Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Geek-Boys Club: Blog Conferences, Sexism and Exclusion in the Blogosphere

Recent posts, on on Nancy White's blog and on Shelley Power's blog once again bring up a huge problem that exists within the blogosphere: the derth of female speakers at conferences.

I have been talking about this for some time now on this blog. It is obvious to me why there's a dearth of female speakers at blog conferences. Simply put: many of us don't have the exact same credentials as males in the blogosphere, and that they value. To them we are the apples to their oranges.

Here's a small factoid: most males in the blogosphere, even in social software, are themselves computer or business geeks. They are focused on gathering information and they like to have other geeks whom they perceive as "qualified" talk to them. There is the human perception that if you have the same sorts of professional or academic credentials, then you will have the correct perspective on a subject and will have something of value to say about it. Speakers, mostly men, are culled from the ranks of individuals who have similar credentials to those who are are attending the conferences. Thus, only women who are similarly credentialled will be asked to speak.

And that leaves about a handful of women, perceived as qualified in the male sense, to speak at conferences.

This is the hard realities behind it as culled from my observations of speaker lists, posts and comments on various blogs, and from the blubs on websites of groups hosting conferences.

Although what I find almost oxymoronic about the whole thing it that many of the people who use social software, or blogs for that matter, are not in the same camp as the geek boys who are holding conferences. They are people who are often college educated, but not necessarily in business or computer science. Yet many times we are astute observers of culture, know how to negotiate the social aspects of the blogosphere, and communicate effectively with one another on a varitety of subjects that are of concern to the human condition (not just to geek culture.) Further, when those of us who would be considerened among the uncredentialled get wind of conferences, we'd like to go too--and, add our unique perspectives to the conversation.

The question, then, is thus: how do we get past the prejudices of people who only want to hear from others who are similar to them in professional and academic background?

My answer: get in their faces. Find ways to attend confereces and talk with them. Many times, when people hear what you have to say, they realize that you, too, know as much (if not more) than they might.

Finding the ways to attend conferences, however, is daunting in and of itself. How does one get into a confernece when the cost to attend is either hundreds or thousands of dollars??

That, however, is different (class-based) issue for another essay.

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