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October 03, 2004

i feel very alone

I'm in Seattle, because Microsoft's search team has invited me to be one of a group of 30 people providing advice and guidance on their new product(s). There was no information provided in advance about the other attendees, for privacy reasons. However, a few moments ago a bellman knocked on my door and hand-delivered a list of attendees.

(You know what's coming, don't you? You're wrong. It's worse than you think.)

Of 29 people listed as attending, I'm the only woman. Yes, that's right. The only one. They have people from all over the world--from Australia to South Africa--but they couldn't find a single other woman to include? On a topic like search engines, so near and dear to the hearts of librarians everywhere (the majority of whom, I might add, are women)?

This is really not a good start.

Posted by Liz Lawley at 07:47 PM in Organizations | Permalink


Microsoft IME has a tremendous blind spot when it comes to print culture. Just an awful lot of Don't Get It, Don't Really Care. They do have a couple-three capable typography snobs on staff, but I'm not sure they'd know a capable librarian if one bit them.

I wonder if it's finally gotten to where that's a problem for them...

Horrifying, nonetheless. I hope they treat you well, at least!

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at Oct 3, 2004 9:15:27 PM

It took Microsoft forever to figure out people used the internet. Then it took them forever to figure out that people liked to have better security than "guess you have to format your hard drive and start over". Give them some time: they will probably come around to the fact that women use search.

Posted by: Paul Hoffman at Oct 3, 2004 10:22:20 PM

At least they found one strong woman who knows intuitively and statistically who their audience is.

They didn't put a free Golf shirt in your room did they? Gawd, I hate when that happens.

Posted by: meg at Oct 4, 2004 1:35:56 AM

I suspect, having not been able to attend myself, that the invite list might have been more diverse than the attendee list, but the usual limitations that weigh more heavily on women's schedules (family obligations, etc.) might have skewed the representation of people who were able to attend.

Posted by: Anil Dash at Oct 4, 2004 2:47:54 AM

Liz, I did invite other women, sorry you feel alone. I didn't think about gender much, though, so will keep that in mind in future influential groups that I help form.

See: http://www.researchbuzz.org/archives/002050.shtml for more.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at Oct 4, 2004 5:51:50 AM

I guess he figured women don't need to use search since we already know everything =-)

Just kidding of course! I completely understand your frustration (deal with it daily) but with such a small sample (30 ppl) it's hard to pin point where things went wrong. Was it that not enough women were invited? Or was it just that not enough women accepted? My guess is a little from column A and a little from column B.

Robert IS trying though I think and did ask on his site for a listing of female tech bloggers. Maybe all the links on the right hand column of this site should also be combined into an opml file so that people can subscribe to all the links at once. I know I haven't even gotten the chance to go through them all yet myself. Just a thought.

Posted by: Amanda.Murphy at Oct 4, 2004 11:47:59 AM

I can certainly relate to the feeling of being "alone" and when I broke out into the world of web design, I honestly didn't realize this diversity issue - that is until I started hearing mentions of it here and there and that's when my eyes began to open...

Hopefully in the future it will change and more realize that technology is becoming "everybody" friendly - man, woman, alien alike.

Unfortunately, I'm not helping the "woman operated tech blog" industry b/c my website is dedicated solely to my stray thoughts - but I at least hope to help out one day!

Just my 2 3/4 cents worth

Posted by: Teli at Oct 4, 2004 12:12:52 PM

>>Give them some time: they will probably come
>> around to the fact that women use search.

I don't understand why search functionality has anything to do with gender. This is not a troll, I was just wondering if someone could clue me in.

Posted by: Jason Hasner at Oct 4, 2004 1:23:57 PM

Hey, Amanda: all the weblogs on the right column have been added to a Kinja digest, a good place to peruse the latest posts:


Kinja provides an export feature which will give you an OPML file of all these weblogs as well.

Posted by: Gina at Oct 4, 2004 2:22:35 PM

Gina - perfect thanks for link!

Posted by: Amanda.Murphy at Oct 4, 2004 2:38:44 PM

Meg...yes, in fact, there was an extra-large golf shirt in my goodie bag. And an XXL jacket, which I guess will go to my husband (those who've met me in person know I'm not exactly XXL-sized).

As to why gender matters, one reason it matters is that products built by people who all share a similar context tend not to appeal to those outside that context. Some of the examples I've seen today were clear evidence of that.

Posted by: Liz Lawley at Oct 4, 2004 4:01:36 PM

I think, that gender marginlization is in occurence inmost place. Here's another interesting READ at Tompeters.com

Posted by: /pd at Oct 4, 2004 4:44:34 PM

"As to why gender matters, one reason it matters is that products built by people who all share a similar context tend not to appeal to those outside that context."

And there is also the equality/anti-sexism angle.

It's just fairer (from a social justice standpoint) to make sure you have found the best candidates.

That's not (necessarily) the same as picking people you know (of), no matter how smart they may be. How can you be sure you've got the best folks if you've only looked at half of them?

Posted by: tiffany at Oct 4, 2004 5:22:02 PM

Alas, some of the smartest cookies (many of them grrlz, some of them non-White) in browse/search/taxonomy savvy live within easy driving distance of the MS home campus. Restricting the advisory invites to folks who do blogs is short-sighted. It's so frustrating to hear about this because many of us have had repeated experiences trying to explain what's cool/what sucks in their projects/products as "insiders" (blue cards) and as temps. An ongoing problem on campus -- as others have pointed out or implied -- is the myopia that happens when plans and decisions are made from a very narrow experience/perspective pool. I've worked with some great folks who "get it" in Redmond, but have had as many experiences with those who can't even begin to imagine what you're about when you're talking about anyone who's not the stereotypical suburban dominant culture code geek. :(

Posted by: Zoe at Oct 7, 2004 7:05:55 PM

Good for you for saying this stuff, Liz. I can't imagine if I'd found out once I arrived someplace that I was the only woman there. And give aways specifically selected for men? XXL shirt? How clueless! Did any PR agency people know this meeting was taking place? Sometimes telling a flack will spare you the ultimate embarassment of making a really dumb move. (like inviting one woman.) Have you sensed whether or not they "get it" yet?


Posted by: jeneane at Nov 14, 2004 9:46:47 PM