Category Archives: update!

Can’t wait to meet you!

The Summit begins tomorrow, and to say we are excited to meet everyone would be a huge understatement.

Everything kicks off at 8:30am (check out the schedule for more info) and we’ll have breakfast available from 7:30am.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email ltgsummit@gmail.com or tweet @LTGSummit.

 

 

 

Wherein I dream of having a complex, nuanced experience at LTGSummit…

Now that the summit is only a few days away, I’ve been seriously thinking about why I’m going and what I’d like to accomplish at the LTGSummit.

I mainly wanted to go because I really care about the three topics at hand: libraries, technology, and gender. I also really care about doing this conversation right. For whatever reason, the discussion on technology and gender, in general, seems to be an emergent phenomenon. Even more nascent is the discussion about technology and gender within librarianship. Because this discussion is rather new and there are many new people getting involved (this includes me, btw), there tends to be a habit of treating all aspects of the conversation as new.

As many are aware, the discourse on gender-based oppression isn’t new and has a reasonably long history (even if we are just talking about the modern US-based feminisms). And while I’m not expecting anyone to show up as an expert on not only the history of gender-based oppression but up-to-date on the bleeding edge of the discourse today (as it occurs in various, non-academic spaces like Twitter or Tumblr), it is my hope that in these nascent stages of trying to figure out how to address gender based oppression within libtech we bring in the hard learned wisdom of the various movements for gender liberation.

One might note that I’m being careful about my language here. Using ‘gender-based oppression’ instead of just sexism or misogyny. Using ‘gender liberation’ instead of just feminism. The various strains of feminism are not the only movements aimed at dismantling gender-based oppression. At present there are also the trans movements. As well as Womanism. I’m just naming a few not necessarily feminist movements (both the trans movements and Womanism can and do overlap with feminism but they are not the same thing). You do not have to be a feminist to care about or work for gender liberation.

Other things that we should avoid in this discussion to save a lot of grief and to stop from retreading old ground: gender essentialism, the shared experience myth, and the yellow brick road to liberation.

The last item I partially address in the previous paragraph. Undoubtedly we will be a diverse group at the summit (perhaps not as diverse as some might wish… but there is usually more diversity than people realize). As the above paragraph notes: there is more than one path towards liberation. Or, to switch the perspective, we could argue that liberation requires a pluralistic and diverse approach so that no one is left behind. The key, here, is avoiding the belief that you are on the One True Path. Basically, there is no yellow brick road that we can all skip along to liberation. Oppression is tough, complex, and multi-pronged. Our solutions must be similar.

Gender essentialism is something that tends to creep into many discussions, like mold. You think you are doing okay and then you check back and suddenly it is growing something green and fuzzy and you have to toss it out. You do not necessarily need to a social constructivist to oppose essentialist notions of gender. Gender essentialism, is (in brief) the belief that there are qualities inherent to any gender (a relevant one is the notion that girls are bad at math). One does not need to be social constructivist to understand that ‘girls are bad at math’ is a factually incorrect statement especially if you are attributing this quality to the gender. Now, I doubt many people attending the summit will be arriving with beliefs like this, but many may (and probably will) arrive with subtle essentialist conceptions of gender (and sex). To make it easy: everything you think about the bodies of men and women is wrong.

The myth of shared experience is particularly important as it applies to the plural approach to liberation. One thing that feminism has long been criticized for is its insistence that the white, middle-class, cis, hetero experience of women is universal. It is not. For this discussion, why I think this matters is to remember that even though this is a Library + Technology + Gender summit, we must understand that having this discussion without any thought or addressing issues of class, race, ability, sexuality, and so on, will mean that we (and the summit) will fail to do anything substantive or productive with our time.

With these caveats, thoughts, whatever, in mind, I’m hoping we can all benefit from those who’ve struggled with these issues in the past. That we can bring in all of our different experiences and knowledge and share it in a productive and safe(ish) environment. That we can all learn together, from each other, and find concrete ways to turn theory into praxis (and also ways to turn praxis into theory). That we can all do this with humility and an open mind.

I’ll leave off with a few links to some trans resources:

  1. Not You Mom’s Trans 101
  2. Beyond Trans 101
  3. Introduction to Transness

Invoking the Chatham House Rule

We have been asked about how communication during and after the LTG Summit will be handled.

 

The LTG organizers and Advisory Group strongly feel that in order to have an honest and progressive discussion, we will invoke the Chatham House Rule for the Summit.

 

For participants who wish to blog about the event afterwards, here are guidelines regarding reporting on a event that uses the Chatham House Rule.

 

Tweeting, instagramming, snapchatting, or other forms of live social media self-reporting will NOT be allowed during the event.

 

The organizers will be providing a report out from the event immediately following the Summit that will be published on this website.

 

Thank you for your understanding.

 

Amy, Bonnie, & Rachel

Confessions of a female head of technology.

I was recently notified that I was selected to be a recipient of the travel grant to the LTG Summit.  What an honor it was, and such a surprise!  I was asked to reflect on my participation in the Summit and to share some thoughts from my personal experience; to talk about how my voice can be a part of the conversation to tackle the issues of sexism and gender inequalities in the profession… so here goes!

Let me first introduce myself.  My name is Ginny Boyer and I serve as the head of the web/application development team for the East Carolina University (ECU) Libraries.  In addition to that, I’m also the Libraries’ Discovery Services librarian.  I am one little lass in a department of males and the singular female head of technology for the Libraries.  It’s challenging and exciting, but equally stressful, overwhelming, and oftentimes lonely.  I’m a lucky gal.  I recognize this.  I have a good job that offers me challenge.  I’m able to affect positive change for the Libraries by working with my team to develop innovative solutions that benefit the Libraries and our users.  I’m good at my job and pour all of my effort and energy into it… but man, is it an uphill battle most days.

Serving in a prominent position of leadership in the technology arena for my Libraries often puts me in the cross hairs of many different stakeholders.  I’m exceptionally lucky that within my own department I work with an incredible group of men that keep me sane most days.  I’ve always been a confident woman, with a strong work ethic and proactive attitude; wrap those qualities up in a female head of technology, prioritizing project requests and leading a talented team of tech professionals and you’re asking for trouble.  Having worked for ECU in different capacities for a few years now, men and women perceive and interact with me differently in my technology role.  Why is this?  I have a few ideas:

1. I’m a woman in a particularly male-dominated facet of librarianship.  Perhaps I’m expected to be a push-over.  To be less-than as a leader.  Since I am not, I pose a threat.

2. I’ve risen up through the ranks at my institution.   I’m fairly young, mildly attractive, with adequate social skills.  Perhaps some attribute my role to these base qualities.  It’s hard to imagine that I could actually be qualified for this role based on my education, experience, and knowledge of my institution. 

3. I’m a petite little lady.  A southern gal who knows her manners.  It’s assumed that I should always smile, say nothing but sweetness, and conduct myself in a ladylike manner.  Or at least that’s what I’ve gleaned.  Bring assertiveness, opinion, honesty, or grit to the table and it’s off putting.  Somehow I don’t think my male colleagues have to bother with misrepresenting their gender…

There are probably many more factors that contribute to my woes, my personal flaws not withstanding (yes, I acknowledge that I’m not perfect!), but I have to imagine that many of my struggles are directly related to my being a woman in a position of leadership in technology.  It’s quite unfortunate that this is so.  We’ve (women) gained access to the workplace, but still have to battle these base stereotypes and have them mar our success, our satisfaction with our jobs, and our potential.

I’m looking forward to the conversation at the LTG Summit to see whether or not I’m operating in a vacuum, or if others in similar roles experience this too.  I want to hear Why we think this is still happening.  I want to talk about What we can do to fix it.  I want to be content in my role, confident in my accomplishments, valued by my colleagues and my institution, and not fettered by societal constraints.  And I imagine that others want the same.  I hope that I can lend my voice and my personal experience to the conversation to raise awareness about these issues and to work with others to affect positive change.  I think too often we assume that our struggles are just the status quo.  We’re not encouraged to think deeper and to try and attach meaning to these experiences.  The LTG Summit offers the opportunity to do just that, and to encourage a sense of community that can proactively work to establish all genders on equal footing and to normalize treatment of all in the profession.

Here’s to a productive and energizing Summit!  See you all in Austin.

Also, here’s the only selfie I can profess to have taken in my life… just in case you want to find me at the Summit and chat:

 

photo

Readings for the LTG Summit – get ready!

We thought it would be a good idea for everyone attending the LTG Summit to have a shared reading experience before we start the event. Below we propose several relatively short readings that will get us thinking about the various questions and challenges around technology, gender, and intersectional issues. These should give us some common vocabulary and concepts to approach our two days of conversation. We welcome comments on this page or via your own blogs (though if you blog about these, please provide a link here so we can follow the discussion).

Please consider the citations below to be required reading for the summit. (For “extra credit” there’s also a link to additional, recommended (but not required) readings at the bottom.)

We can’t wait to see you in Austin!

 

On demographics:

Lamont, Melissa. “Gender, Technology & Libraries.” Information Technology and Libraries, September 2009.

http://goo.gl/H8gU0V

Abstract: A review of employment statistics and a citation analysis show that men make up the majority of the IT workforce, in libraries and in the broader workforce. Research from sociology, psychology, and women’s studies highlights the organizational and social issues that inhibit women. Understanding why women are less evident in library IT positions will help inform measures to remedy the gender disparity.

Cold hard facts in three short posts:

Bourg, Chris. “Lack of Diversity by the Numbers in Librarianship and in Book Stuff.” Feral Librarian, February 22, 2014.

http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/lack-of-diversity-by-the-numbers-in-librarianship-and-in-book-stuff/

Abstract: Numbers that starkly reveal the scope of the problem.

 

Bourg, Chris. “Working on the ‘Pipeline Problem’ in Librarianship.” Feral Librarian, March 1, 2014.

http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/working-on-the-pipeline-problem-in-librarianship/

Abstract: Describes a few programs working to address the “pipeline problem” to bring a more diverse set of people to librarianship.

 

Bourg, Chris. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship.” Feral Librarian, March 3, 2014.

http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-librarianship/

Abstract: Visuals of the extent of the diversity problem facing libraries and how radical a change we’d need to make to our demographics in order to represent our nation’s diversity.

On gendered Technology:

Wajcman, Judy. “From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience.” Information, Communication & Society 10, no. 3 (June 2007): 287–298.

http://www.jenjenson.com/courses/gendertech/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/25727273.pdf

Abstract: This paper situates current discussions of women’s position in ICTs (information and communication technologies) in the wider context of feminist debates on gender and technology. This article gives an account of both technophobia and technophilia, arguing that recent approaches drawing on the social studies of technology provide a more subtle analysis. Avoiding both technological determinism and gender essentialism, technofeminist approaches emphasize that the gender–technology relationship is fluid and flexible, and that feminist politics and not technology per se is the key to gender equality.

By our keynoter:

Williams, Christine L. “The Glass Escalator, Revisited: Gender Inequality in Neoliberal Times.” Gender & Society 27, no. 5 (October 2013): 609–629.

Access via paywalled site: http://gas.sagepub.com/content/27/5/609.full
(If you do not have access to this article, please email us.)

Abstract: When women work in male-dominated professions, they encounter a “glass ceiling” that prevents their ascension into the top jobs. Twenty years ago, I introduced the concept of the “glass escalator,” my term for the advantages that men receive in the so-called women’s professions (nursing, teaching, librarianship, and social work), including the assumption that they are better suited than women for leadership positions. In this article, I revisit my original analysis and identify two major limitations of the concept: (1) it fails to adequately address intersectionality; in particular, it fails to theorize race, sexuality, and class; and (2) it was based on the assumptions of traditional work organizations, which are undergoing rapid transformation in our neoliberal era. The glass escalator assumes stable employment, career ladders, and widespread support for public institutions (e.g., schools and libraries)—which no longer characterize the job market today. Drawing on my studies of the oil and gas industry and the retail industry, I argue that new concepts are needed to understand workplace gender inequality in the 21st century.

Also if you want to see Williams in action, at the bottom of this page is a video of Williams talking about some of this work: https://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/sociology/faculty/clwillia
(Note: If you can’t see the video, try another browser. The video may only appear in Safari.)

 

On How Libraries are Oppressive:

De Jesus, Nina. “Why Framing Libraries as Oppressive Matters,” January 28, 2014.

http://satifice.com/2014/01/28/why-framing-libraries-as-oppressive-matters/

Abstract: Emphasizes the need to get beyond seeing and talking about things through a personal lens and move toward looking at systemic discrimination. “We need to start working on how to make systems, policies, and institutions that allow good people with good intentions to be great.”

On Privilege:

Walker, Cecily. “On Privilege, Intersectionality, and the Librarian Image.” Cecily Walker: Librarian with Attitude, December 20, 2013.

http://cecily.info/2013/12/20/on-privilege-intersectionality-and-the-librarian-image/

Abstract: “I think the responsibility lies with the community as a whole to demonstrate that differences (race, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodied, etc.) aren’t just deviations, but are representative of much stronger, deeply entrenched power relations that must be challenged and dismantled if this profession hopes to diversify.”

Ternus, Christian. “Breaking Down Tech Privilege From the Inside.” Adversarial Thinking, January 17, 2014.

http://adversari.es/blog/2014/01/17/invisible-tech-privilege/

Abstract: Inspired by Peggy McIntosh’s “Invisible Knapsack” article (linked from this post), the author enumerates the many ways he benefits from “white guy privilege” in the tech world.

 

Additional recommended reading (for extra credit!)

 

Keynote Announcement

The LTG Summit organizers are pleased to announce the keynote speaker for our first summit, Dr. Christine Williams.

Dr. Williams is professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She writes on gender, race and class inequality in the workplace. Her most recent book, “Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality,” exposes how these forms of inequality are embedded within consumer culture through an examination of low-wage retail work. Two previous books focus specifically on gender discrimination at work. These prior works were based on studies of men and women in nontraditional (gender atypical) occupations, such as men in nursing and women in the U.S. Marine Corps. She has also studied sexuality, homophobia, and sexual harassment in a wide variety of workplace settings. A co-edited book, Gender & Sexuality in the Workplace, was published in 2010. She is currently conducting a study (with Professor Chandra Muller) on women scientists in the oil and gas industry.Williams edited the journal, Gender and Society, from 2003-06.

Williams will share with us her recent research on gender and “precarious employment” in the new economy. Precarious employment refers to the lack of job security and organizational loyalty that characterizes work throughout the new economy—including work in libraries and library technology. In previous work, Williams and her co-authors noted that in the new economy “Organizations are still gendered, but the mechanisms for reproducing gender disparities are different than those in a traditional career path.”  Her talk at the LTG Summit will focus on how the increasing prevalence of precarious, rather than stable, employment contributes to gender inequality and how that manifests in libraries and library technology.

We are so happy Dr. Williams will be joining us and contributing to this important conversation.

The LTG Summit will be March 20-21, 2014, at the AT&T Conference Center in Austin, TX. Registration is open until February 28.

Learning to See by Listening to Others: On Discrimination in Libraries

Sign says "Stop, Look, Listen"

CC by-nc-nd 3.0, http://www.freefoto.com/preview/23-23-16/Stop-Look-Listen-Sign

Months ago when I heard from Rachel Frick that she was working with others to organize a summit on leadership and gender, I volunteered immediately to help in any way I can. As a woman in a “woman’s profession,” where the vast majority of librarians are women and the future is decidedly digital, I’d been fretting about technology and libraries, my own skills, and where I’m going professionally. I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk with others about the challenges (both age-old and more modern) to women being valued for their work and to their moving into leadership positions. Rachel invited me to be on the advisory group of the LTG Summit, and then I started to do my homework. … (Read the rest here)

On Not Being the Mom

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/3568941103

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/3568941103

 

I recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague from another university. It was a casual talk over brunch where she was telling me about her fear of not being taken seriously by central IT at her new campus because she didn’t come from a deep technical background. As an older, white, male IT director, my head immediately shifted into my lecture on how I’ve often heard this exchange, how IT never understands, and how their default answer is always “no”. I usually stick up for the IT shop, but it never really goes anywhere because IT has pissed everyone off and are perceived to be beyond caring. But before we even got there, she said someone had suggested she bring them cookies, because geeks like cookies. I gotta say, I’ve always been in favor of this approach, because… cookies. And as I said that, she went in another new direction with the conversation, saying that, as a woman, she never wants to be cast as the “mom” in a situation. Our mutual female friend at lunch agreed. As it happened, my 17 year old daughter was also with us, and agreed with both of them.

I hadn’t really heard this “don’t be the mom” reaction before, and I argued back that it might help with a situation that needed different dynamics (the mean ol’ central IT folks always saying no being disarmed by a rush of sugar and consideration from a customer). Of course, I wasn’t listening closely enough, so as the reaction tripled across the ladies at the table, I backed off and heard more. “I can see bringing in food to your employees, but why should I feed a peer?” was the reaction from my library friends.  “As soon as I started feeding my friends, they stopped seeing me as one of the crowd and I became more of a Mom,” was my daughter’s thought.

In my eyes, a plate of cookies is such a nice thing to do that I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

But I see it now. Cookies = cooking = imposing traditionally female gender role = conflict. In fact, talking it through, I wasn’t sure I’d trust a plate of cookies from a guy, where I’d have no trouble accepting one from a woman. I’d assume the guy found them somewhere and was passing them off to me and that woman had made them herself. It’s always so much fun uncovering little pockets of privilege/unaware bias in ourselves…

Ok, that’s a whole mishmash of stuff with no real resolution, but I wanted to get it down before I forgot it. I enjoyed being made to stop and listen and understand another perspective. I enjoyed seeing the synergy that two library professionals and my daughter tuned into because of the way their gender is cast. I enjoyed trying to better characterize the role and reactions that IT gets cast into, and why it all becomes so negative. I also enjoyed hearing a perspective that I didn’t anticipate because my biases are so active in the background of my mind.

I don’t think I have a fix but I can continue trying to understand my biases and keep listening.

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