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Alan Cooper @MrAlanCooper
, 17 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
I’ve been to many tech and business conferences over the years and heard many, many presentations. Most of them were by men. Some of them were good some of them were bad. A few were excellent and a few were execrable. 1
Because of this accumulation of experience, I and many others, know full well what the norm for public speaking is. 2
You are welcome to draw any one of many conclusions from knowing this norm, but one that you cannot draw is that the norm is particularly meritorious. Yes it has moments of merit, but it is by no means any sort of model, far less a ceiling. 3
When we ask for more women to be given the floor at tech and business conferences, we may indeed be asking to alter the norm. We may indeed be asking to make unfamiliar changes. But we are absolutely NOT asking to alter the standards of merit. 4
Though not as numerous as men, I’ve heard many presentations by women. Guess what? Some were good, some were bad, and a few were execrable. It’s as though they were human and the equivalent of men in all things. 5
In other words, having women speak at your conference may mean that your conference is changing, but it does NOT mean that your standards of merit are changing. 6
Having said all that, I’d now like to disagree with myself. 7
Most of the presentations I hear are filled with exhortations of wisdom that remind me of the Silicon Valley joke that goes like this: 8
The PM puts his arm around the shoulder of the tech practitioner, points out the window and says, “See that Tesla out there? I was able to buy that 2 years ago because I worked really hard. Now, if YOU work really hard this year, I’ll be able to upgrade to the latest model!” 9
I’m not really a big fan of the value system this joke represents, regardless of how meritocratic you might think it to be. I’m interested in changing the value system. 10
So, does that mean that I am arguing to ignore “merit” in my selection of speakers? Well, if you judge “merit” by how much money the speaker will make for you, then yes, I’m guilty as charged. 11
But I don’t really think so. I think that women approach business and work and tech with a different mindset than men do, and I LIKE that mindset, and I don’t particularly like the prevailing male-dominated mindset. 12
To illustrate, when you hear the sound of crashing glass, the men all look around and ask, “Who did that?” While the women all look around and ask, “What can I do to help?” I think we need one hell of a lot more of that value system in tech. 13
I’m no scientist, mathematician, or big data expert, but those who are have discovered that more diverse companies are better places to work and perform better in the market. 14
To ask for more participation of women in tech and business might just be asking to raise our standards of “merit.” But we’ll never know that until we try. 15
And one more thing: We don’t have time to wait. Things are not so good in our world right now and I don’t want to hit bottom before we decide to make things better. 16
There’s an old saying, “When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.” Well, maybe leading with men and masculine values is what’s taking us deeper into this hole. 17
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