Finding the Women

We talk about the need to increase the number of female speakers at our events. Aside from pointing at Jen’s list of awesome female atheists, however, we don’t do a great job of telling people how to do that. Of course, we’re not the only group having these problems. We can borrow the solutions others have discovered.

I mentioned this to a couple of my men friends.  The response: “I really don’t know any women who are creative technologists.”

But that sentence needs unpacking: “I really don’t know any women who are creative technologists.”  What does that mean?

  • Does it mean, “I don’t know any women”?
  • Does it mean, “I don’t know any women who are creative technologists in advertising”?
  • Does it mean, “I don’t know any women who are creative technologists like me”?
  • Does it mean, “I don’t know any women who are this one specific kind of creative technologist that I think they meant when they coined the term, even though lots of people call themselves creative technologists who are not that”?

So I tried something.  I said, somewhat huffily, “Don’t think of your ideal of what a creative tech is – look at the list of men who’ve been invited to be on the committee or the dais, and think of women who do what they do, or are at least as smart as they are about tech and advertising.”

A few seconds later he’d sent me the LinkedIn Profile of Christy King, the VP Digital, Technology R&D for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. So yeah, not only did he know of a woman who is a creative technologist, she does her work in a business that defines ass-kicking, and she’s in a hard-core technology role.  She just doesn’t work in an ad agency.

My initial reaction was, see was that so hard??

You want more female atheists to chose from as speakers? Stop thinking in vague terms. Think about what kinds of topics you want to address at your event.

Want someone to talk about lobbying? I’ve got just the person for you. Want someone to talk about cognitive biases, about leaving religion, about starting an organization, about evolutionary biology, about social justice, about the history of freethinking? I have no problem coming up with women who can fill all those roles. Neither will most people.

We just have to be more specific in what we want, which is easy to do.

Finding the Women
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5 thoughts on “Finding the Women

  1. 1

    Frankly I’d LOVE for Amanda Knief to do more talks. At least where I am, the religious rural types know much much more about working the system than college folks do.

  2. 2

    Katha Pollit, Barbara Ehrenreich, Natalie Angier. I’ve never seen any of them in a list of speakers for an atheist conference. And they’d be awesome. The great Ursula K. Le Guin has won an FFRF award, but has she been invited to speak at one of our things otherwise? (I know, fiction writer–but she’s also an essay writer. And in all her work she draws on the social sciences.)

  3. 3

    First one comes to my mind is a young woman with a MSc in Geophysics, currently living and working in Cambridge. The minor fact that she is my daughter does not demonstrate any bias on my part.

  4. 5

    IME conference organizers rarely choose speakers on the basis of predetermined topics. They book people who’ve attracted conference registrations at other events and, in some cases, who are financial supporters of their organization and/or members of their leaders’ social network. The fact that these individuals are predominantly male is too closely tied to organizational cultures (and, even more, subcultures) to be solved simply by identifying more women with expertise. To address the problem, new blood (and more women) are needed in leadership positions within the secular community.

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