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On swag and sway

I’m troubled. 

At the recent women’s computer-science conference, WECode, sponsors Goldman Sachs donated swag in the form of nail files and vanity mirrors, while Google provided gender-tagged socks.

I’m troubled because the event and the swag remind me that we’re not there yet, and that the societal biases that govern us day to day remain strong and insidious.

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Everyone’s Treehouse

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Video games were something that originated in and among the computer scientists, who at the time (though not historically) were dominated by men— a situation that persists today. It’s not surprising then that the first communities to be culturally exposed to video games were men as the association was essentially already pre-built. Our inability to correct this imbalance* has contributed to many gender disparities now prevalent in the game industry. I also see our industry as yet immature. I’m not necessarily referring to the folks within the community (that’s a whole other blog entry), but the cultural status that we attribute to video games and the respective industry.

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The problem with Failure (™).

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We have books, blogs, and well-spoken folks telling us that the key to success is failure.  We have catchy phrases (“fail early, fail often”), and endless parables pointing to failure as the unpleasant yet necessary precursor to success: JK Rowling and her repeated attempts to get the first Harry Potter book published, or the huge list of games that Rovio released before Angry Birds launched (get it?).  Yet all too often in the same breath that we laud the necessity of failure, we malign it by placing all the attention on success as the only measurable outcome worth celebrating.  Failure?  Sure.  But only so we can step on it on the way to success, say we went there, and then wipe it off our soles.

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On being a girl in computer science— a confession.

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I’m a programmer.  A software engineer by some standards.  And I’ve been coding since I was a little girl—I first started poking at BASIC on my dad’s TI99/4A around age five.  I note that neither of my parents are particularly tech-savvy, and I grew up in a household where there was no particular attention (that I can recall) given to the fact that as a young woman I could attain whatever career I wanted—it was just a given.

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I am a gamer.

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I’m often asked whether I am a feminist or an egalitarian*. The problem with subscribing to such powerful doctrines via terms alone is the inability to adequately capture the subtleties and implications that come with each term. These aspects of humanity, like many, are far too complex to submit to a term or even a phrase; in trying to do so we serve only to distract ourselves from the actual issues and the hard work of establishing our personal stances (which may even draw from multiple doctrines). Furthermore, people are too easily offended by terms, granting them far more weight than the more deserving behaviours underlying them.

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