Philadelphia tech women: Buck Up

More on the gender gap in technology: I received a phone call today from a reader, Betty Scott, age 80, who started working in technology, she said, when there were still punch cards. She remembers when women in computers were a true rarity, so she's battle-tested. Her advice to the women quoted in my Inquirer story about women in technology can be summed up in two words: Buck Up.

Scott found herself appalled by the woman quoted in Thursday's story who complained that "I'm the only girl in my IT department and I am the only one that schedules lunches."

I was appalled by that too so I went to talk to Zoe Kime, 34, about why she does it. It started, she said, when she was the junior member on the staff of her Philadelphia-based company. It seemed like a reasonable responsibility for a newbie. "But other people have started since then, so it's probably that no one else feels like doing it," she said. "In the back of my head, I wonder, is it because I'm a girl, or could it be that I'm the one willing to do it?"

Scott said she encountered something similar. Her department, which was all male except for her, held regular meetings. One of her bosses asked her to keep the minutes for the meeting -- often a secretary's job. She wasn't the secretary. However, she agreed and took notes for two more meetings. When it happened the third time, she said, "It's someone else's turn to take the minutes." Fortunately, her boss backed her up and from then on, the job rotated among the group.

What strikes me about Scott's story is, at least in her recollection, is that she didn't make a big deal about not doing the minutes. She merely said it was someone else's turn. 

But there's another point: Kime and some of the other women at last week's Hacktory presentation on Hacking the Gender Gap, a Girl Geek Dinners event, both enjoy and dislike overwhelmingly male atmosphere. It's fun to be around a lot of guys, let's face it. Some of the women said they've had problems making female friends. Other women worry that women tech groups will be too pinkish, too sorority like. 

That's not too likely, given this crowd. And, as it turns out, Philadelphia tech women have been extraordinarily supportive of one another -- they are now making plans for an all-woman Hackathon and there are interlocking nonprofits aiming to help women gain skills and confidence in technology. Clicking here will link you to my story about TechGirlz and Girl Develop It in Friday's Inquirer.