This post has been a long time coming, mostly because it's a sensitive and difficult subject to talk about. First a little background.

So I'm no stranger to male-dominated activities and spaces. I did an electronics GCSE, a physics A-Level, a Software Engineering degree. I've worked in game retail and I'm currently one of three female programmers in my job making web applications. I've had to defend myself and my interests to the kind of sexist dicks currently the subject of all the Everyday Sexism stories. If you took gaming off my list of interests it would be dominated by my interest in gender psychology and social studies. Instead of writing a cool application for my undergraduate dissertation I wrote a 20,000 word research project about how public perception of software engineering is turning girls and young women off it as a career choice ( although if the data had existed I've have been really interested in looking into LGBT take up of software engineering ). I've read countless papers and books on the subject and done research of my own into this question, so I'm well-informed. What I don't have is any first-hand experience of education, nor much understanding of how it is and how it has changed since I finished my A-levels in 2002.

Some of my dislike of women-only/women-focused tech events likely stems from the fact that I've hated every single one I've gone to. I think this is down to a couple of factors; one that I'm quite tomboyish and so I find it quite difficult to connect with a lot of women and secondly the events I've been to have been very broad in subject so there's not always a common thread of interest. For example during my A-levels I went to a "Girls in Science" event (I debate whether taking girls already doing science to an event designed to get girls into science really has much of a point) and although we were all doing science I was one of the only physics students. If I go to a female coders event I'm likely one of the only python developers so even from a tech perspective I find it hard to talk to people.

I'm also a bit putoff by the (probably unintentional) implication that a) I'm must be going mad without socialising (women are social creatures don't you know?) and b) I'm incapable of socialising with all the awesome men I work with. I know not all women-focused events are like this, and quite a few encourage men to go as well which I think is the best way to go about it. Segregation is bad, even if it's self-imposed. I'm a terrible cynic and I don't deal well with being herded or regarded differently because of some biological markers. You need to like guys and be comfortable hanging around with guys and be able to put up with some off-colour 'humour' to get along with this industry. Even if you just treat women events as an 'oasis' in this testosterone desert, I think there's a danger of seeing men as some weird other species the rest of us just put up with.

There is a problem that there are not enough women in technology. There is a problem that there is a lack of diversity in general in technology. There is the problem that women already in tech want to be role-models but don't know how, or feel pressured into being a champion for a cause that they have little interest in. There is the problem that IT education has been irrelevant or uninspired for much too long for both genders although the welcome winds of change have started blowing for the better in that area. I recognise that there is a problem with me, and my attitude which stops me from getting as much out of women tech events as the other people who go and enjoy them. Despite all my complaining I would really like to talk to girls considering a career in computing and explain to them that not all of the myths are true because I love what I do; I love how creative it is and not much beats the high of finally getting a difficult problem conquered. As an adult though, I'm happy leaving the ladies alone.