#SheTechs2018, the highs and lows

Earlier today, I was happy to be attending an event organized by int@j titled SheTechs which hoped to gather women working in the ICT sector in Jordan to start a conversation about challenges and potential solutions; which part of the audience would later create a task force to work on. Or at least that what I understood from the schedule advertized.

Having been an active participant in the sector for more than 20 years I attended numerous events, so this being a women-in-tech focused one was naturally exciting in a mostly male-dominated sector. I expected to connect with old friends and make new ones and I expected a conversation styled event. The first expectation was met and I had a chance to have great conversations with old and new faces. Yet the event itself was so disappointing I had to leave half way through.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, I’d like to explain where the disappointment came from:

  1. I liked that a number of men were present amongst the attendees, what I didn’t get is that their voices were dominating the 1) panel discussions 2) the Q&A breakout sessions. That puzzled me. Why would a facilator ask a a couple of men what they thought should be done to solve the work-life balance of women entrepreneurs??! Or why a man on a panel was given a chance to push his narrative that society norms were the number 1 reason women refrain from working in the sector? Wouldn’t it been better to ask him what ways his company tried to remove obstacles hindering more women recruits? and retention rates? I felt the organizers were keen not to tag the event with any formal feminism and took the notion of including men in the discussion way too extreme that rendered some of the discussions superficial or counterproductive.
  2. There were few numbers shared at the beginning, the only one stuck was that the percentage of women working in the sector is 28% which is double the national percentage of working women. But which roles mostly played by women wasn’t discussed in any statistical format. Also, there are studies that have recently came out specifying most of the obstacles that hinder women from working in Jordan, I wished they were cited and used in the discussions. I really think that there should’ve been a deeper study done before the event that brought in more details, more numbers, a survey done before the event to help better plan the content and bring the conversation down from generics to specifics.
  3. The breakout session I attended “Women in Entrepreneurship” was a nothing short of a disaster. A session that was supposed to take 45 minutes of a facilitator helping the attendees to have a discussion about the challenges and possible solutions ended up being a top-down prepared list of visual cards, with a superficial discussion and kindergarden-like theatrics of asking an attendee to come forward to “tear-down” the challange. All of that done in 20 minutes timespan. On top of that, the discussion on fear of failure took a wrong turn and ended up downplaying what failure is instead of embracing it as part of the process and part of any potential future success. So even some of the messages were not well delivered.

Suffice to say I couldn’t recover from that breakout session and left the event afterwards. Heard the other two sessions went much better.

The women I met at the event were amazing professionals, serious about their careers, passionate about what they do and what they create. The genuine concern of the need to encourage more women to work in the sector at all levels and programming specifically. Comradeship was highly felt and maybe that was a great start.

I hope sharing my thoughts here is not understood as some bashing for the organizers which I thank very much for working on starting this important conversation but to help better organize future events.

This story was first published @Springing Forward

Razan Khatib

Razan Khatib

Playing at the intersection of culture, technology, and values. Trying to structure my thoughts and share experiences, learnings, and insights. Co-founder of @spring_apps
Amman, Jordan