Women, Tech Conferences, and the Bullshit Surrounding Them

In the past I have written one article about women and equality, A Crying Shame. I am quite proud of that article. So much so, in fact, that unlike many of the other topics I rehash here, I have felt no need to write anything more on the subject. I did feel pushed to at least mention the article linked at the head of this post, however, especially after listening to what I seem to recall was episode #114 of Back to Work a few weeks ago. In I’m Moving to FudgePacker, Merlin Mann talked about misconstrued statistics and how improper representations of inaccurate statistics can lead to incorrect conclusions on important issues when in actuality, maybe — just maybe — it isn’t quite as bad as everyone likes to stand up and claim it to be.

Merlin’s example chronicled a previous discussion with a woman advocating equality in the tech sector. She argued citing a statistic claiming that women receive, on average, a significantly smaller salary than their male counterparts. In response, Merlin asked whether she or any of her female co-workers experienced this disproportionality; she responded that none had. He also pointed out that in citing an average, by definition an equal number of people receiving a salary greater than the average must also receive a salary smaller than the average, and that the difference in those amounts must be the same. In other words, if on average women are paid 75 of the wages given to their male co-workers, for example, and within this sample group of women they are all paid 100 of the wages given to their male counterparts, it follows that in order for the statistic to be accurate, some women, somewhere, must be receiving 25 less than the average, or 50 of the wages allocated to their male counterparts. And really — and this was his ultimate point — is this actually happening anywhere?

But back to Rae Hoffman’s article, the piece that got me started down this rabbit trail:

“Of course, some people look at the lineup and immediately assume highly talented women are being ‘excluded’. Of course, they don’t know that for a fact. For all they know, 95 of speaker pitches came from men and thus why they ended up with a 95 male speaker line up once they whittled down the list to the best pitches.”