#ITwomen… not so hard to find after all

I’ve just compiled a Google doc #ITwomen with the names of nearly 60 women in IT — current and potential speakers and conference presenters. Hopefully, the list will grow; you are invited to add to or amend the list to keep it current. [November 2013 update: the #ITwomen list now has the names of over 150 women.]

Here is the story behind the #ITwomen list

Last night I received notice of an upcoming IT conference (on web, cloud computing and social media) to be held here in Ireland. I clicked through to see the list of speakers. Quite impressive: 20 speakers, mostly from Ireland but also the UK and the US. Startling and disappointing, however: only one of the 20 speakers is female. I’ve worked in IT for many of the past 30 years. During that time the proportion of women has fluctuated. But to host an IT conference in 2012 with only 5% representation of women on the speaker panel?

I contacted the organiser of the conference to express my dismay:

“This event looks great but am I right in seeing a line-up of 20 speakers — 19 men and 1 woman?!  When organising events like this, it’s important for us to think about how powerfully that speaks to people. Are we reinforcing or challenging the stereotypes that people hold about IT? More diversity improves what we do in so many ways: the environments in which we work, what we design and make, and how many new, talented people are attracted to work in IT and tech fields.”

In ongoing correspondence since last night, the organiser told me that they “had tried” to get more women speakers and that they weren’t the only conference in Ireland that has had trouble finding women speakers. He said he’d be happy to receive recommendations and suggestions.

About a dozen names popped into my mind immediately, women in IT whom I know here in Ireland — Sharon Flynn, Mary Loftus, Heather James, Karlin Lillington, Martha Rotter — as well as women outside Ireland who speak at international conferences — Josie Fraser, Jane Hart, Jane Bozarth, Kim Wilkins, Jane Boyd and of course danah boyd. And that was just in the first two minutes! But rather than set to work coming up with my own list, I decided to ask Twitter:

The response during the next few hours was terrific, but not altogether surprising. This kind of crowdsourcing of ideas is open to anyone who understands the power of networks and social media and is willing to ask openly for feedback rather than rely only on our own personal contacts.

I’ve compiled all of the suggestions into one list #ITwomen, an open Google doc. (You can also search #ITwomen on Twitter.) It contains the names of women in Ireland, the UK and further afield (labelled ‘International’ in the list). In addition to individual women, a few specific lists of women in IT and women speakers were shared; these are at the top of the document. Please feel free to add or amend the document to keep it updated.

Finally, thank you to all who responded and retweeted earlier. It’s been a pleasure to be in touch with each of you today. We created this resource together and hopefully it will make a difference. It’s about time. Thank you.

Image source: CC BY-2.0 Matt From London

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About catherinecronin
Academic coordinator of online IT programmes and lecturer in Infor-mation Technology. My work focuses on online and open education, digital literacies, social media in education, and #ITwomen. Currently working towards Ph.D. exploring open education and digital identity.

11 Responses to #ITwomen… not so hard to find after all

  1. Kathrine Jensen says:

    Great work but amazing really that the conference organisers lacked the “creative” thinking to get in touch with relevant women.

    Of the top of my head there are also some rather obvious organisations they could have contacted, like the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology
    http://www.theukrc.org/blogs/getset-women

    Or http://www.womenintechnology.co.uk

    • I agree with you, Kathrine. Can’t believe that we are still doing this in 2012! As I replied to @dkernohan earlier, I went from surprised and dismayed to angry but energised today. Overall I felt compelled to prove that it is *not* that difficult to find women IT speakers, in so many sectors and areas.

      Your suggestions are excellent — please feel free to add them to the Lists/Organisations section at the top of the doc, or I will do this tomorrow. Thanks again.

  2. C. Murray says:

    Amazing that the organisers found just one woman speaker, obvs. they didn’t try too hard. Well done !

    • Indeed! There are so many sources of names, ideas and information — #ITwomen list is just one — there really isn’t any excuse anymore. Thanks for your comment, C.

      • C. Murray says:

        With regard your comment : ‘There are so many sources of names, ideas and information — #ITwomen list is just one — there really isn’t any excuse anymore.’

        I would leave out ‘anymore’. There is just no excuse. Employers or conference organisers should be able to pool this type of knowledge if there was an iota of imagination or sense of responsibility there.

        The fact is that groups like #Womenonair do this with little initiative or commitment from other groups/businesses. Fair play to Womenonair and it would be nice to see what they do supported through more usage.

  3. Great point… I think part of my frustration comes from the fact that we’ve been making these arguments for so long. Personally, it’s been 30+ years for me — after completing 2 degrees in engineering, I’ve been active in women and tech organisations, completed my M.A. in gender and technology, and taught gender and tech courses. I didn’t think I/we would be making these very same arguments so many years later! In the early 1980s, the number of women entering engineering, for example, was increasing significantly for the first time. Now, a generation+ later, this is old news. So why the lack of effort on the part of conference organisers (and many employers, for that matter)? Is it laziness, comfort with the boys’-network status quo, lack of a willingness to change, failure to accept their responsibilities — or perhaps all of these things?

    You rightly point out the great work of initiatives like #womenonair, and others, which is usually accomplished without outside support — relying on the efforts of women committed to change, working in their own time. One of the most valuable outcomes of the past few days, for me, has been making connections with many women, like yourself, and the men who support equality and our efforts. Based on the experiences of other rights movements — civil rights, gay & lesbian rights, human rights — it will take longer than we expect, longer than it should, but change will come, especially if we work together. We can’t give up yet.

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