The (In)Visible Women of Technology

24720422_1453032576_mThis past week I’ve been confronted by the idea of the visibility of women in technology – or rather, the realization of a certain level of invisibility. Today is Ada Lovelace Day – she is attributed for conceptualizing the first computer program…in the mid-1800s.  Fast forward to this past week, while watching the live streaming of AdobeMAX, I noted the following on Twitter:

I think this might be the first time I’ve seen a woman (Emmy Huang) as a featured presenter at a major tech event. #AdobeMaxintellichick 10/4/2011

This was nicely retweeted by Adobe SVP of Global Marketing Ann Lewnes with a “Go Emmy!”  My friend Jesse begged to differ, tweeting back to me:

Google has had several women introduce features in the past, and Apple has had female developers on stage. –jlevin 10/4/2011

While I do hope that is true, I don’t recall this.  That hopeful likelihood aside, there was definitely a great feeling about seeing a woman presenting at a major technology event.  This moment was perhaps further highlighted by the fact that Emmy Huang was the only female presenter on this second-day session I was watching. 

I’ve grown up being a techie because I love technology.  This domain name was inspired in part from being that random girl that talked tech with her guy friends in high school. 

The timeframe from Ada Lovelace to Emmy Huang at AdobeMax makes me think about a number of things. 

  1. My gender is really awesome.  Lovelace existed in a timeframe where women were really limited in their opportunities outside of the home.
  2. The fact that success can be garnered then and now tells me that to be a successful person is to think outside of the box and trust in what you love and want to do (see also Thanks for Thinking Differently: In Memory of Steve Jobs). 
  3. While I wholeheartedly believe in the recognition of great minds and people, regardless of gender, the visibility of women in technology is very important.

On the third note, if you asked me to name the names I automatically associate as the faces of technology today, I would probably give you the names of men.  This tells me I need to be more educated and an advocate, but it also makes me think how much it would have meant to me growing up having a powerful history of women’s names and faces as part of my understanding of technology, how much it obviously means to me now writing this.   

I’m glad that we are a more educated society and the opportunity to share information across multiple mediums is done with relative ease: Forbes’ list of “The Most Powerful Women in Technology”, Facebook shares, blog posts, and Twitter lists such as “ada list – “50 ace women tweeters who have some connection sci, tech, environment and/or health.”  I am also very glad to be educated on the power of women sway online through sites like Michele Miller’s Wonderbranding.com.  But I think there’s a certain level of visibility that I haven’t really perceived, that perhaps we are at the cusp of breaking the mold of (I hope). 

Perhaps one day I’ll turn around and say “God there’s so many women in technology, I can’t keep track!”