This Woman in Tech says: Thank you

I’ve been reading the various recent articles about women in tech bubbling around the interwebs with mixed feelings.  I’ve seen a lot of these debates go by, and although I have strong opinions (I know, you’re surprised, right?), I usually choose not to comment here.

There is only one thing that I find myself wanting to say publicly in this week’s resurgence of the debate, and that is: Thank you.   I have had the incredible blessing of being surrounded by group after group of intelligent, thoughtful men and women who have not only treated me equally and fairly, but have encouraged my abilities and helped me to reach greater and greater heights.  I have nobody to blame, but many to acknowledge – and why should the jerks get all the press time?

I may not be on anyone’s top 30 women in tech, and I may never be the CxO that people seem to so desperately need all women in tech to be, but I have a fulfilling and challenging job and I have achieved my primary goal in my career, which is to work with people who make me smarter every day. By the only standards that count (mine), I have it all.

I believe that a lot of women have fought difficult fights over the years so that I could have this kind of positive experience, and I know that not all women in tech have been so fortunate.  To those women who take on the establishment in this area – You have my support, gratitude and thanks.  You take the heat today so that the next generation of girls can simply accomplish and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Why am I writing this?  I don’t know. I suppose, it seems wrong for the unhappy examples to be the only examples out there. What I do know, is that I am one of the luckiest women in tech; the people who stand out in my life are not the ones who tried to hold me back, but the ones who have helped me fly.  Thank you, to some of these exceptional people: Darcy, John, Cliff, Don, Cullen, Alan, Tammy, Tim, Pete, Doug, Brian, Dave, Janelle, Kaliya, Gordon, Derek, Barb, Bob, Kim, Craig, Mike, Vittorio, Ben, Sydney, Dale, Patrick, Julie, Sean, Andrew, Gil, Laura, Andre, and so many more.

Seeing- if not red, at least strong magenta

A friend of mine sent me this link to a report attempting to help improve the quality of communication at conferences, entitled Fifteen Obstacles to Dialogue and written by Mark Gerzon.

I have an obvious bias here, so please take that into account, but I honestly can’t quite believe my eyes:

The gender trap, while much more subtle, is double-edged. On the one hand, a conference with a series of all-male panels undercuts itself, particularly if it is otherwise progressive. When conferences repeat the importance of “participation” or “the role of women in development” but then have less than 10% female participation, charges of hypocrisy are in the air, even if not spoken.

On the other hand, if women are placed on panels or in roles precisely to counteract the male dominance, this can also backfire. A series of panels with a single woman, while perhaps better than all-male ones, begs the question of why the single woman was included. One should either be serious about equitable female representation, or let the chips fall where they may. Better honest male chauvinism than manipulative tokenism.

Let’s start with that last sentence, shall we?  It seems to me that male chauvinism is mentioned in the context of blind partiality for male participants, and tokenism is mentioned in the context of blind partiality for female participants. I love how blind partiality for men is described as honest, while blind partiality for women is described as manipulative.  I suppose that it was too complicated to simply advocate against any kind of partiality based on gender.

I’m sad as well about the statement made by this author that the inclusion of one female on a panel begs the question of why that woman was included.   The implication seems to be that it is better to avoid the appearance of tokenism than to let that lone female participate.  The implication also seems to be that people would naturally assume that a woman is unqualified and a “token” before they would believe that the woman is as qualified as her co-panelists.  Otherwise, presence of a single woman on a panel wouldn’t “beg” anything.

Lastly, it can only be assumed that equitable female representation is an onerous burden.  Given the author’s unstated assumption that people assume tokenism before qualification for women panelists & presenters, I’m not sure why “equitable” female representation would result in a more positive audience impression than representation by one female in a panel.  If anything, according to the author’s logic, the likelihood of attendees accusing organizers of tokenism would grow as the number of women grow – after all, the more women involved, the greater the likelihood that some of them are unqualified, right?

A trap indeed.

Must we have a Cover Model?

The Girly Geekdom blog posted a cry of despair today,  reacting to the face of Julia Allison on the cover of last month’s Wired magazine:

Well Girl Geek’s could there (finally) be a leading lady in technology and with enough kudos to be on the cover of Wired? Prestige indeed. In short, no is the answer that you are looking for.

Of course not.  I hope Ms. Allison has all the success in the world, it looks like she has figured out how to use Web 2.0 to gain notoriety. If she’s happy about that, then I’m happy for her, I’m sure the Wired cover was quite a coup.

Wired is a publication that requires readership.  Julia Allison as a commodity caters to that.  Is it possible to be on the cover of Wired without some kind of PR engine?  Seems unlikely to me.  The women I know who could be on that cover aren’t interested in the self promotion it takes to get there.  Of course, perhaps there have been many women on the cover of Wired; I am unqualified to judge, and unwilling to research.

Geek girls don’t generate traffic, at least not in and of ourselves.  We are a minority.  Small.  Not to be catered to, even in a tech magazine.  Case in point the  “Women in Tech: hear us roar” O’Reilly book:  Tim O’Reilly himself said that the series drew very little traffic, which is why it was shelved.

It’s true that we are a small group, but I believe we make a large impact.   Maybe we can’t sell out a magazine edition, or justify the printing of a book.  We can, however, change the world in our own way, and we will continue to do so with or without a poster child.

Alrighty then – let’s talk roles.

In my post on user context decisions in the Enterprise, I built on a foundation that perhaps should have been better defined before drawing conclusions. A few people noticed it, and I think they make great points — so let’s step away from the fancy schmancy terms and look at [my conception of] the underlying issue.

Here is my problem with current technical definitions/applications of roles. In most organization, roles are expected to be true of a given person 100% of the time. Jenny is *always* a “production accountant level II” if that role is present in her profile.

Roles are indeed in the domain of the “identity weenie” — but alone, roles are nothing but a maintenance nightmare – they exist to be leveraged. Rules on the other hand, are the problem of the “authorization weenie” and are written (for example) as a WAM policy that says “All Production Accountant Level II resources can access the accounting SharePoint instance”. When you collect roles into a profile and collect rules into a policy and then evaluate for a given user, resource, and point in time, what you eventually get is an entitlement, ie “Jenny should get into the accounting SharePoint instance”. The goal is to have transitive logic between roles and rules, such that two different people can take on the two different statements being made. Jenny’s Manager can authoritatively state (through a workflow approval) that Jenny is indeed a production accountant. The owner of the Accounting Sharepoint instance can authoritatively state (through an authorization policy) that all production accountants should have access to their site.

This is, of course, just my interpretation of the verbage. Heaven knows there are many many other interpretations out there, I could be waay behind the times. Still, the basic logic I’ve just outlined forms (I believe) a simplistic basis for most identity projects out there. All of it is based on the idea that whatever set of roles are present for a given account at a given time are all simultaneously true.

What happens when the system detects the static presence of two conflicting roles? What happens if one role is “truer” than another at some point in time?

There is no simple way to say that John is a broker 100% of the time, but 50% of the time he represents Client A and only Client A, and the other 50% he solely represents Client B. There is no way to represent mutual exclusivity of roles in a single user profile (that I’m aware of).

In the case where two roles are assigned to the same person, but should never be simultaneously applicable, Enterprises have limited choices. If, however, there is a layer in between the consumer and the provider that lets you mask roles based on user-chosen context, in my mind this problem goes away. I don’t see how you can do it without the user part — but perhaps I’m just not thinking hard enough :)

I hope I’ve now managed to dig myself in sufficiently deep that pretty well anyone will be able to take potshots — have fun :)

Aw shucks

Those Gen-Y girls get to have all the fun

We don’t live container lives, with work and family and play muffled under air-tight lids. Our life bleeds together, and instead of a singular goal of family or career, we lead our lives as a continuum, family and career ebbing and flowing.

Generation Y women are high-achievers, shrewd, well-dressed and sexy, while possessing an emotional intelligence that far surpasses our male counterparts. We don’t rule by insecurities or fear, but by knowing ourselves well, and seeking connection with others. We combine “physical potency with seriousness of purpose.”

This won’t really surprise many of you, but I love the optimism of this article. I love the fact that the text has nothing to do with guilt or disenfranchisement — it is all about having and making choices that enable the future generation of women as people who can live life in whatever way makes them the most fulfilled.

I also find the term “compassionate alpha” quite interesting, I can think of a few examples of this phenomenon — but to me, such a term is not and should not be gender-associated.

Check out the original link, and tell me your view…

In the end…

Redbook Editor-in-Chief Stacy Morrison went on the Today Show to defend her photoshop attack, er, improvement on Faith Hill, stating that the picture of Faith Hill was, in the end, not a photograph, but an image.

In other words, it isn’t the magazine’s fault that you & I mistook an artist’s concept for reality. How very bourgeois of you & I, don’t you think?

Let’s face it. We are in a world now where every cover photo is a lie, uh, image, every song is digitally “corrected” to be perfectly in tune; and all of these images and sounds are fed to us like pablum to babies. Most of the time, most of us never even know.

Time breaks most of these fantasies, for those with an interest and a memory for such things. And yet – there is always a current set of supposed ‘role models’ whose white-washed perfection we optimistically adhere to. That is the true role of magazines like Redbook.

Authenticity is so totally nineties. Didn’t you know? OMG!

Losing Faith

Who is this image made for? Who is it that would prefer a perfect fiction over a beautiful reality, if they could make an informed choice? The people who make magazines like RedBook see skin and eyes and arms and hair, and somehow think that the only beautiful women are the ones whose every part fits a strict standard. They take all the bits apart, adjust, and then reassemble. Take a minute and study the animated picture at the end of this entry below, if you don’t yet understand what I mean. Pay special attention to the back, and to the arm.

The photograph shown in composite below wasn’t altered out of evil intent.  It was altered because the editors believe the retouched photo will sell more copy — to women who feel their own flaws keenly, because they see not their own beauty, but all the things wrong with each of their parts. If you ask me, the cover would have been just as popular without the photoshop-attack, because in spite of her mortal sin of looking like a real, flesh-and-blood human woman, Faith Hill is truly beautiful. How anyone could not notice that fact, is beyond me.

Check out the original article at (especially the Annotated Guide to Making Faith Hill ‘Hot’), and the follow-up – there are some great quotes there.



Thanks so much for publishing your “essential guide” to the top 10 girl geeks. I’m really glad that you’ve thought to use your reach in the industry to further the public’s knowledge of the women who have changed the world in geeky ways. It’s great to know that you have the integrity to write such a thoughtful and well-researched piece, and that you have accorded girl geeks the respect that they deserve. Mark my words, you will reap what you’ve sown with this particular article.

I know you’re getting all sorts of flack for ranking Lisa Simpson higher on the list than Marie Curie, but really, isn’t it obvious how much more important Lisa Simpson’s contributions to the fields of science and technology are? Marie Curie’s Nobel prizes are no match for a fictional 8-year-old.

And then there are the inclusions of Daryl Hannah and Paris Hilton on the list. I think your reasons for including these women are completely misunderstood! Sure, they aren’t really geeks, but Darryl plays one on TV, and Paris does, after all, play video games. That’s pretty good for a GIRL.

It sure is a good thing that you pulled our attention away from the Ada Lovelaces and Grace Hoppers of the world. Those women were just plain SCARY smart and we don’t really want to glorify that kind of behaviour.

I am expectantly waiting for your “essential guide” to the top male geeks. I can’t wait to watch Einstein, Galileo, and Copernicus go head to head with Keanu “Neo” Reeves and Weird Al “White & Nerdy” Yankovic. Too bad people like Berners-Lee or Tesla won’t make the list, but hey, them’s the breaks.

Way to go CNET. Your journalistic skills have awed us all.