The Topic That Won’t Die

Today in Austin, TechCrunch is hosting a Roundtable: The Web Starts At The Grass Roots. I admit that I’d heard something a while back about it — mostly that tickets to the after-party were going fast. Lots of people wanting to see and be seen, I figured.

But, not being a regular TechCrunch reader I apparently missed the more important call for speakers at the roundtable. In hindsight, even if I had seen it I probably wouldn’t have submitted my name. TechCrunch and their partner in this event, Austin Ventures, both seem to exude to me this start-up-company, insiders-only vibe in which, as a basic corporate cog, I would not have felt worthy of being included. My bad.

Gosh darn it, though, some women should have done it!

I didn’t think about it at all until I opened my newspaper this morning and read “High-tech roundtable has 18 panelists but no women.” In that story TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld said:

“After posting about the event on TechCrunch, ‘I had lots of people contact me, and they were all men. We were putting this together on the heels of our TechCrunch50 conference, and my resources of time were limited.’”

After reading the article, I fired off a snide comment on Twitter. Soon, other comments and questions about the event started crossing the twitterstream. Then I saw that you could comment on the newspaper story online, so I did that, too. In those same comments, and in Twitter, two men I have nothing but respect for [ @daddyclay @mikeneumann ] pointed out the part of the story I excerpted above.

Zing! Point taken.

If there was an open call for people to join the roundtable and absolutely none of the Austin women who work in tech and social media responded, then that’s our bad.

What I really wanted to explore here, though, is why does this topic rankle me so much? I’ve always deliberately avoided joining many women-focused organizations, opting for the International Association of Business Communicators over the Association for Women in Communication, for example. In issues of gender I’ve generally thought it made more sense to integrate into the broader professional group than to branch off into a specialized organization. I want to be thought of as equal. How could I do that if I set myself up as different?

Does the fact that I’ve found myself upset by this topic enough to blog about it and write an op-ed about it mean that my long-held views are changing? Is it due to that fact that I’m now the mother of a girl and more likely to fight for her rights than mine? This deserves some self-reflection, I think.

In the meantime … maybe I should start a side business running a tech-women’s speakers bureau!

Yeah, right, like I need another job to add to my list.


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3 comments

  1. @ggroovin · September 25, 2008

    You. Go. Girl! ;D

    Like

  2. @mikeneumann · September 25, 2008

    Laura,

    The organization that I am most familiar with, the Smart Card Alliance (www.smartcardalliance.org), always seeks speakers based on experience, expertise, and yeah, sponsorship. A perusal of their speakers list/agenda (http://is.gd/38ME) shows a blend of men, women, “Cornbread Teds”, and others. (I know, I’m going to get mail on that – “Who exactly is Cornbread?”). That ‘makeup’ is secondary. It’s all about expertise and experience.

    This TechCrunch gig sounds much more informal, but there was clearly some sort of decision making going on in choosing panelists. And as we all know, a call went out. Sounds perfectly open to me.

    Clearly, you, @SheilaS, and a handful (ok, two handfulls) of women in the Austin area could have made solid contributions to that panel. Just jump on the ‘call for participants’ opportunity next time. 🙂

    I just think it would be far worse to be the “token woman” brought in at the 11th hour in response to newspaper article.

    My $0.02. 🙂

    — Mike

    Like

  3. Terry Walhus · September 27, 2008

    http://austinblogger.com/blog/ was at TechCrunch and did interviews with quite a few women, including the CEO of TechCrunch Heather Harde and our interviewer was the lively Kimberlie Dykeman. There was one woman panelist at the TechCrunch afternoon event, and we have video of her comments as well.

    Catch the whole 3 hours and about 20 interviews on the above mentioned blog.

    Like

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