Thursday, June 19, 2014

DO put your daughter on the internet Ms Worth

Two odd things this week; I've been asked to talk as part of Women in Engineering day, and I ended up with someone on one of my e-safety course feeling so aware of the risks that they felt they should close their social networking presences. I feel bad about both, but not really for different reasons. Both have to do with gender, visibility, and the difficulty of pressing out into the unknown.

Disclaimer; I am a woman, but I'm not an engineer. Lots of my friends are software engineers, or work in data and systems and web. My background is web and communications, not web and development. But there are many ways in which you can't really separate the content from the medium/function and in common with many others who started work as web something-or-other I have over the years drifted techwards, fuelled by a desire to help make things work better. I have also found myself acting as translator and advocate for back-room systems and it was in this spirit I polled my friends and rolled their opinions into a short talk on being a woman in ITC and engineering.

 Not ready yet, but here are three points, by way of a sneak preview:

  1. The sort of person you are is more important than whether you are or are not a woman when it comes to entering the ICT/engineering field. However, it will have an effect on your career because of the attitudes of other people you will meet professionally. How this goes will depend on your workplace, but it can go very well (also badly).
  2. Having social and professional contacts within the field and having the confidence and entitlement to exploit them fully really mattered. Jobs (not all jobs, but many, and many that were important in the careers described) were gained through parents, partners, friends, social contacts. Everyone does it; don't fear it.
  3. Although you may well get paid less than male colleagues, and suffer more hassle and harassment (though you might not) you will still earn more and more regularly and more steadily than most, all for a job you (pretty much) enjoy, working with people you (pretty much) get along with.
Digested down still further, this says; "Don't fear going somewhere new, even when it attracts problems. Use your social contacts, don't fear them. Don't worry about doing worse than other people, as long as you're doing well enough, it doesn't matter."

Which was very, very close to the arguments I was making for keeping your social networking presence.

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