Dr Who, Women In Tech and living in the 21st century

I was born in the 1950s, first came across Doctor Who in the 1960s and started playing with computers in the 1970s.

For those reasons and many more, I am exceedingly bewildered that the new characterisation for BBC’s Doctor Who as a woman has caused so much alarm.

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It is as if we’ve learnt nothing in the preceding 60 years.

Women do every role, Queen, Prime Minister, inventor of the first computer compiler, collaborating on the first computational machine in Britain, to running the space station.

Nearly all major modern computer languages are influenced by Smalltalk, co-designed by Adele Goldberg.

Not forgetting the key role played by women during the Second World War, basically, everywhere. Women can and do every job, but in technology they are often confined to a backroom role whilst sharp elbowed men claim the glory.

The film, Hidden Voices, highlights just a few aspects of how ethnic minorities and women’s role are downplayed, regularly, by blokes(men).

Women comprise over 45% of the workforce, according Pew Research.

In technology it is about 27%.

Yet go to a technological MeetUp In London and you could be forgiven for thinking that the world was comprised of about 95% men

When I started Linuxing in London the first thing that David Ross and me decided was to create a code of conduct, to make an environment that was friendly to all, that means women too. It took longer than I thought and getting the balance right was difficult.

But one episode early this year when a member told a sexist joke during the community slot made me think that, typically, a lot of blokes don’t read the instructions or our code of conduct.

As a consequence I created a shorter, more direct one, and we have prioritised women in our ticketing system.

We do that for the, self evident, reason that events which have a nice gender balance, where there is a diversity of people, tend to be nicer.

I heartily recommend going along to any Raspberry Pi jam and see the mix of people. If you contrast that with a lot of Linux groups, who meet in Pubs and are 97% blokes then the difference is clear.

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We have to decide if we want a pleasant environment for women to participate in or not?

I can say at Linuxing in London we do, and we will make every effort to ensure that continues. If you have any ideas or suggestions please let me know we are very open and we want to increase the participation of women and improve diversity in technology.

Overall, I think it is better to live in the 21st century rather than a gone-by time when Dr Who had grey hair and was a crotchety old man. Living in the old days of the 1960s is not something that, as adults, we should want or accept, everyone, including women deserve much more than that.

Jodie Whittaker will be a perfect Dr Who, and is a good role model too!

Brian Byrne, 18th July 2017.

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