A very interesting article was posted a few days ago on the devChix website about women in tech communities. I think it is a worthwhile read for anyone in a tech environment, male or female. Here is the direct link to the article, so go read it before you continue on to my thoughts.
Gloria makes some great points in this article, but I think that her points are somewhat clouded by her tone. I can see how male readers may feel attacked because the article is so one-sided and focuses on what men are doing wrong and how to accommodate women in tech communities, rather than how we can all work together to make everyone feel welcomed.
I am very new to the professional tech world, so I do not have as much experience with the online communities that Gloria talks so much about in the article. She has given a great description of patterns she has noticed in women-only and mixed-gender communities. Most of the problems she describes come down to a difference in how men and women communicate amongst themselves and with each other. Of course, this is a problem in all professional environments, not just technical. (Hell, communication between men and women is a problem in everyday life.) Both genders have natural tendencies, and it is difficult to break through the stereotypes. We should all take a moment to think about our natural tendencies and how they affect the people we interact with. Maybe even just taking a moment to think about it will help us move a step in the right direction.
I particularly enjoyed the "For the men who care: Tips for communicating with women in Tech environments, online and Face-to-Face" section of the article. Yet while I agree with almost all of what she said here, the problem is again the tone. I think it makes women sound like we expect tech men to be creeps. In my opinion, the first three points in this section are unspoken laws that need to be brought up every now and then to remind everyone what a professional environment should be like. (And I totally agree with number four, so invite me out for beers!) Yet I also think that this section is incomplete. I don't think all the tips for interacting with women should be about sex and not trying to jump into their pants. I think number five should be this: We all know men and women communicate differently, but that doesn't mean you have to change your whole style to speak to someone of the opposite gender. Just realize that your words can be interpreted differently than you might mean them, so think before you speak. If you think you might offend someone, rephrase. If we all treat each other with a little more respect, we might get somewhere.
In the end, it all boils down to communication and respect. We all need to learn to respectfully communicate with each other as humans, and not specifically as men or women. It is sad to me that there is a section in the article entitled "To make an online community more women-friendly, try these suggestions." Shouldn't we just be trying to make the community more friendly in general?
Thank you to Gloria for a very interesting article. I think it has and will continue to get people thinking and talking about how they can better interact with each other on a regular basis.