Ada Lovelace Day 2010: Unicorns

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Often, when a woman joins an all-male technical environment, they will look at her strangely. They might try and pretend that she's a bloke, that she's just 'one of the boys'. They might ignore her. They might make a few distasteful jokes and then get on with the job. But mostly, what happens is that a woman is noticed. She'll be whispered about, she'll feel eyes watching her, she will notice her work being held to scrutiny. There might be a few gentle put-downs, all in the name of 'humour' ("can't you take a joke?"), and there might be some bolder individuals who will make life uncomfortable. But, generally, the overwhelming sense is that of being different.

Imagine, if you will, that you were at work, and suddenly, a unicorn walked in. How would you react? Now imagine the unicorn is that woman.

This situation has given rise to what is now known as the Unicorn Law. It was created by Emma Jane Hogbin. Emma Jane is a Canadian technical writer, and one day I will write an Ada Lovelace Day post about her. Not this year, though (sorry Emma Jane!).


This year, I want to nominate my fellow LinuxChix unicorns in Australia and New Zealand:
Aeriana
Brianna Laugher
Claudine Chionh
Donna Benjamin
Jacinta Richardson
Joh Clarke
Mary Gardiner
Melissa Draper
Pia Waugh
Sara Falamaki

Every one of these women know what it's like to walk into a room and be stared at as though you were a complete novelty. Every one of these women now what it's like to be held to a higher standard than your male counterparts for the same recognition and acceptance. Every single one of these women have been asked "are you here with your boyfriend?" (and worse!). Every single one of these women amaze me, inspire me, and support me, every single day.

Ada Lovelace day is about remembering where we've come from, but it's also to remind us about where we're going. The women of the Australia and New Zealand LinuxChix chapters remind me every single day why I get up and continue fighting. Thank you.

(The Unicorn/RoboTux image used above was created by Lisa at pixellab and is shared under a Creative Commons licence)

4 comments:

Victa said...

I worked for many years in an IT technical support position. I also worked with a few women.

I'm of the "older" generation and ex military, so my perspective may be different than that of the "younger" generation. I personally don't treat females any differently than males in any job, even IT.

However, as I mentioned above, I worked with a few women in an IT position for many years. These women were extremely good at their job and were better than some of the men that I worked with.

After reading your post, I'm wondering if the women that I worked with actually made the effort because they were held to a higher standard than their male counterparts.

Thanks for the post, it was an eye opener. I never gave it a thought as someone who has worked in IT.

Loquacity said...

Hi Victa,

One of the joys of privilege is that it often prevents you from noticing these things.

Thanks for your comment, it's nice to know when I've encouraged someone to think about something from a different perspective.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day :)

L

Pia Waugh said...

Aww, I feel left out :(

Great post Lara, love your work! Linuxchix is awesome, and I look forward to a future where we are all unicorns :)

Cheers,
Pia

Loquacity said...

Ah, sorry Pia! I knew I'd forget someone.

All fixed now. I love your work, my dear.

L

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