24HOP WIT in March? Jen says YES.

Gender, gender differences, differences in the workplace…all touchy subjects. We’ve handled the WIT talks – both in person and online – pretty well this year in the SQL community, but of course we continue to have our differences.

At the PASS Summit Women in Technology luncheon this year, Tom LaRock (blog, Twitter) was hit with a revelation…why not have an all-women 24 Hours of PASS? He asked me:  “Do you think I should do this?”  HELL YES, I said. On Twitter today there has been some talk (we all knew there’d be some talk) about whether the all-women format is a good thing, or not. 

On the downside, yes, it is exclusionary.  There’s no getting around that. Yes, it’s likely to cause some debate, and maybe even some bad feelings.  Some have even suggested that this is pandering or condescending to women.

So why did I say “HELL YES”?  Why am I still saying it?  The biggest issue we’ve discussed this year has been how few women there are in IT, in SQL particularly, and in the MVP and MCM programs.  We’ve discussed all kinds of different ways to encourage women and girls to get into IT* – and why we want to.  One very good way to encourage female speakers in the SQL community is to hold an event featuring just them (us), which has the added benefit of generating a lot of talk.  This is a good thing.

Now a few rebuttals:

  • Exclusionary: Absolutely. BUT, we very rarely hold any exclusionary events. A lot of our talk is centered around getting more men involved in WIT events.  I personally feel that the benefit of having an event that is encouraging to women speakers outweighs the one time in a year we’ve said “chicks only”…especially as this isn’t actually costing men the opportunity to speak. Tom put this together specifically as a WIT event; he didn’t hijack an existing event. Justification? Maybe.
  • Debate / bad feelings: Debate is a good thing. And I think that any action in regards to a subject as sensitive as this is going to ruffle a few feathers. Your opinion is valued, certainly. However, we know we’re going to disagree about certain things. As long as an event like this isn’t actually causing harm, “bad feelings” isn’t a heavily weighted argument.
  • Condescending: I don’t think that an all-woman 24HOP is any more condescending than the WIT luncheon or WIT sessions. There are some who do think these events are all condescending…I’m not going to change those people’s minds.

That’s what I think. How about you?

Happy days,
Jen McCown

*Here are some of the talks and items I’ve written in 2010 related to encouraging women in tech:

Edit: More blogs on the 24HOP WIT:

6 thoughts on “24HOP WIT in March? Jen says YES.”

  1. Hello Jen,
    I’ve read your blog for some time now, and I’ve discussed the WIT 24 hop subject further on my own blog here http://goo.gl/b7nrK
    My experiences have probably been a bit harsher than yours, because I think we may be further behind here in the UK. However, I would be interested in your thoughts.
    I look forward to your session at sqlpass and hope to meet you in person one day!
    Kind Regards,
    Jen Stirrup

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