Tech, Now + Beyond

I was full of horror after I attended my first tech conference, and here’s why

There were no women working in the top hierarchies in these companies.

A lot of people act like gender discrimination is a thing of the past, especially in countries with women empowerment initiatives.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there are still startling differences in gender demographics within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) fields. I realized the stark reality when I attended a few tech conferences last year.

Every time I’d look at the event agenda, I’d see a wide array of male speakers, mostly middle-aged Caucasian men, and, I kid you not, one or two female speakers out of a thirty-something speaker lineup.

At first, I thought it was because they preferred male speakers over females when it came to giving sessions and joining panel discussions. I remember initially feeling disgusted at the extent of discrimination, and I was confused about why nobody else seemed to notice or care.

Here’s the thing: I was barely touching the surface of the problem. It was at the end of an Long Term Evolution telecommunication (LTE) conference when I understood the horrific realization: there were no women working in the top hierarchies in these companies.

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I understand that people oversimplify and misrepresent feminism, and that the word has been vilified by feminazis who, along with misogynists, have made half the world believe that we’re the ultimate all-powerful men-hating beings.

I don’t want you to think, oh great this is going to be an exaggerated feminist rant. I want you to understand exactly how overwhelmed a 20-year-old feels, when she realizes all her hard-work and determination might just amount to nothing. In halls full of accomplished tech companies, all I saw was disappointment, masked under white skin and balding heads. The exhibition hall, at that precise moment, felt like intoxicating privilege that was safeguarding people for whom glass ceilings meant literal bourgeois architectures.

The only female I saw in that particular conference was Motorola’s Kiran Vaya in a long list consisting of male CTOs, R&D, and department heads representing their respective companies. The summit took place in Dubai a year ago, with a large attendance from European companies. It’s 2016 and you’d think sexism would have ended by now, but I guess thoughts about harmonious equality are asking too much.

I’m not even basing my thoughts off one conference: I actually went to a couple more, and I know security is a relatively niche topic in comparison. The alarming fact is that almost all the females I saw were were from the Marketing or Business Development departments. None of them were techies, and this only solidifies orthodox gender stereotypes. In a field that I’ve always considered the way to the future, this experience has only made me question if, in the process of technological advances, are we moving backwards?

Think about all the women that have ever been discriminated against. You can’t tell me that not a single company from a large list of security and tech companies have hard-working or talented females? That not a single one of them has redeeming qualities that should allow them to progress up the career ladder that their male colleagues so seamlessly climb? You cannot expect me to believe that to be true.

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The representation that I saw was nil, and that was incredibly demotivating. There have been countless times where to defeat the general misperception about not being good enough in a technical field, I’ve seen females, work harder and give in longer work hours (for no additional benefit whatsoever) than their male colleagues. No one wants to admit that they’d discriminate between genders, but actions speak louder than words.

In an age where we’re all hustling to get somewhere, and women are certainly doing their best to challenge the status quo, we need the actual numbers before we can all-too-easily say gender discrimination is a struggle of the past. It’s very real, and the only way this will change is when both genders are given equal opportunities, instead of hypocritical bullshit reasonings about why a certain gender cannot make it.