Women in Wireless London

I had a lovely time last night.

I can’t remember if I’ve written before about how I think the concept of “the sisterhood” is a bit silly. We should all be supportive of everyone, and someone is not more likely to be in the right because they are female. Being extra helpful or supportive to someone because they are the same gender as you seems like a rather arbitrary way to make a decision. But last night I think I felt something of what it means. We are not together just “because we are women”, we are together because we all share some of the same experiences – the experiences that come with being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

I’d love to live in a world where there’s no need for special women-only events, but we aren’t quite there yet. I mentioned in my 50 book challenge thread that I’ve read Lean In, and one of the issues that I wish Sheryl Sandberg had gone in to more detail on is the balance between:

  • recognising what you need to do to get on in an unfair and sexist world
  • wishing that you didn’t need to do things differently to how men have to do them, or differently to how your natural inclinations would have you do them
  • hoping that by “playing the game” you are not encouraging the world to continue to be sexist, or disadvantaging those who cannot play the game

I was lucky enough to go to the very first Women in Wireless London event this time last year, and hear an almost shockingly honest talk by Jerri Devard of Nokia. Nokia were going through some pretty serious stuff that week and I’m very grateful that she managed to keep her appointment. Perhaps it’s simply her style, or perhaps it’s the woman-friendly space, but her story of her career and life was refreshingly open about things that often don’t get mentioned.

My favourite thing about the WiW events is that the “networking” is friendly and unusually non goal-focused. The worst kind of networking is when people talk to you for just long enough to find out if you can be useful to them – can they sell something to you, can you help them get ahead – and then move on. This is the opposite. People talk to you for long enough to find out if you have something interesting to say, or to find out if you are someone they want to chat to for a bit, or to find out if they can help you.

Helen Keegan of Heroes of the Mobile Fringe says that one of the sad things about women’s networking events is how many people you see there that you never see at any other events. I say use events like this as an easy introduction, or a warm-up, but do go to other events too. Tech events will only have more women at them if more women go to them! (and if they are doing something unfriendly tell the organisers)

I started writing this without a real plan, I just had some thoughts and threw them at the computer, and now I’ve come to the end. So I’m just going to hit “publish” and see what happens.

The next WiW London event will be in May and will have the results of a survey of 600 women working in the “wireless” industry (it’s a very vague definition, really I think anyone can come along) and the conclusions on what we can do or what we want others to do to make the world a better place. I’ll be on holiday that week (sad, I love graphs!) so I can’t say “come along!” as if I’ll be there, but I can say “go along!” because I expect it’ll be great.

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