Ada Lovelace Day Is Not Enough

In two months, the third international Ada Lovelace Day will take place, on March 24th. Bloggers around the world will devote posts to writing about the achievements of women in technology and science. This is wonderful, and I highly support it, but…

What about the other 364 days of the year?

Setting aside one day per year to write, “Hey, there are women in technology, too!” is not enough. In fact, I’d call it a bare minimum. If you only post in your blog once a week, you’re putting out 50+ posts per year. If only one of those has to do with women, you’re ignoring half the human race 98% of the time.

Technology is not just for men. It doesn’t solely affect men. Men aren’t the only ones to drive it, or develop it. And I’m sick and tired of the culture of machismo, sexism, and outright misogyny that’s been turning high-tech — and particularly the open-source and startup arenas — into a little boys’ club that drives women away.

Blogging about the accomplishments of women for Ada Lovelace Day is not enough. But it’s a start, at the very least. We can’t say, “I wrote about Grace Hopper on March 24th; there, I’ve done my duty. Can I have my Nice Guy badge now?” We can’t write one article and then rest on our asses the rest of the year.

Instead, I see Ada Lovelace Day as a springboard — a starting point. Carry that spirit into the rest of the year. When you see someone spewing ridiculous, misogynistic shit online, treating women as objects rather than human beings, or giving a porn-soaked presentation at a conference — call them on it. Tell them it’s stupid, immature, and unacceptable. It’s critical that we, as men in technology, speak up about this, because if we don’t our silence is taken as assent.

And I do not assent to the open-source and high-tech communities becoming a haven for sexism and anti-female backlash. The tech world is supposed to be forward-looking, not a bastion of Mad Men-era male chauvinism.

It’s Easy to Talk the Talk, But…

I’m not about to call out the rest of the blogging world, or even just the tech-blogging world, without seeing how I measure up. In 2010, I published 23 Coyote Tracks entries. (I’d wanted to do at least one every two weeks, and fell short of that goal.) Of those 23, 2 were tagged “gender”, making 8.69% of my posts.

The fact that I even have a “gender” tag — that I have enough posts to warrant having that tag — is, I think, a good thing. But I’d really like to get my percentage up over 10%.

On the other hand, in 2009, I posted 42 posts… and still, only 2 of them were gender-tagged. That’s only 4.76%. (And honestly, the one about re-entering tutorial modes was only tangentially related to gender, and was more related to men than to women. Things like that are part of why my tag is “gender” rather than “women”.)

So I may be improving… but I’ve still got a way to go. If you’re another man in tech reading this, I tell you what: I’ll work on improving myself, and the tech field as a whole, if you’ll do the same.

The ideal would be that when someone sees a post about women in tech, they don’t immediately wonder if it’s Ada Lovelace Day. Instead, such posts should be par for the course,a completely unremarkable, everyday occurrence. (At which point, Ada Lovelace Day becomes obsolete in the best possible way.)

In the meantime, though, Ada Lovelace Day is a good start. It’s not the final goal; it’s the very first step. And if you were planning to write something for Ada Lovelace Day this year… this is your reminder. You’ve got two months.

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