Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tara, meet Kara: You're in good marginalized company

Last month Tara Hunt had the frustrating experience of being marginalized, as a journalist chose to act as though her male partner, Chris Messina, was the only person behind their Web 2.Open efforts worth identifying by name. Both Tara and Chris wrote about it.

It probably stung even more because it had happened to Tara before, with WineCamp I believe.

Well, Tara? Meet Kara. That would be Swisher. Who is a prominent tech journalist in her own right, but apparently not as prominent as her partner and co-founder of All Things Digital, Walt Mossberg.

From everything I've ever read or heard directly, Walt and Kara are partners in this AllThingD business, conference and web site. And yet the San Jose Mercury, in a front-page article, described it like this:
"Given that history, the audience for the sold-out show in Carlsbad that is part of the D: All Things Digital conference, an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal and hosted by high-profile technology columnist Walt Mossberg, will be hoping for something momentous." (emphasis mine)

I could just scream. I urge you to review the AllThings D web site. And their press. I urge you to find me an instance where it is not completely obvious that Kara and Walt are a team and co-everything. I cannot imagine what would motivate Troy Wolverton to leave her out of the equation.

I once gave some constructive feedback to a prominent blogger/speaker that when he referred (in a conference presentation) to Evan as the creator of Blogger and Stewart as the creator of Flickr he was essentially re-writing history for those people who didn't know about their female co-founders and partners. But to the women who did know about Meg and Caterina, respectively, it was sending a more insidious message, namely: even when you play in this field we keep trying to claim women aren't interested in or good at, we will erase you by ignoring your contributions.

Of course this blogger (and friend) assured me he meant no disrespect. In each case he had been introduced to the product by those partners mentioned, so he associated them with the product in his mind.

Fine. But now you've been alerted to the problem, so fix it.

And frankly, as a journalist, I'd urge Wolverton to do his homework no matter who he happened to meet or talk to.

People keep asking why more women don't go for and then stick it out in tech careers. People wonder whether women feel harassed or overly sexualized or put off by the ridiculous hours or even by the socially awkward denizens of the tech world.

How about this: how about women see how hard it is to actually be recognized simply for the work they do. Not to win prizes or fame or multi-million dollar deals. How about just being acknowledged as an equal partner when you were one?

Think the difficulty in attaining that might be a deterrent? Or a catalyst to finding another line of work?

Bang on, Elisa. I think it's about assumptions, but it is a vicious cycle.

We make the assumption that it is the male in charge and the female as the 'employee' because, well, that's more 'common'.

Then we skip over the women who are actually in charge or co-charge.

So then there are few to no examples in the media of women who are in charge or co-charge.

So more people make the assumption that the man is in charge.

And it goes on...

That's why I am building the list of Women Who Risk - women founders and co-founders of tech companies. I want to continue to highlight these examples so we can all continue to call these 'omissions' out. :)
"Even when you play in this field we keep trying to claim women aren't interested in or good at, we will erase you by ignoring your contributions."

Hauntingly true words, sadly.

I would add, that if you ever quit, the same people will point to you as an example of women opting out.
Man, ever since I really opened my eyes to the problem, it just smacks me (us) in the face left and right. It's frustrating and disappointing, not the least because it discourages women from sticking with it and staying involved; I mean, if I never felt acknowledged, welcomed or appreciated for my many contributions I'd eventually get fed up too.

I'm so beyond the incredulity of asking "where are the women" anymore... The question for the men now seems to be: "How could you expect women to stick around when you repeatedly treat them like they don't exist?!"
Thanks everyone.

Chris: treat them like they don't or exist, or if they do exist like their most salient qualities are their physical ones. Morra Aarons wrote a post over at BlogHer today about how Carl Bernstein's new book about Hillary Clinton spends an inordinate amount of time discussing her various hair styles, her thick ankles, her lack of femininity.

Not everything that happens is horribly offensive; nor a huge injustice, but it is often tiresome and demoralizing.

It's Just like when companies don't fire someone, but hope to make things just unpleasant enough that they'll quit!
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