Last week I breezed past a few items on the Internet that raised my curiosity about the topic of women in technology. It dawned on me that we may not all agree on what the definition is. I may not know what a tech chick really is. So I’m asking.

Do you need a degree in a field that requires math or science to qualify? If you got your degree in a field that required you to do math in your head or find a cure for cancer, does this automatically make you a tech chick?

If you got your degree so you can do math in your head, and you qualify as a tech chick, but you decide to stay home to raise babies, does it still count that you need to remember how many loads of laundry are left in the day, how many times Timmy said “damn”, how to cure potty mouth and where you last saw laugh-your-head-off Elmo?

In other words, I have a concern for women who went to college with ambitions to study for a career in technology and once they make a choice to stay home to raise small children, they lose their value to the technical industry because they’re no longer contributing to it. It doesn’t mean they won’t be back.

It does mean that many companies have given up on this talent pool and look to other countries to fill their female employee quotas. The idea of telecommuting or flex-time just never occurs to them?

I found contests for women in tech industries. Judging from their titles, they are super human beings who, if they have children, don’t get to spend much time with them. Or, they chose careers over family. Or, they have a small family rather than the big one they once dreamed of, before being a technical person meant working 60 hour work weeks and sex, come on. Who has time for that?

Tech Widows

Does the fact that you’re married to a technical dude count for anything?

I am, and I don’t get to see him much, although he lives at our house. His boss loves him and his technical expertise. Mr. High Tech Company Boss has scooped up a Mr. Kick Ass High Tech Employee and intends on making him work even more hours to make the company bigger, better, bolder.

So, I wonder, does being the spouse of a Tech Dude automatically qualify her as a Tech Chick, or does she have to perform some sort of ritual to prove she’s worthy of such techness?

I Am Lost

I used to think I was a woman with Tech Blood. This is because I worked in several IT departments and my title had the word “engineer” in it. Nothing made my teeny allotment of testosterone happier than that title.

However, I don’t have a college degree because in my day, it was still a common belief that educating women was a waste of time. They’d have babies and why waste all that money when they wouldn’t use their degree? I wasn’t encouraged to go to college and it was hoped I’d find someone to take care of me. (That was not what I had in mind!)

I eventually did pay my way through two years of college by way of working on campus full time to pay for it and living in poverty off campus because all the money I earned went to college courses. I was so totally skinny then.

I studied Journalism, which is not technical. For my IT career, that is something I taught myself at night when my children slept, and I was going through a divorce. I was almost 40 years old by then. There are no prizes awarded to women who have their cake and shove the rest in the faces of those who didn’t believe in them.

There is, however, recognition for those who run companies, or write books, or in some way achieved something like turning 3 dollars into a multi-million dollar company with her eyes blindfolded and balancing on one foot. I don’t see myself in that pile.

What Qualifies as Technical These Days?

I’m not sure being able to read programming code on web pages matters much. Search engine marketing requires a wide skill set, but understanding why certain techniques work or don’t work often comes from playing in the sandbox with databases and analyzing server logs. Are those last two things technical? Is user centered design technical or making online forms work for screen readers?

I don’t always understand, or want to understand, what my programming friends are working on, but in theory, I understand why they’re doing it. I may even be able to read the code and know what it will do. No kudos for that. It may not be techy enough.

I admit to being confused and frustrated. I’m confused because I thought I knew what women in tech meant and really, I don’t. I know what women who understand technical stuff is and women who are so smart they teach tech stuff to others is, but if they no longer actually do the tech stuff, do they still qualify?

If you stop “working” to raise new humans, does this mean you no longer count as a tech chick because your degree is sitting in the basement somewhere and people think you fell off the planet?

After pondering this for several days, I decided to let go of the “Where are the women in tech?” contest and the question. It doesn’t mean those women don’t exist or that one set of technical skills is more technically technical than others. It doesn’t mean I won’t periodically want to write about a woman who stands out for her technical skills in a male dominated industry.

It does mean that I recognize there are more tech chicks and women in tech out there that I could ever count because my personal definition is like a wide net tossed out into the ocean.

I may be inside it, somewhere.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

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American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)