This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Gender diversity in AI; female entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa; Fitbit fails women with new feature; and more.
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Fitbit is the latest company to come under fire for a feature intended for women that was clearly created by men. The Next Web reports that the activity-monitoring app and device allows users to track menstrual cycles, but only if they fit within a window of ten days or less. This belatedly released feature also clearly doesn't reflect the range of hormones that women may experience, as it only allows users to choose from five menstruation symptoms. Fitbit users on social media and online forums have questioned who exactly created this feature -- apparently not a woman. One user wrote in an online forum, "Locking the entire female population into a 10 day period makes me wonder how many women were involved in creating this feature... please fix." This is a prime example of why diversity matters when creating products intended for a wide range of consumers. (See Why Diversity of Geeks in Tech Matters.)
We've talked a lot before about the dearth of women at tech conferences, though we haven't seen a whole lot about how to improve the gender ratio at conferences, or what to do when you're the only women in a conference hall. Quartz published an article recently about this very issue. Considering "90% of [high-level women who work in tech] said they have witnessed sexist behavior offsite and at industry conferences," it's an important topic to tackle. The article stresses the need for a "conference code of conduct that emphasizes sexual harassment, demeaning comments, stalking, and intimidation will not be tolerated," along with an on-site anti-harassment officer. There should be a designated conference location for discussing issues related to gender, along with including it in more mainstream locations. Additionally, featuring plenty of female keynoters should be a priority, and there should be discounts and childcare for female attendees. If these ideas were all implemented, this would be a pretty kick-ass conference. (See WiCipedia: Programmer Motivators, Affordable Childcare & All-Female Panels and WiCipedia: Best Places to Work & Restroom Lines Tell All.)
Female entrepreneurs are few and far between, yet an unlikely location sees them in higher percentages than expected. The Sierra Leone Times says that sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest rates of women who are entrepreneurs -- some countries reach nearly 35%, which is a global high. But there's a caveat:
"Most of these businesses tend to have no employees and have low growth expectations: they are, for the most part, one-woman enterprises oriented to consumers," a CNN report explains. While women in Africa are starting businesses at higher rates, it seems they simply don't have the resources or support in order to get off the ground to become fully fledged self-sustaining businesses. (See WiCipedia: Tech in Africa, Female CEOs & Bingeworthy TV.)
A blog post on Jisc tackles the topic of gender dysphoria in the workplace, and how transitioning from one gender to another can change how co-workers treat someone. Chloe Gilbert, a male-to-female developer and architect, documents her 27 years working in IT and how her experience shifted when she fully transitioned. She writes, "At the start of my transition, I was overlooked a lot more in meetings, something that genuinely surprised me. I've even noticed it happening to other women ... Unconscious bias is also very real -- and I've been really surprised how some people assumed that since transitioning, my technical knowledge has somehow been removed." Gilbert has some great tips in the blog about how to support yourself or someone else during a transition. (See WiCipedia: Open Office Fishbowls & Trans Women in Tech.)