I just read yet another article about the lack of women in tech. It was written by a male tech journalist, and contained the predictable, clichéd reasons: They don't find tech interesting; they don't want to work alongside people they don't feel comfortable with (interpretation – male geeks); lack of female role models… blah, blah, blah.
I read these articles and always think: "What about the number of women I know or follow online with hard technical skills?" There seems to be an awful lot of them out there.
The reason most people don't know there are many women who sleep, eat, and breathe tech is because these aren't the women most acknowledged in and by the tech industry, especially the men.
The bottom line is that most women recognised in the tech industry are: Actresses or some spokesmodel who knows how to use an iPhone or may play a round of Halo or two; tech company CEOs or executives who commands salaries and power enough to attract male notice (positions which don’t typically require tech skills – with apologies to Marissa Mayer); or the perky, young, girl next door who the average nerd may have a shot with and happened to stumble upon the tech journalism field, which might be more lucrative than a political or social issues journalist or sex columnist. Actual techie women aren't getting as much public love as their often middle-aged, balding, sometimes pudgy male counterparts. Yes, even in the tech media industry.
Proof? Well, two of my favourite technical women are Laura Chappell and Deb Shinder. Chappell, a Wireshark evangelist, is one of the most definitive authorities on networking packet analysis. By evangelist, I don't mean a cheerleader. She is the co-founder of Wireshark University. You want to know why your network is bottlenecking? Laura can put a network tap on that thing and give you a spot-on analysis so fast your head would spin.
Deb Shinder is my go-to when I need hard answers to Windows Server and security questions. She's authored over 20 books on technology and can expound on any Windows server topic from Active Directory to Remote Access.
Yet, whenever I come across one of those "Top Women in Tech" lists that appear every so often online, it's usually filled with bloggers, celebrities, or PR and marketing executives with ambiguous titles such as Director of Citizen Participation. Where are the programmers, system administrators, storage gurus, or networking engineers?
They are out there. At least among women I follow. One such woman is another of my go-to experts on all things related to SANs (Storage Area Networks), while another is a Microsoft Exchange administrator who has excellent email server chops. There's also a female developer I follow on Twitter with cold coding skills, a fierce pink mohawk, and a wicked sense of humour which I thoroughly enjoy.
These are just the women I follow online. In my personal life as an IT professional I had women ranging from .NET programmers to healthcare systems analysts on my staff and as friends. Surely we weren't such a unique bunch?
Yet, there are few times I've seen any of the aforementioned women and other women with traditional tech skills on any of the "Top Most [pick whichever superlative] Women in Tech" lists. They just don't seem to attract the same social media following frenzy and male approval of women who I consider to be more steeped in the soft-skilled side of technology: Marketing, PR, and social media.
Nor do they have the legions of followers of women entertainers who game, Instagram, Vine, or wield an iPhone, or of men with whom they share equal techie knowledge. When women delve into areas of technology outside the soft skills and get into more hard, hands-on areas, some men may find that more threatening to their own worth and skill set. Thus, these women don't get as much buzz online.
So yes, there are women in tech. And there are many, although still not enough. By enough, I mean there aren't enough women who can help build a cloud or virtualised network infrastructure. Or at least, those who can or who have other hands-on technical abilities are often placed in the shadows by the same men who lament that "there aren't enough women in tech," while giving techie accolades to some entertainer who looks cute in a "I Can Kick Your Ass in Halo" T-shirt.