Panel Speakers for the session included: (left to right) Karl Fisch, Lyn Hilt, Will Richardson, Alec Couros, Pam Moran, and Kathy Cassidy (not pictured)
I recently held a breakout session at Educon on the lack of gender diversity in the ed tech space. The session was well attended by both men and women who came together to discuss the topic from an appreciative perspective.
The support materials for the session can be found on my PlanCast page.
Personally, I too was impacted by the session. A little history will help put my feelings into context. First, I have always resented it when women pulled the gender card. I have always been respected by men in the all-male dominated spaces where I have placed myself professionally (fitness in my 20s, science in my 30s, technology in my 40s and 50s), and I have felt strongly about not wanting to be recognized for being a girl or woman but rather for being competent, smart, or creative.
Recently, I attended TEDWomen and my whole perspective changed. I had never realized that the lack of females in prominent positions was such a global issue. Nor that there were talented women who just weren’t willing to be assertive, even confrontational, and do what ever was needed to find their place in male dominated spaces. But Sheryl Sandberg’s presentation Why we have too few women leaders changed my mind. Part of the impact she had on me came about because (unknowingly) I had chatted with her mother in the restroom. The impromptu discussion we had primed me for her daughter’s talk, even though I had no idea of the connection. Sheryl’s talk also generated the facts I shared in my opening for Educon.
I also realized, thanks to Tony Porter’s presentation – A Call to Men, that guys do not necessarily understand the problem or their role in addressing it.
It was a wake up call for me – that I too had been guilty of perpetuating the “man box” to a certain extent in the way I had raised my son and also in the gender-neutral way I dealt with men in the workplace. I realized that I had always been accepted there because I was willing to *not* bring my femininity in the door with me. Tony goes on to say,
I ended my Educon session with a quote from Tony – for the men in attendance.
1. Dispositions and attitudes need to change. We need to be aware of our own bias.
2. If you are a keynoter, you need to mentor interested women to help them secure keynote positions. Create a network within our networks to help women learn how to market themselves so they can share their knowledge and experience.
3. Build affinity spaces for women to support, nurture, and grow each other. Create and share a database of amazing speakers complete with topics of expertise.
4. Invest young ones in their future and inspire them with the opportunities that exist, equally for boys and girls. Teach boys and girls differently because they learn differently. Diversify your teaching. Have good male role models. Have good female role models. Focus efforts on middle-level girls; this is when interests in math/science/tech tend to wane. They often don’t want to seem “too smart”.
5. Teach boys and men how sexism hurts everyone.
4. Call on the people who do not have their hand raised. This shouldn’t be a separate talk. It should be a fluid part of all talks.
6. Girls and women need games and gaming!! Geeks like me who are also academics need FUNDING! Encourage women to build tools that meet the needs of women.
7. Allow for distant (at home) presenters to Skype into larger venues.
I submitted the same proposal to ISTE and it was turned down. Why?
Even at Educon, where the proposal was bravely accepted, I was asked to change the panel make-up and numbers so that more people would attend the other sessions. It was a suggestion that, while I understood the reasons, sort of supported my rationale for having this session. We agreed on a compromise of my uninviting one man and one woman from my panel- a decision that brought me serious flack. I do not blame or hold any grudge toward Educon, rather it just reinforced in me the need for this conversation all the more.
Additionally, strong women who I respect decided not to come to a session on the lack of gender diversity, because like with TEDWomen, they felt it was a step backward. And for some who did come, they admitted to me that they had liked things the way there were and questioned if I should be rocking the boat? If the ed tech space was flooded with women wouldn’t the women that were there get even less visibility?
What is your take? What are your ideas? What can we do together to bring this social justice issue to the forefront? I hope you will reply.