terriko: (Default)
Just a quick note: if you aren't following the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag on twitter, you're sort of missing out. It started as a discussion on Asian feminism, but has branched out to be a bigger discussion focused around race.

I'm just gonna put this comic here while I try to remember how to log in to tumblr...

And a note to self that perhaps I should write a public version of the "not f'ing docile" post.
terriko: (Default)
Today is a good day: I get to be famous for being snarky!

There's a short interview with me up on FastCoLabs today, regarding my (in)famous slideshare presentation about women, biology, and computer science.

She did a nice job of trimming down my original answers, but I am sad that she missed the part where I said I didn't answer the question about what does cause the disparity in my slideshare presentation because half the point of the presentation was to get people to think rather than mindlessly accept shortened arguments with good face validity. (The corollary being that there's a meta-joke in the presentation because it is a shortened argument with good face validity.)

I edited out some of the other snarky things I said before I sent 'em. It's probably just as well. ;)

Anyhow, in case anyone reading this hasn't seen the original presentation before, I'll just embed it here:

In case the embed doesn't show up for you, here's a link: How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't.

terriko: (Default)
Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.

When I first met Robin Jeffries, I had no idea how important she was. My friend Jen said, "hey, you need to talk to Robin about this" and the three of us sat down and chatted about technical stuff for an hour or so in the middle of a busy conference. It didn't hit me until much later that I'd just spent a time geeking it up with a woman who half the women at GHC would have loved to shake hands with, let alone get a whole lunch with.

Robin has just retired as Her Systers Keeper, a role she took over from Anita Borg when Anita's health was failing. She's not wrong in calling managing a community like this a job of cat herding, but with her guidance Systers has long been a list with an unusually high signal to noise ratio, and one that many technical women turn to when they need advice, want to share a story, or want to rant about the latest news piece about women in computing. I started realizing how much of a role model Robin herself has been to so many when I'd mention her and people would go, "wait, you know Robin Jeffries? I've always wanted to meet her in person!" These were women who were inspired by the stories she shares and her ability to get to the heart of the matter when it comes to the experience of technical women.

I've been fortunate enough to work with Robin doing Google Summer of Code mentoring for Systers, where we've been doing modifications on an open source project dear to my heart, GNU Mailman. She's got an uncanny ability to find good chunks of technical work that our students can manage, a knack for inspiring the people she works with, a good system for managing us all and keeping us to our deadlines, and every time we sit down to talk about how to fix a problem she impresses me with her insights into better architectures and designs. I've rarely had the chance to work with someone of Robin's experience in human computer interaction (read her bio, but in short, she's crazy accomplished and I probably would have been way intimidated if I'd known how much so when I first met her). I'm constantly in awe of how easily she not only applies that experience, but how good she is at conveying it to others and how willing she is to share her skills.

We're probably all benefiting from her knowledge as she applies it to her job at Google, but it's the more direct personal experiences that really get me. For example, despite being in great demand with the Systers 25th anniversary celebrations at GHC12 this year, she came out to help me run Open Source Day activities for women interested in hacking with Systers and Mailman, quickly adopting a whole table of prospective volunteers and walking them through the first stages of evaluating and contributing to an open source project. She regularly makes me wish I'd spent more time studying HCI myself, and forces me to re-evaluate how I design software. We've got one big feature we want to see in Mailman and I'm really looking forwards to working with her on making it happen.

I admire Robin for her amazing technical expertise, for her support of women in computing, and for her ability to balance the two as part of her own busy life for so many years. It has most definitely been my privilege to work with such an amazingly talented woman, and I hope that some day I can approach her level of professional and personal accomplishment.
terriko: (Default)
I'm re-reading Richard Hamming's talk on You and Your Research because I felt like I needed the kick in the pants to do great work this month after some very busy months of doing necessary but not necessarily great things.

In this reading, I was struck by this anecdote:

John Tukey almost always dressed very casually. He would go into an important office and it would take a long time before the other fellow realized that this is a first-class man and he had better listen. For a long time John has had to overcome this kind of hostility. It's wasted effort! I didn't say you should conform; I said ``The appearance of conforming gets you a long way.'' If you chose to assert your ego in any number of ways, ``I am going to do it my way,'' you pay a small steady price throughout the whole of your professional career. And this, over a whole lifetime, adds up to an enormous amount of needless trouble.

On a surface level, I've long believed this is true. I've been long primed in the art of social hacking, first by my father and more recently as a security researcher/hacker. Anyone can watch the subtle variations on how I dress on teaching days or days when I'm going to the bank and you'll note that I pay attention to fitting in to the environment and manipulating the way in which I'm perceived. But as a child of the Internet, more or less, my experimentation hasn't limited to physical presentation. Especially as a teenager, I spent a lot of time grossly mis-representing my age and gender as well and watching how that changed my interactions with folk.

But what gets me this time is the end of that quote: "[If you don't appear to conform,] you pay a small steady price throughout the whole of your professional career. And this, over a whole lifetime, adds up to an enormous amount of needless trouble." Sometimes it's important to change the system, but sometimes you just want to get stuff done.

I can dress the part, but I don't generally change my gender presentation in real life. Is my female-ness adding up to an enormous amount of needless trouble over my lifetime given that I work in a field where that's going to make me non-conforming? I suspect it is, although I'm fortunate enough that my gender presentation is often canceled out by my racial makeup (Asian girls are totally good at math, don'tcha know?) so I can console myself by saying maybe it's not as enormous as it might have been. But not every person who doesn't fit the norm for their field has that consolation prize. Are we all paying the price of being different?

It's easy to get a little saddened by this. All that time explaining that no, I really am a techie, has added up to a lot of time I'm not having amazing conversations and doing great work. But before you get too saddened about how your hard-to-hide features like race/age/gender are affecting your ability to Do Great Things, you should stop and listen to Duy Loan Le's excellent 2010 Grace Hopper Celebration Keynote. In it, she talks about what she does to fit in to environments where she felt that letting go of her ego made it possible for her to get more good work done. I think it's really worth a listen, especially if fitting in isn't just a choice of what suit to wear for you.

terriko: (Default)
Once upon a time, there was a blog aggregator for Women in Free Software. Then it broke. Repeatedly.

I found I sort of missed the FOSS Women Planet, so I made myself a new one: http://terri.zone12.com/wifs/

That's currently seeded with the feeds from the original list. I know lots and lots of women who aren't on the original list but who do have public blog feeds, so I may add some from my own reading lists. Meanwhile, if you'd like to be on there, feel free to let me know, and if you also missed the old one, feel free to use mine.

I'm thinking maybe I should get a better url for it and make this more obviously a public thing that others might read, but I don't currently own a suitable domain. Suggestions? It's tempting to make womeninfreesoftware.nowwemustfight.com but I'm pretty sure that's not the impression I want to give.
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