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 Alineatladiesroom.org? 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”.

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