Article:
  Social Engineering
Subject:   Good to recognize this role...
Date:   2007-09-05 09:19:59
From:   kdsmith
The author shares her experience in what others appear to be perceiving as a socially nurturing role: facilitating communications, putting groups together, managing communities. (And it seems, there are two articles here -- both from the angles of being a non-coder in a world where coders are gods, and being a woman in a technology community comprised mostly of men.)


Often women fulfill these roles with finesse and skill. And so do men.


Leslie, you mention:


"It brands me as feminine in a masculine world, it implies difference where the optimal outcome is equality and, by extension, sameness."


But women aren't the same as men. Do you really want to be the same? Is sameness the optimal outcome?


Do men receive compliments for this role? Are they called geek daddies? Are the social networking facilitators around open source communities who happen to be male referred to as gods?


I think if you look closely you'll find they are not.


It's such a tough thing to be complimented in the male world of technology in part just because you are female. Do you accept these 'geek mama' compliments? How can you not?


I'd challenge you, Leslie, to change your online persona to Ken Smith, communicate in a less nurturing, more male style -- and see how many accolades you receive under those conditions.


Would you be satisfied in this role if people didn't compliment and recognize you? I'm imagining that men out there who perform this same work are thinking, 'Wow, she gets compliments? Must be nice!'


If you received the same level of feedback from the community as a male in your role receives, you'd likely feel even more de-valued than when you compare your role to the work of 'coders'.


While this service role is vital to the technical community, I think you're going to find not a lot of people are receptive to the idea of equating it with a technical role akin to pure engineering/coding.


I'd say don't feel conflicted. Don't compare these two separate roles. Feel vital and important on your own terms, and to hell with sameness.


Thanks for sharing your experiences!


People are bound to react strongly to this series, and I hope that all the contributors realize that having this conversation is great -- regardless of the level of agreement around the ideas and viewpoints in the individual articles.


Thanks, O'Reilly!




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  • Leslie Hawthorn photo Good to recognize this role...
    2007-09-18 15:03:59  Leslie Hawthorn | [View]

    Thank you for your comments. A few thoughts in response:

    "But women aren't the same as men. Do you really want to be the same? Is sameness the optimal outcome?"

    Actually, I do think that sameness is the implied optimal outcome of group dynamics. To be clear, I am not suggesting that everyone ought to be a carbon copy of others in whatever group they participate. That said, for all of our desires to express and embrace our indvidualism, it's human nature to come together in groups to socialize, have our perceptions and experiences validated by peers and to feel a part of something.

    In the context of this article, I use "sameness" to mean "you are one of us." Being called a "mother" doesn't carry that connotation, instead implying that the role played is that of an "other," not the same, not "one of us."

    In my ideal world, everyone who comes together to contribute to a common goal would be regarded as the same - "one of us" - insofar as they are all contributors.


    "Do men receive compliments for this role? Are they called geek daddies? Are the social networking facilitators around open source communities who happen to be male referred to as gods? I think if you look closely you'll find they are not. "

    It seems our experiences here differ a great deal. The men I have worked with in this role frequently receive well-deserved accolades, on par with their female counterparts.

    "While this service role is vital to the technical community, I think you're going to find not a lot of people are receptive to the idea of equating it with a technical role akin to pure engineering/coding."

    I doubt I will, as well. The work is no less a part of making the end product of "pure engineering/coding" possible. In my experience, it's open source projects who are like-minded on this topic who are finding new contributors, both coders and otherwise, most successfully.