When you are inevitably asked to talk about women in tech

Some coping strategies from Valerie Aurora, and yes I AM tired of it. This is what Valerie Aurora calls the “unicorn” problem — when instead of someone asking you about your field of expertise, they want to talk about your identity.

Example: “How does it feel to be the only woman at this conference?”


The best answer is probably not going to be something like “homicidal” or “fine until you asked me”.  Aurora has thought this though and has come up with a lot of sample answers.

I am please to see on this list the answer I came up with all on my own: “NO.”

With a little planning and foresight you too can have some socially acceptable rejoinders on hand. Here’s two, the article has more:

  • .Make a list of other people to pass requests on to….and tell people that while you don’t know much about career advice for women in tech, you’ve heard that “What Works for Women at Work” has some good tips.
  • Point out your lack of expertise. …There’s nothing about being a woman in tech that necessarily makes you an expert on how to support women in tech in general. People will often ask women in tech to do things or make statements in areas they don’t have expertise in; get used to saying “I don’t know about that,” or “I haven’t studied that.”

Of course some people may want to give “unicorn talks” or become activists.  She talks about this too; here is just one of many points:

Women are punished for advocating for women in tech. … the research shows that the careers of women and other members of marginalized groups are actually harmed if they appear to be advocating for members of their own group. Feel free to decline to do work that will harm your career. (And if you do it anyway: thank you!!!)

And no, white men do not have to spend time thinking about this shit.


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