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I have been in rooms full of women engineers where area business sends one of its leaders to address us as part of the event. They sometimes send a man, which is fine. Sometimes the man proceeds to do very cringeworthy things in his speech. I don't want to incriminate anyone, but I want to get the word out to every man that if you're ever invited to speak to a group of women engineers, I have some tips. These are based on a composite of experiences, no identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

1) Remember that I hear men's voices every day. They're great, I love them, but when I come to a gathering of women engineers I'd prefer to hear from high-achieving women. So if you can, please give the podium to a woman?

2) Do not show photos of yourself with random female friends and colleagues to say, "See, I've worked with lots of very smart women, here we are smiling!" I'm sure you have female friends, this is not an automatic "in" with us. It's great that your company has women but they still put you in charge of all of them and didn't feel like letting them talk at this conference, why is that?

3) Do not ask us if we've seen the movie "Hidden Figures", admit that you have NOT seen it, and then proceed to explain it to us based on what you read about it on the internet. It's not that long a movie, you could at least go see it. Or just avoid it as a topic. Either way, when all of our hands went up as having seen it, you should have taken that as a sign that explaining it yourself would be unnecessary at best and insulting at worst.

4) Do not admit to previously discriminating against a woman and passing her up for a promotion for being pregnant, even if it's to tell us about the important lesson you learned when she marched into your office and called you out on it. That is not a cute story, unless you made a DRASTIC change based on the experience. Seriously. It's not cute. SERIOUSLY. DID YOU SEE OUR EYES.

5) Do talk about a drastic change your company has made to help women. Change is good.

6) Don't talk about how women's achievements are important to you because you have daughters now. Talk about how you're inspiring your daughters, sure, that's great, but we'd like to think that you support women because you support humans and the world being better, not just your own family.

7) Do talk about technical things. When I relayed this story to my male coworkers to ask if I sounded like a crazy militant feminist, one of them said "Why didn't he just talk about what he knew... electronics?" and then another one joked "Maybe he thought you wouldn't get it, you know, women!" When my male coworkers point out how your speech is fucked up in ways that I didn't even articulate, you know it's bad.

So that's it. Thank you for your time. I admire you for standing up on the podium and talking to us. You could have done better.

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2017 03:31 pm (UTC)
May. 1st, 2017 03:45 pm (UTC)
hah, you should totally send this to him anonymously ;) Well maybe not. Or maybe...
May. 1st, 2017 03:47 pm (UTC)

I used to go to women in SET conferences as part of an old job, and the twin things that annoyed me outside speeches were a) men joking about feeling "outnumbered" and b) women saying how nice it was that there were men there, and that it would be nicer if there were more. I can think of almost no situations where it would be nicer if there were more men, and an event where there are already a disproportionate number of men speaking is certainly not one of them.
May. 4th, 2017 09:13 pm (UTC)
"a) men joking about feeling "outnumbered" "

God yes. My response to that in the past has been a cheerful "welcome to my world!". That usually shuts them up.
May. 1st, 2017 04:18 pm (UTC)
Holy moly. Say, if you have any influence at all over the powers that be in that women engineers organization, ask them if they will send this in advance to the speakers they line up for your conferences.
May. 1st, 2017 05:48 pm (UTC)
auuuuuuuuugh D:
May. 1st, 2017 06:16 pm (UTC)
Speakers who treat women as though they're talking to a separate species drive me batty. What were you going to talk about if you were speaking to a mixed audience? Great. Do that. How would you approach this topic if you were speaking to a mixed audience? Great. Do that!
May. 4th, 2017 09:13 pm (UTC)
Well but it's a woman's conference, so we have to talk about those mysterious woman things! /s
May. 2nd, 2017 01:10 pm (UTC)
Microaggressions. Just read this to my daughter and told her about how the men at my work start talking to each other when women are talking.
May. 3rd, 2017 03:24 pm (UTC)
Oh God. That's worse than just having him stand up and talk about his manliness for hours. I am so sorry, and so proud of you for not smacking anyone.
May. 4th, 2017 09:12 pm (UTC)
Can we also add not making jokes/references about your mom/wife? ESPECIALLY things like "I wanted to design this so that my mom could use it!" Because everyone knows that moms (or teen girls, take your pick) are clueless with technology...

And yes, when they stand up there talking about how supportive they are of women...I am sitting there thinking "So why didn't you send a woman to speak? Either you didn't have one (bad) or you weren't willing to give up this opportunity (bad)." Extra side eye when they stand up there telling us stories told to them by female staff...DUDE, get her up there!
May. 22nd, 2017 12:59 pm (UTC)
"ESPECIALLY things like "I wanted to design this so that my mom could use it!" Because everyone knows that moms (or teen girls, take your pick) are clueless with technology..."

Add "your grandmother" to the list, which also implies that no one in the group is old enough to be a grandmother.

Edited at 2017-05-22 01:01 pm (UTC)
May. 6th, 2017 09:51 pm (UTC)
I felt rage bubbling up as I read your list. Oh so many encounters like this...Ugh.
May. 11th, 2017 11:57 pm (UTC)
I think I'd've found it difficult to not pretend to be filling out a bingo card and eventually shouting out the magic word. =:)

(6) is an interesting one, I feel, as it demonstrates how, all too often, those standing in the way of progress only genuinely understand once the issue touches them personally, just as with any issue involving "coming out", especially being other than heterosexual or cisgender. That notwithstanding, it's not exactly relevant to a presentation, unless it's some kind of confession.

(2) Ah, "some of my best friends/colleagues are $characteristic". (See above re confessions)

(I'm hoping you don't mind me commenting here, as we don't really know each other)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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