Earlier this week Susannah Breslin wrote a post on Forbes Women titled, Why Women Shouldn’t Go to Tech Conferences. In a nutshell, she was upset about the frivolous and seemingly non-tech way that women were presented, and chosen to present, at Tech Week. Having just spoken on a panel at CE Week in New York a few weeks ago I gave this article a serious reading – and commented accordingly. But, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Something about what Susannah touched upon is all too true – and with BlogHer just a week away I haven’t been able to shake the thought that women are being put into tech “lite” panels more often than not. I have complained quite publicly that many panels and conferences aimed at women are incredibly lacking in real data, concrete takeaways and information and are often full of generalizations and “feelings.” But, looking back on all of the panels and conferences this year I also felt that way about many of the panels that had men on them too. Maybe the truth is that few people are actually experts, that many conference agendas are packed with people who know someone, or have an entertaining power point presentation or a huge twitter personality that is fun to be a part of in person but doesn’t give you a whole lot to work on when you leave the room.
I don’t want to see the ghetto-ization of women at tech conferences. I hate the idea that women need a separate “mommy” track or that all they want to do is gab about being better at social media because hey, women like to talk! On the other hand, who can hold forth on a panel about how brands should and could work with mom bloggers other than mom bloggers? The goal is to have women talk about SEO, programming, coding, sales, raising capital, growing a business and social media, marketing, PR and more. When women are fully integrated into all programming, the specialized “women” tracks won’t seem so precious. That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer. There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.
I will be heading to BlogHer next week, and make no mistake about it I am thrilled to connect with so many brands I love, I use and I hope to have sponsorship and campaign partnerships with in the future – for Beccarama, the Blogging Angels and most importantly for me now as the co-founder of my internet start-up, KidzVuz.com. My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get. That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops. Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that. As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that BlogHer is for and by women. I will be hanging out at the Geek Bar to learn from some very tech savvy women and then I will turn right around and have an awesome day sponsored by Sony, getting new profile pics and my hair and makeup done, because I for one won’t be put into a virtual corner.