the girls who are already in it.  Yes, it does exist, I am not denying that for a second1.  But the way to overcome it is to reflect it back at them, not to internalise it as our problem, something wrong with us for being in the wrong job.  The more we show that it’s normal for us to be here, that we belong here, the better we’ll feel about ourselves.  And maybe we’ll attract a few more girls too.

1Take, for example, the CEO who interviewed me and said "I’m probably not allowed to say this, but how will you feel working in an environment full of men".  To which my answer was, have you read my CV?  I went to a boys’ school for sixth form, I was one of 6 girls on my degree course (out of approx 150), I worked at Ford for 4 years.  Don’t you think I would be more freaked out working with girls?