In the wake of more Techweek sexism, it’s time for Chicago to speak up

I have a guest op-ed in Crain’s Chicago Business about the sexist imagery that Techweek has been using to promote its event.

There’s a lot of context here – it’s not just about Techweek and gave me an opportunity some other things I’ve seen in Chicago’s STEM communities in the last year.

Please go read it in full at Crain’s.  But here’s the call to action at the end:

The responsibility of inclusiveness is borne by everyone, not just Techweek. I’d love to see other Chicago tech events like Built In Chicago, Tech Cocktail and Technori create their own codes of conduct and describe how they will enforce them when they are violated. (The Geek Feminism Wiki offers some good open-source language as a starting point.) Writers and editors of lists featuring local tech luminaries should move beyond the VCs and the C-suiters (who are invariably older, male and white) and showcase the people in the trenches who have much more to do with the code that gets written and the products that get released. Funders should look for opportunities to bankroll women-led companies and incubators — 1871’s FEMTech is an example.

Finally, if you’re a man at a tech program, startup or publication that doesn’t demonstrate inclusion of women or people or color or deliberately uses policies, language or imagery that excludes, speak up.

A community determines what it will tolerate and creates policy to reinforce its beliefs. Now is the time for Chicago’s entire tech community to speak loudly about both.

UPDATE: A few links and events of note since I wrote the above:

* Techweek Chicago held a roundtable discussion about the controversy. They claimed to do so with “the support of Ms. Tech,” a woman-led tech/business group in Chicago but a subsequent story in the Sun-Times said the head of the organization “wasn’t briefed after Wednesday’s round-table despite Techweek organizers telling her she and her organization would be involved in the next action steps.” During the roundtable, the organizers decided to cancel the Black Tie Rave but still donate the expected proceeds to charity. They also created a “fellowship program” so that 50 women could attend Techweek Chicago without having to pay the admission fee. I’m not sure why you’d want to attend an event that doesn’t appear to have your best interests in mind, even if it was for free. At this point, Techweek appears to be trying to buy influence and align themselves with people – like Ms. Tech – who will make them seem interested in solving their problems.

* Melissa Pierce, a prominent figure in Chicago’s tech community, wrote an op-ed for Crain’s detailing how she was “duped” in her participation in last year’s Techweek conference.

* Huffington Post Chicago has a good roundup with commentary from local voices in Chicago tech.

* I didn’t realize it until later but apparently Moshe Tamssot was Patient Zero in this whole thing.

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