a much welcomed twist to the Bechdel test

In the lead up to International Women’s Day this Friday, I’ll be speaking to 6th form (16/17 year olds) and university students tonight at Nokia, sharing my tales of being a woman in science / tech. It’s part of the Remarkable Women programme I’m a part of, celebrating women in business, government, science and technology in the UK. (Fun sidepoint, I’m the “open science technologist” in their compilation. Quite like that.)

Now, having long been one of the only folks in the room without a Y chromosome, I know firsthand some of the “hardships” in being a woman in science, business and technology. I’ve got the stories of rampant misogyny, outrageous pickup lines, and foibles just like the rest. But I also know what an incredibly slippery slope it is to start dissecting the “why”, or to make broad, sweeping generalisations about gender, sector differences, etc. 

It’s complicated. For example, I, personally, had male mentors – really tough, frighteningly intelligent ones, as a matter of fact. No one had to put me in touch with a female role model to help me understand where I fit in this space or console me when I got thrown the token think-you’re-the-assistant-heckler – I sought that guidance through other means. And that worked for me. But unfortunately, some of the dialogue around gender bias and even themes for these events seems to skip that point (or, to one extreme, act is if I’ve been slighted by having that experience). Not all of us fit that mold – and that’s also something to  celebrate. 

This post on a twist to the Bechdel test echoes many of the points I raise that are sadly, oft neglected from “Women in X” meetings.

There’s also this brilliant “Dear future women in technology …” post by @bitchwhocodes which really resonates. 

I’m going to see if I can adhere to the points raised in the first linked post for tonight’s event, lead by example and all that. I wonder if they’ll notice. 

For more on International Women’s Day (technically Friday, March 8th), visit their website


One thought on “a much welcomed twist to the Bechdel test

  1. Also blogged about the Finkbeiner test this morning: http://occamstypewriter.org/irregulars/2013/03/07/the-two-ideas-to-fix-the-gender-balance-that-do-not-make-me-cringe/ That and the panel pledge are the only two “women in sci/tech” things that don’t make me cringe.

    I personally don’t have any negative experiences with being female in science, but I do get the collective pity as if there was something wrong (e.g. invitations to girls-only events, see blog post) which I’ve only ever found annoying, because I didn’t need it. But the test and the pledge actually point to problems when there ARE problems, and don’t make sweeping generalizations about all women.

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