I gave a talk to my high school's CS class today (ah, the powers of teleconferencing). It was an okay talk and Q&A - not terrible, but not one of my great ones. It's the first talk I've ever given remotely, and wow, I miss the live feedback from the audience - being able to scan and gauge a room. On the up side, it's nice to have a text backchannel where questions can queue up; I think it's just a different way of talking that I'll have to get used to.
Inevitably, I was asked the question what do you think of girls in CS?
I get asked this a lot. If you're a woman in technology, you probably do too. What do you think of women in engineering? Females in open source? <Minority you belong to> in <field that features predominantly people in other demographics>? And I do believe in the answer I gave - I said something like "...well, what about girls in CS? What about guys in CS? What about redheads in CS? I care about people in computing, and I care that people who want to do computing go into computing. The computer doesn't care what kind of person you are. If you're interested in tech, then do tech! If you're not interested in tech, do something that you're interested in!"
And yes, I know this answer ignores lots of social factors for why women may be subtly dissuaded from exhibiting interest in technology careers - it's not like it's a level playing field and that girls are minorities in CS solely because lacking a Y chromosome makes you automatically less interested in computers. In hindsight, I think what I was trying to say was gender shouldn't be a big deal in computing; it's an important aspect of who most people are and we should embrace that richness, but gender-in-CS shouldn't make anyone gasp. I know that's not the world we live in right now, but I believe these things should all be qualities, not stigma.
What I wish I'd asked first was: would you be asking the same question if I was a guy?
I know this class is going to have a few other speakers. I think I'll email the teacher and suggest that they ask the same question to the next male speaker that comes along. After all, being a woman doesn't qualify me to speak about all women - and being a man doesn't disqualify you either. If you want to learn about gender in technology, you should be learning about and asking people of all genders, not just one.