a feminist technology blog

Month: December 2008

SXSW 2009

For the third year in a row, I am speaking at SXSW Interactive. Last year’s discussion about internet fame was a huge success, and I really enjoyed meeting and talking to everyone who came.

This year I am speaking on “P2P 2.0 and the Future of Digital Media,” a panel about the possibilities and futures of peer-to-peer content creation, distribution, and collaboration. This is a great panel put together by Adam Fisk (LittleShoot, Limewire) and also features Ian Clarke (FreeNet, Revver), Wendy Seltzer (EFF, Berkman Center), and Aaron Ray (the manager for Linkin Park). I’m really excited. As with any panel, I’m sure it will evolve and change as we get closer to the date, but I’m thinking about talking about commercial internet sites and their effects on content creators (copyright infringement claims, content ownership, advertising, selling of personal information, etc.).

So if you’re at SXSW drop by. I was also thinking about organizing an Academics at SXSW meetup- any interest?

Women Speakers at Technology Conferences

Lately I’ve been paying close attention to just who I’m paying attention to when I go to a tech conference (academic or industry). Places like SXSW are pretty good about gender balance, but others will have panel after panel of white dudes, or at least four white dudes and a white woman.

I was perusing Glenda Bautista‘s blog this morning when I found an old post on a web strategy blog listing Asian/Asian-American potential conference speakers, which I think is a terrific idea.

A list of potential female tech speakers would be a very long list. But while I can think of several female startup heads (Mary Hodder, Dina Kaplan, Gina Bianchini, etc.), generally it’s the young male CEO/CTO/COO’s who land on panel after panel and demo after demo. A recent demo session I went to had 25 companies presenting and not a single woman.

The hand-wringing over “Women in Tech” isn’t the point: there are plenty of women in technology already, and there needs to be a more proactive effort to include them on lists, conferences, panels, et cetera. This is the opposite of tokenism; instead, it’s an attempt to replace the friend-of-friend attitude that has dudes organizing conferences and booking their dude friends on panels. The more visible women in technology, the more younger women will see technology as a space for them.

So: Do we need a list?

(Note that there’s something totally wackadoodle about this blog lately, technically; I’ve been meaning to devote an afternoon to un-gunking it and haven’t had the free time yet. I apologize for the continued broken comments, etc.)

Women of Silicon Valley and Sleeping Your Way to the Top

Owen from Valleywag posted a charming article claiming that Pownce founder Leah Culver slept her way to the top.

If she’s sincere about avoiding fame, Culver will have to reform more than her work life. Granted, San Francisco’s pool of straight men is on the small side. But besides Burka and Fitzpatrick, Culver also dated Cal Henderson, an engineering director at Flickr; MG Siegler, a writer at tech blog VentureBeat; and Nick Douglas, a former editor at Valleywag and Gawker. If she doesn’t want to be famous, Culver might want to take a look at her relentless technosexuality, which more than hints at the acquisition of influence rather than intimacy as its goal.

The misogyny of this article is obvious; I don’t think I need to point out that the men of Silicon Valley/Web 2.0 serial date as much as the women. Since there are fewer women in power in tech than men, this is not usually seen as a way to get ahead. I suppose since it’s no longer considered OK to smear women for having sex lives, Valleywag had to come up with something else to salaciously comment on, namely, this claim that she slept her way to the top.

I think it’s interesting that I hear, over and over again (from women in tech), that there is no sexism in tech, that women in tech have no feminist agenda, and that they want to be judged on their accomplishments. Unfortunately, women are judged on their looks, their sexuality, and their male partners in a way that men are just not, in Silicon Valley as they are in “regular life.” For example, the vitriol directed at, say, Julia Allison is completely disproportional to her actual impact on the technology scene. There are plenty of fame-seeking men in SV, but they don’t get nasty comments on their body and their looks every time they post a narcissistic Twitter.

Full disclosure is that I know everyone involved in this article through my dissertation research (and I think the accusations against Leah are ridiculous).

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