Women-focused tech conferences are nothing new, but Google's recent "Women Techmakers" panel was noteworthy because it wasn't hosted by a standalone advocacy group — it took place as part of Google's gigantic, currently ongoing I/O conference. During the discussion, top Google execs like VPs Susan Wojcicki and Megan Smith made sure to highlight the company's special employee resource groups for women, a recent internal program focused on encouraging women to ask for raises, and their own experiences being mentored by Google's high-powered women.
But some attendees quickly pointed out that there are simpler, smaller ways to make women feel more welcome in tech, like free t-shirts that actually fit. "They gave me a t-shirt and it's a size small, men's," community manager Alex Maier said during the panel's Q&A session. "That makes me feel unwelcome. I don't want to make this a big issue or confrontational thing…. But the thing is, I show up, and I want my shirt, and I don't want to be told that I can sleep in it."
Wired Business reports that the audience applauded after Maier asked what Google planned to do about its t-shirts — and that they clapped even louder when Wojcicki said the company would make sure to offer women's t-shirts in the future. Yay, everyone loves free (and well-fitting) swag! Alas, if it was that easy to narrow the gender gap, levels of women IT graduates might not have fallen over the past few decades. But not all issues are so easy to solve.
"I am a software engineer and I interviewed at Google," one woman said at the panel. "And I was interviewed by all men. I thought it would have been advantageous for both sides to have at least one woman interview me." In response, engineering director Anna Patterson said that Google used to have a "hard and fast rule" that all women candidates would be interviewed by at least one woman, but that during "high velocity" hiring they're unable to make sure that happens. Bummer. But hey, want a t-shirt?
(Image via Google Store)