Celebrating Women of Technology, My Mother and Her Sister


World's Most Dificult Jigsaw Puzzle, Leprechaun StyleFor Ada Lovelace Day, I was all set to write a post on making the tech industry more welcoming to women. I was almost done with that post when I decided that it was the wrong focus for today. I want to celebrate inspiring women in tech. Instead of picking from a slate of relatively well-known women or scrounging together some research on lesser known ones, I thought I’d target some people closer to home.

My mother and her sister.

I could say that a PhD in Biochemistry and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering is enough to inspire, but there is more. Diplomas sit on walls. It is their journey to those degrees and how they live their lives that show the impact.

What was that impact? Three of my four women 1st cousins work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). In fact, in my generation, if you earned a college degree, the men were less likely to be in STEM than the women.

That is an impact.

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Writings on Sexism and Other Personal Topics


Rodin's 'The Thinker'You may have noticed that I haven’t posted on the issue of Sexism or many non-IT topics of late. That is because I have moved many of those writings to Medium.

I was hoping that these musings would be more discoverable there. I also want to keep the Word a little more focused. So far the posts haven’t been discovered as much as I like. I am going to continue the experiment knowing that it may just be a matter of time.

While you can always find the posts in the link over in the sidebar, I am going to highlight a couple of my more recent posts here. Take a few moments and go read them if you haven’t already.

  • What is Wrong With You?: Why aren’t more men stepping up and at taking a stand against sexism, or any ‘isms’? This basically a rant about men standing on the sidelines. Vowing to do more BEGINS by standing-up and being counted among those who care.
  • Right or Wrong, We Need to Make This Personal: Reaching a critical mass of men who care about sexism is going to require forging an emotional connection. In this article I trace my own journey and how it became personal for me.
  • My Family Legacy, Centuries of Racism and Oppression?: During the protests in Ferguson, I watched people slowly build a new sad chapter in our nation’s history. It caused me to reflect a lot on the history of my family and how it has likely been on the wrong side of history many times.

These are important topics to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t share the personal stories that are located within them.

Our society is a reflection of all of us. I’d like to think we are better than the society we live in today. To make that true, we need to step up, make a difference…

And be counted.

Ethics, Facebook, and Medium


Ghostbusters ExperimentI recently published an article on Medium on The Tech World’s Ethical Crisis. I wanted to try Medium out as a possible option for my broader topics, allowing the Word to stay a touch more focused on the industry and truly random acts of writing. It seems to have worked fairly well so it is something I will repeat.

I do want to take a moment to share why I wrote the article (which you should read before reading further). I have been reading about Facebook’s study and I saw a lot of mixed reactions. While some people were aghast, others wondered why it was a big deal at all.

That is the issue at stake here, ignorance. When unethical behavior is not recognized as such, we need to take a step back and evaluate what we hold dear in our society. When conducting human research, informed consent is such an important requirement that there are laws to enforce it. If research has a chance to cause potential harm, people need to be given a chance to say no.

I don’t believe Facebook was trying to be evil. They were ignorant of the ethics involved in what they were doing. That ignorance is a problem. They must have considered it a potential problem as they added research to the Terms of Service a few months later.

Ignorance is not an excuse and we need to start thinking about teaching people more about ethics. It has been suggested that the Venture Capitalists (VCs) should make sure that the firms they fund have training in ethics.

They should throw in a little training about sexual harassment and discrimination while you are at it.

We are all responsible for the ethics of the world in which we live. We need to take time to educate ourselves and others. We needs to talk about this at events. It needs to be part of everything we do.

Because ignorance is not an excuse for risking harm to others.

Are You Human?


Paul with the Gom Jabbar at his neckThere are a lot of theories about what separates humans from animals. Some say it is our use of tools and the civilization that we have built. Others disagree. When you look at all the negatives we have created in our society, it is hard to argue that our civilization is a positive differential.

Personally, I think Frank Herbert got it right when he wrote Dune. He posits that what makes us human is the ability to overcome are baser instincts, letting our mind control our actions. He conceived of the Gom Jabbar test which I think clearly illustrates the difference.

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All Men for “Yes All Women”


Last month I wrote a post on how we need to end sexism in the tech industry. Then a week ago, there was a shooting in LA and twitter erupted in protest over the sexism and misogyny that is pervasive in our society. If you have missed the #YesAllWomen tag, then you need to go read it now.

There were stories from women throughout society. It wasn’t the stories of violence that struck me, but the stories of abuse and harassment that take place ALL THE TIME.

That is my city. That is someone I haven’t met sharing their concerns about traveling on public transportation. It wasn’t the only story about the Metro. It is ignorant to assume that this hasn’t happened to co-workers, friends, family, and loved ones. To drive that point home for me, friends and family shared stories on the hashtag as well.

An Equal and Safe Society

There was an image shared that makes an excellent point about the challenge we are facing.

She is someone

The point is clear and important. This is about us as society treating all women equally because they are HUMAN BEINGS. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and feel safe, regardless of their gender, race, or beliefs.

Of course, this misses on a point from basic marketing, making a connection with your target audience. In this case, men.

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Guys, We Have to End Sexism in Tech


There has been a lot going around the net in the last few weeks about sexism in the tech world. These issues are not new, nor are they limited to tech. I am shocked, disgusted, sad, and disappointed that these things happen. We are all supposed to be better than this. At the same time, people always seems to find a way to demonstrate the worst traits of our species.

Everyone talks about getting more women into technology and STEM as a whole. We, as in the men, need to work harder to make them more welcome. That isn’t just getting them in the door, it is making sure that once they come through they are treated as equals and not as a token female or “one of the boys”.

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Making Ada Feel at Home


Today is Ada Lovelace day, and I am a man. That means that I can never truly understand any of the challenges women in technology face. I can tell girls about all the women who have changed the world, but outside of my family, my impact will be limited.

I can make sure that the girls that choose a career in technology are welcome and encourage them to stay in technology. I make sure that every industry group with whom I participate is welcoming of all participants.

At least I thought that was the case.

Reflections on an Invite

After one local event this summer, I was sitting at a bar having a drink with the organizer and one of the participants. Both were woman. We were discussing the turnout and why it wasn’t as high as we thought it should have been. One of the thoughts was that the offer of free drinks wasn’t called out in the meeting description.

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