One woman's path through doula training, childrearing, and a computer science Ph. D. program

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to get my number at a tech conference

In technology, the male-to-female ratio strikingly favors the males.  Of course, it depends on the specific field how rough it is: game design, for example, has more women than semiconductor research; human-computer interaction has more women than systems and security.

Having just had come from Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing I was keenly aware that  at Supercomputing 2011 the ratio was not 2:2900 (I think there were a few men at Grace Hopper) but more like 150:11.  Yup, I counted, sitting in the back of the room where my workshop was being held.  Interestingly, there were five of us students from the same university at this workshop, and four of us were women.

My talk was third in a block of three, and the latter two were similar in that they stemmed from the same set of interviews and touched on similar topics.  After my talk, there was discussion in the audience, and when I rejoined my university's group of students, we began being approached by researchers interested in our work -- with comments, suggestions, and questions.

A young man, probably a few years younger than me, in a white and green graph-paper-patterned shirt, wearing dark-rimmed glasses on his long nose, and his hair cropped in the typical defense-industry fashion, approached me and my female colleague.

"I work on the very system you were studying," he said.  "I'm the guy.  I run everything, set the policy, and have tons of data on it."

"Hang on! Stay right there!" we exclaimed in unison.  In a flash, my colleague and I ran off to retrieve our business cards.  Tons of data!  An expert in the field we are studying!  This was very exciting.  I ran back to my chair where I had left my laptop and bag, grabbed a stack of cards, and ran back, nearly knocking over chairs in the process.  I saw my colleague also rushing and rummaging.  

I made it back first.  Presenting my card to him (American-style), I said, with a smirk, the first thing that came into my head:

"You just discovered the best way to get two women's numbers at the same time."

He looked at my card, and looked at me, and I could see that he was trying to determine whether what I had said was shocking or funny.  I laughed.

Just a disclaimer that it was a joke.

But if you meet me at a tech conference, now you know how to get my card.

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