Holly Brockwell answers the inevitable question from 'That Guy'
With every major cultural shift, there comes an inevitable fatigue point where everyone grows sick of hearing about it - even its own supporters. Usually, that's right at the point where things are starting to change.
We reached that point with diversity and inclusion in tech some years back. And indeed, we'd started to see progress around the same time, and there's been even more since.
So is it time to stop focusing so much on 'women in tech' and just focus on people instead, like those dudes in comment sections keep telling us?
HELL no. Here's why.
1. The battle's far from over
Firstly, while we've definitely moved the needle closer, we're still a long, long, long way from true equality. Most big tech companies are still majority male, the pipeline is still leaky as hell, there is still major apathy in many companies around hiring, supporting and retaining women.
While we have made huge strides in terms of public image - it's no longer publicly acceptable for a company to have spokesmodels at events, for instance - behind closed boardroom doors, much remains the same. And we're still hearing the same stories of women asked in interviews if they're planning to have kids, women talked down to and undermined, women passed over for promotion in favour of mediocre men...
There's more to do yet. A lot more.
2. We need to find each other
Because of the reasons above, there are lots of women in tech whose professional networks mostly consist of men. Women in tech events allow us to meet each other and collaborate in ways we can't in our majority-male workplaces, small startups, or geographically remote locations.
Meeting other women in the field is absolutely crucial for feeling like we belong, finding mentors and support, and perhaps even meeting female cofounders for our next multimillion-pound venture.
3. We need visibility
Having high-profile, successful women in tech events keeps the issue at the forefront of everyone's minds, and proves to the industry that things will never be allowed to go back to the sexist ways of the past. (And that perhaps they should stop asking.)
Visibility also encourages new women into tech, because they can see it's a welcoming and rewarding industry to work for. The psychological effect of seeing photos of hundreds of women from all walks of life coming together to talk tech is enormous. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?
4. They show what we can do
For all the progress we've made, there are some people who secretly - or not so secretly - believe that women can't actually do tech, and we're all here just kinda faking it.
Women in tech events prove that actually, we're not there just to be performatively nerdy for men's attention. In fact, we don't need men at all - we're perfectly capable of having a whole successful event with a full roster of speakers, a giant audience and a whole lot of innovation without a single man on the show floor.
Come to think of it, perhaps that's why certain types hate these events so much.
5. Amazing things come out of them
Women in tech events provide a petri dish for the incredible minds of our industry, and while the internet provides a useful proxy, there's really no substitute for face-to-face encounters. Personally, I've had life-enhancing conversations backstage, in the lunch queue, whispered in the quiet area, even in the toilets at tech events.
When a group of skilled, accomplished, diverse women comes together, magic happens. The next million-dollar app, VC fund, coworking space or even just WhatsApp group could all result from the right people meeting at the right time - and I want to be there when it does.
The Women in Tech Festival will be held on the 17th September. The event will be jointly hosted between Computing and its sister title CRN.