What if a technical talk was purposefully female-biased?

What if a woman presented on a technical topic at a technical conference, and biased all of her gendered words and images toward women. eg, all personal pronouns were female; images of people in her slide deck were all of women; gendered idioms such as “hey, ladies!” were selected instead of “hey, guys!”

what effect would that have on the audience? the presenter? the perception of the presenter by the audience?

it would be a manipulative exercise and i’d be deeply hesitant to try it myself. i started thinking about it during class today when the instructor was talking about people not feeling free to speak their minds in meetings.  at a technical conference, do women feel more or less comfortable asking questions than men? does the presentation and the presenter make a difference? if uncomfortable initially, would women feel more comfortable at the end of the presentation i’ve described above?

2 thoughts on “What if a technical talk was purposefully female-biased?

  1. I’m unsure about explicit call outs to a general populace like “Hey ladies” and would personally go for “Hey all” as that feels more inclusive to me.

    However, for general comments in the talk about another programmer, I think it’s very important to do as it normalises the idea that the dev could be female for everyone in the room.

    In my talks I concentrate on trying to always say “they” or “them” rather than “he” or “him”. I haven’t yet tried to use “she” or “her” as I’m concerned about coming across as patronising – though that may be entirely in my head.


    1. hi rob, thanks for writing.

      i think the presenter would have to be a woman for this to not backfire, and it probably would anyway; my point was to flip the usual gender bias and rather than being inclusive, be specifically biased in language and imagery toward women.

      however, this is the reason i wouldn’t actually do it – being inclusive is a better long range strategy and any short term positive effect might be immediately negated by people who realize they are being manipulated and excluded on purpose.

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