My advance thanks to Liz Henry, Chris Heure, Mr. "un-named" in the BlogHer BOF session for Social Change, the general tone inside the BlogHer techie session and the BlogHer conference at large. The gender/communication problems continue to run deep as this inside/outside observer sees it, but it's nothing more than a lack of understanding of the women's culture.
Here's what made my skin crawl.
I was sitting in the Birds of a Feather group for Social Change. Each of us gave a quick intro as to who they were and their blog's name. One man decided to use the intro moment as his sales pitch time and launched into what he was doing there and what his product could do for the group and... (finally) was asked to cut it off as this "was just a quick check in." That's where he made his communication mistake - he didn't apologize for rambling and immediately shut up, he just kept going. He was asked again (very politely, I might add) to stop and he rambled on MORE! You could feel the disdain set in. If he had wanted to earn a sale, he just lost every chance by not paying attention to the unwritten rules. Blend - don't offend.
While he was making his point, you could feel each one of the women making a point to never do business with this insensitive jerk. Because he was one of two guys and he was the only one who rambled, this moment really drew attention to his out-of-placeness.
Today - while following conversations and links on post BlogHer thoughts, I tapped into an exchange by Liz Henry in her June 2006 post. This is a great case study of what NOT to do if you're a guy trying to fit in with a group of women, and reinforces the difference. If you're having a hard time communicating with women, go read the entire post and comments that follow. Here's a tidbit from it which is Liz's take on what happens between women and how trust is first established:
...Which I have to digress about. Women often communicate by the mutual offering of vulnerabilities and uncertainties. This can come off as annoying or bewildering self-deprecation, but in a group of women, it functions well. I say "I'm not sure about this idea, and gizmo theory, and I'm not an expert, and here's the three mutually contradictory ways I feel about it, and here's what I do know, and I wonder what my priorities are and what I'll do." Then you say "Me too, sort of, and I've always worried that I don't know how to widgetize well enough." And then we have established our mutual trust and non-arrogant stances, and begin the actual information exchange and work together towards confident steps to action. It is an approach to the process of conversation. The same conversation between women and men often goes like this: "I'm not sure about my gizmo theory abilities, and..." "I'm so sorry. That sucks. Maybe some day you'll know what you're doing. Here, let me tell you how to do it." *guy now puts woman into the category of incompetent whiners* *woman gives up on actually having a productive conversation with guy*...
Again, I urge you to read the whole post, and follow the comments afterwards between she and Chris Heuer. Both women and men can learn from this one (thanks to you both for your candidness).
I also attended the techie group. I am NOT a geek, but even if I don't understand the tools I do want to know what the new tools are and the mindset of those holding them. (It's an extention of the "Who owns the guns and where are their heads"? conversation...)
I expected the conversation to center on tools and application ideas and for the most part it did, but it quickly became a women vs. men in the tech world discussion - not as in who comes up with better stuff, but who is accepted on face value as a participant and who isn't. It was the same conversation I heard in the 70s. The solution? Quit fighting gender issues inside your workplace and go out and start your own company.
That's not much of a solution - defect from what you can't fix. The gal sitting next to me said that her solution was to collect "the good guys" (guys who are bi-cultural) and ignore the jerks in the tech world. That's not easy considering the ratio of men to women in that group is heavily weighted on the male side.
BlogHer is taking a similar stand. Instead of trying to merge or beat the system, it started it's own culture club. In doing so, men are invited to join, but they need to behave within the cultural behaviors of the group if they want to be "part" of the group.
Some think that technology is the big equalizer. If that was true, then the high-tech crowd would not have been voicing their continued frustration with the gender issue (STILL), BlogHER wouldn't have happened, nor would mass quantities of offline women's groups be forming. Clearly something is missing and the women are defecting to their own culture to get something done within their own lifetime instead of waiting for permission to start.