On Becoming a Woman in Tech

I am a woman in the tech field, because I’m not sure there’s another field that I could have grown into.

When I was a small person, not very tall at all, I was the kind of kid who played with lego. I think I might have had a My Little Pony, maybe, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a barbie doll (although for one Christmas I did end up with some kind of a very pink hair salon type thing).

When I was a little taller, but still very small, I started to program. Bits of it, using logo to draw pictures. Then meticulously typing in programs from magazines for simple games, and the inevitable jump to making my own games.

By now, I was almost as tall as I am now, but not quite. The next step towards the career I have was a modem as a Christmas gift (: I BBS’ed for a few years, and, heavens, in 1995, I think, I ended up with an internet account through the university in Wellington (which is oddness in my timeline). International traffic was expensive, and I had a shell, so for a long time, the internet was a lot like email and IRC (:

Then I got PPP access. Oh boy! PPP! And Mosaic! And my very first homepage! (It was at http://tao.sans.vuw.ac.nz/~chrisfox clearly, very clearly, it is long gone) I’m told it was regarded as high falutin’ and fancy at the time. It had Javascript!

Which brings us to the end of high school, and figuring out what to study at at university. Chemistry and Computer Science were the two things I was considering as a major. Chemistry was going to take six thousand years of grad work before I’d do anything more complicated than cleaning test tubes. Computer Science, not so much. It’s a co-incidence that the computer science schedule was over three days, mostly in the afternoon. An amazing co-incidence.

So here I am, doing coder stuff professionally (Argh! I started working doing systems stuff at an ISP 10 years ago, now. I feel old). I don’t think anyone particularly intervened to push me here along the way; and I suspect that if they had I would have been resistant to participating.

I’m going to guess that it’s the kind path that most guys take to end up as a coder. Which makes it really hard for me to constructively help get other women to take the light path to coder.

Rant in the Key of Women at Conferences

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The under-representation of women who work in technology is an important issue. It’s not one that I know how to fix. But one of the ways that it shows up, is in the lack of women who speak at conferences. I don’t know why women don’t speak at conferences in general; speaking for myself, I’m just not that great at public speaking (:

In the past couple of years, I have been to two stellar conferences (Webstock ’08, in Wellington; and BitNorth, just outside Montréal) and a few more that were okay-I-guess. This is what the gender breakdown of the amazing conferences looked like:

Webstock
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BitNorth
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♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂


I speculate that when conference organizers care about trying to fix the hard problems, they’re going to care about all of the little things that go into a conference.

I am not going to this one.
♀ ♀
♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂ ♂



I mentioned the absurd gender disparity of this conference to a (white, privileged, technical, male) friend of mine, in what turned into quite a surreal conversation.

me: (I count three of ladies.)
him: heh
that’s pretty common
ON one hand, i’d like to see a better balance
On the other, I’m kind of tired of hearing about “women in open source”
me: Did you, uh, complain about hearing women talking at conferences?
him: I complained about hearing about women talking at conferences about women talking at conferences

I am horrified that he felt that the content of womens’ talks was some how a way to rationalize the lack of women at a conference. I am also horrified that women feel the need to speak about their place in the technical eco-system that there is a perception that it’s the only thing they talk about (I don’t think I’ve ever been to a rah-rah women in technology talk, but I have heard women speak on all sorts of technical subjects). I remain horrified that he thought this was a position that was worth vigorously defending; and I have The Fear that this is a common perception.

And that makes me really fucking angry.

Macaroni and Cute

Bunny Macaroni Cheese

In an odd confluence of influences, I ended up with a box of bunny macaroni and cheese. Just the other day, discussions were had about the lack of KraftTM©® Dinner that I have experienced. Anyone who knows me at all knows that rabbity things keep showing up around me. Clearly, when I walked past a box of macaroni and cheese, except bunnies, I was going to buy it.

Push the bunnies tail! Push it!Bunny Approves!Bunny Macaroni Cheese

It really did come in a very cute box (:

Although, I gotta be honest, it tasted about as good as pasta-cheese from a box can aspire to.

Crabapple Jelly

Crabapple Jelly

I think I just finished making a jar of crabapple jelly. I guess I will find out if it worked out tomorrow once it has had time to set up. In the meantime, however, it looks very pretty. And sometimes, in this world, being pretty is enough.

It is, ostensibly, cranberry jelly with rosemary and juniper; although I’m not sure that the resinousness particularly shines through, from what I have tasted so far.

Take your crabapples, cut in half, get rid of the flowery endy bit, and the stalk. Place in a pot. Add enough water to cover by a little bit (although they do float. so I guess enough water so that there’s a little underneath). I had not much more than a single layer in a large pot. Then, forget to add juniper berries and rosemary. If I was doing this again, I would attempt to not forget the juniper berries and rosemary.

Cook the crabapples until they’re soft, then squish them up a bit. My kitchen is woefully under equipped, so I used my wooden spoon. A potato masher, or anything with more of a flat edge than a wooden spoon would work much better, I am sure.

Then, place the mashed up fruit along with all of the water into a jelly straining bag. I bought a jelly straining bad because it seemed important. In retrospect, a piece of cloth in a strainer would have probably worked fine. Leave it to strain for a while, until it stops being drippy.

Once that’s done, put the drippies into a pot, along with the same volume of sugar. If you forgot to add juniper berries and rosemary earlier, add these too. I had about 8 juniper berries, along with a stalk of rosemary.

Heat it up until it starts to boil. When it’s looking like it’s getting close to boiling, start hauling out berries and rosemary; because it gets harder the more everything is moving around (p.s. this is why you should try and remember to add the juniper/rosemary at the start).

Boil it until it reaches the “gel stage”. I’m a little fuzzy on what the “gel stage” really entails. However, I dutifully placed a puddle of the jelly on to a cold plate and placed it back in the freezer. After a minute or so, when you push at the edge of the puddle, it should get wrinkled. I had the requisite wrinkling, but I’m not sure if it was okay that the wrinkles dispersed. Oh well, I guess I’ll find out if it sets / turns into candy / is a liquid, tomorrow.

Once you’re pretty sure you’ve made it to the gel stage, transfer to a jar. I am a preserves cowboy, so I make no attempt at making these sorts of things shelf stable, and leave this kind of thing in the fridge; but I hear there are more steps you should take. This is not the place to find them.

Goings, Comings, Hirings, Somethings!

It is April! Already! I am astonished that I have been in Canada almost a year now. It seems both much longer and much shorter.

My year of working holiday is up in less than two short weeks. But I am not going home yet (:

In a slightly more perfect world, I would have been in the process of getting a work permit to continue working at the same place where I’ve been working most of the time I have been living in Montréal. Alas, it was not meant to be, as said workplace disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

However, in this slightly less perfect world, there is another year-long visa available to me. Which the Canadian consulate in Sydney is processing for me, right at this very moment. I’m hoping the processing for it will finish in the less than two short weeks I have left s: (the estimated processing time was 4-6 weeks, two’ish weeks ago; so in the next two weeks is optimistic. However, my last work visa also had a 4-6 week processing time, and was done in eleven days)

Failing that, there will be a couple of visits to the USA in my future – to come back as a visitor, and then back again when I can get more work visa.

However long it takes, now seems like as good a time as any as to embark on the search for the next place that gets to employ me!

I should become available in two to four weeks (depending on how long visa processing takes); at which point I will have an open work permit for a year (so I can be hired in Canada without additional paperwork on the employer side). I have a CV, which is also available as a PDF. Hoorah.