Went with Andy to Google tonight for the first Bay Area Geek Girls' Dinner. Food was served both before and after the panel of four speakers.
The panel was introduced by Ellen Spertus, whose presentation was quite entertaining. I'm fairly certain I've seen her speak before, either at Blogher or some other event such as SxSW or OSCON. I'll have to look it up. She had a top ten reasons why it's great to be a geek girl, the only two I recall being, "You'll always have a place to store your USB drive," (which humoured me) and "You can wave to the men in the line at the restroom as you pass them by." Indeed.
The panel consisted of Leah Pulver, Sumaya Kazi, Irene Au and Rashmi Sinha, and moderated by Katherine Barr. The panelists' ages ranged from 24 to 36, with only one woman being a mother.
The first question posed by the moderator annoyed me more than maybe it should be. It went something like what do you need to do to legitimize yourself as a woman in the workplace.
Not one of the panelists answered the question as I would have: "I don't do anything to legitimize myself. I don't need to prove myself because I'm a woman, I need to prove myself because we work in a meritocity in the Bay Area. Being a woman has nothing to do with my skillsets or ability to complete tasks or think clearly."
I completely questioned the need for such a question.
Other questions from the audience were spectacular in the answers they elicited. The question that stands out in my mind was, "As a woman, I find my ideas and suggestions are not taken seriously until specifically approved by a man or someone above me in management. How do you deal with this?"
The first two panelist's answers were something to the effect of, "That never happens." Ah, to be so young and full of yourself that you can actually believe such a world exists.
The next answer was "get another job." Ah, a valid solution, but not necessarily possible, given the questioner was Indian and may need to stay with the company to complete her green card status.
Irene's answer, though, was right on, spoken with both authority and experience: align yourself with a person of authority, find out what they believe, make friends with them. If others see you in this group, your ideas have legitimacy by association.
Overall, I need to admit I was disappointed with this whole presentation. It may have helped the early 20 year olds who are just starting in the work place, but it did nothing for those established and wondering what's next.
I did, however, find the two people having sex in one of the stalls of a women's bathroom entertaining.
That, and Google's heated seats.