Monthly Archives: June 2013

Women Who Test: A Gathering of Geek Girls

This guest post is from Smita Mishra. Smita is the Chief Test Consultant for QAzone Infosystems based of India and the US. Follow her on Twitter @smita_qazone.

Lorinda’s email was sudden. It had multiple recipients: Anna Royzman, Meeta Prakash, Emma Gray, Leah Stockley, Rosie Sherry, Betty Zakheim, Lorinda Brandon and Smita Mishra. She mentioned that she received our contacts from Keith Klain, who is a chairperson on the board of the AST (many thanks for connecting us!!), and that she wanted to bring all of us together to “tell our stories and figure out how we get more young women into the technology world.” It appears that we were chosen to represent the “Testing” part of the technology world.
After initial introductions via email, we finally had the kickoff call which was quite interesting. Betty informed us of Lorinda’s absence, which left Anna, Meeta, Betty and me – we all knew we were there to talk about number of women in technology. And we all had the same questions – why are we here? What was the original idea all about? What did we want to achieve through these meetings? What is Now that we are here – what next?

There were various experiences shared by Anna and Meeta. It appeared that Meeta had come across many females who had the potential to do better but lacked confidence. And Anna felt that the women around her were working well for their potential and achieving good things too. What was encouraging though was that we all felt that the testing world had a good representation of women in most of the geographies. But the fact remained that we still don’t see as many women in the conferences at the either side of the dais. We honestly didn’t know the reason to this. We were among the fortunate few to have attended some conferences and be a little more active than our peers in this small community.
Therefore, we from the other side of the spectrum were trying to understand as to how we could get more women to cross the bridge and join this smaller community.

My initial thought was that senior women testing professionals should coach the junior talent and encourage more women to take up testing roles. However, on second thought, we felt that considering the greater availability of our male colleagues, and the compassion that they share with their female counterparts, it makes great sense to seek their support in this initiative. We also felt that making this an all-women initiative may actually backfire due to creeping in of gender bias and lesser availability of leaders and mentors.
On a side note – I came across a term “Space Chauvinism” which represents the highly skewed gender ratio in the space exploration programs. 56 out of 525 total space travelers were women. I think no area under the banner of technology is spared from the imbalance.

Sarah Milstein points out an important cultural issue in getting women on stage at these conferences:
“If your system of finding worthy students or speakers to promote is to have them come to you and ask, but a solid body of research shows that women won’t do so, you’ve institutionalized a gap”

Courtney Stanton is one woman who defied the gender gap by achieving a 50/50 gender ratio at a tech conference focused on game development. She admits that it was more work than she expected because women lacked the confidence in their own knowledge and ideas.

Maybe we can learn a few lessons from these transformers.

Though no major breakthrough was achieved in the first call, but at least we got the ball rolling. This in itself is a significant milestone, and we need to take this initiative further and actually start the counter to see how much of a difference we can make.
After all, a spark is what is needed to launch a spaceship!!

So excited and looking forward to decoding the secret of how to make a difference with our joint efforts – for the “Women who Test”.

A Girl Guide to Tech Conferences

Written by Lorinda Brandon (@lindybrandon)
I’ve been contemplating the dearth of women at tech conferences – I realize that the most obvious reason is because there is just a general dearth of women in technical roles. But it also occurred to me that possibly it’s because going to your first tech conference can be intimidating and women don’t have a lot of role models to ask for advice.

"Dogs Not Allowed" - we assume this means the animal variety

“Dogs Not Allowed” – we assume this means the animal variety

So, as a public service to girl geeks everywhere, I’ve put together a little first-timers guide to help you out. Lucky for us, manufacturers the world over have been thinking about the best way to assist us women in navigating the often too manly world outside our homes. Here are a few items that can help you embark on your new tech conference experience:
ePad Femme: Everybody has these fun gadgets at tech conferences. They’re not only handy for taking notes but also for looking up big words (or just playing games when your brain needs a rest). With its pretty pink background, it’s easier to tweet to that cute guy in the corner.
Bic Cristal For Her: Yes, it’s a ballpoint pen that fits neatly into our tiny hands and allows us to deftly put those little hearts over the I in API (we don’t care if it’s capitalized! Everything’s better with a heart on it, right?). I ordered mine in a lovely range of pastels that easily match whatever outfit I’m wearing.
Nestle Resource: Sounds technical even, doesn’t it? Water just for us! Full of those tasty electrolytes and priced high enough to make us feel pampered. Tech conferences can be long and they don’t offer a lot of herbal tea breaks so pack some nice feminine water and keep those lips moist.
Ladies’ table: If you picked the right conference, you could get lucky and have a “Ladies’ Table” set aside just for you at lunchtime. This will give you a much-needed break from those brainiac conversations and let you share some of the latest celebrity news with all the other grrrls at the conference.
Pretty paper: Okay, lunch is over and now it’s time to take notes again. Best to bring some notebooks to go with those pens (turns out the battery runs down on that ePad Femme and I have yet to figure out how to put new AA’s in it). Carrying a nice tapestry notebook or, better yet, a Butterfly Journal will help you concentrate on the hard stuff while still feeling feminine.
Bathroom breaks: Here’s the best part. You never have to wait in line AND you get to make condescending remarks about how guys always seem to go in packs. But that gives you a chance to loiter in the empty girls’ room and surf for some beauty and fashion tips on your smartphone.
Nokia N8: The pink one, of course… with the Little Pink Diva Theme and pre-installed Elle fashion app. You will need this to while away the time in the ladies’ room since there won’t be any girls to gab with and by mid-afternoon, you’ll be missing your gal-pals from the lunch table. Text them and invite them to ladies’ lounge for some dish!
Pink Box: They give you a lot of fun swag at these conferences (and maybe you’ll get lucky and get some boys’ phone numbers too). Best to label and store all of it as part of your Tech Conference Memory Box. Nothing does the trick like this pseudo toolbox, which also has plenty of space for storing extra Cristals and Butterfly Journals for all your future conference needs.
I hope this little guide gives you more confidence and gets you out of the office and into the next Tech Conference that comes to down. I don’t need to tell you how to register for one – you can do it online, and it’s as easy as buying shoes from Zappo’s!