Category Archives: Woman Warriors

RIP Marie Colvin


“Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death. … It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash. …

“Many of you here must have asked yourselves — or be asking yourselves now — is it worth the cost in lives, heartbreak, loss? Can we really make a difference?

“I faced that question when I was injured. In fact one paper ran a headline saying, ‘has Marie Colvin gone too far this time?’ My answer then, and now, was that it is worth it. …

“We go to remote war zones to report what is happening. The public have a right to know what our government, and our armed forces, are doing in our name. Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.”

Marie Colvin, from 2010 Memorial to Fallen Colleagues

geek management for non geeks

*I just found this old email I sent to all the organisations that I tech supported. Did it help?*

Dear CEO, Manager, Board,

The right questions are not technical ones. Don’t be blinded by complicated answers.

Most organisations make decisions based on ”it needs fixing urgently!” and “we can’t afford it”. You are trapped into maintaining a hotchpotch of devices. Decisions to make a mass purchase and change are scary but can be cost effective in longer term.

Question: How much is it going to cost over the next x years. Consider purchase price, installation, maintenance and upgrading or troubleshooting. How much staff time is spent/saved/wasted on this?

Question: How long will this last for? Try to have a cyclical plan. ie. This year new computers and internet connection. Next year new printer and other peripherals – unless none of the old things work with the new things. Don’t buy software just before changing hardware. Avoid purchasing something soon to be obsolete OR something that’s just come out. Let other people iron the bugs out and post their solutions on forums for you.

Question: Who will we call on to install, maintain and troubleshoot? If something happens to our first choice (something usually does), who is second and third choice? How easy are they to contact? How quickly can they respond? How expensive? Sometimes you have to rule out a fabulously good and inexpensive IT setup because it is dependent on one person. You have no backup.

Question: What are our backups and redundancies? Who is your tech backup? Where is your data backed up? What if the internet isn’t available? What if this thing or that thing breaks? What if there’s a fire? What if everything is stolen?

Some information:

Average business total IT spend 5% to 15% of budget. (hard to get solid figures) Average non-profit IT spend? 2% to 10%.

Training is rarely included. Training actually fixes most hardware and software problems ahead of time.

Average device life: 3 to 5 years
Average software life: 2 to 4 year

Rephrase that.

Average device life: 3 years for business
3 years plus 2 more years of rebooting while standing on one leg and gluing antennae to your head for a non-profit
Average software life: 2 years for business
2 years plus 2 more years of reinstalling and downgrading while logging on as long gone staffers and losing all your files again if you’re a non-profit.

The reality? Staff in non-profits are cheaper than almost anything else, therefore staff time is constantly wasted on old IT.


I still agree that training is the most affordable and achievable solution to most problems and would now suggest using the ‘5 Whys’ as well. The kick ass image at the top of the post is from Geek Girl Con.

“GeekGirlCon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and celebrating the contribution and involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related Geek culture through conventions and events that emphasize both the historic and ongoing contribution and influence of women in this culture.”

Do you have to be a girl/geek/adult/trekkie/gamer to attend Geek Girl Con?

“[GGC is] a convention that welcomes all ages, races, sexual orientations, genders and gender identities, creeds, physical and mental abilities, and familial statuses. We are a gathering for the trekkie, the mathlete, the gamer, the otaku, the braniac, the engineer — a home base where all tastes of geekdom can be sampled and savored. We are GeekGirlCon.”

I don’t want to be a feminist anymore.

Most of all, I am tired of knowing. Knowing that my eyes have been opened, and that what has been seen cannot be unseen. I am tired of knowing it, when I see something that is wrong. I am tired of knowing that only speaking out can change it. I am tired of knowing exactly how hard and scary it can be to do so.  I am tired of knowing that if I am not careful, the fight will eat up my hope and strength, and leave me only with bitterness. I am tired of knowing that I can never turn back to not knowing. I am tired of knowing that despite my fears and exhaustion, I am a feminist.

No, I don’t want to be a feminist anymore – today.
Tomorrow? Tomorrow I think I’ll try again.

I can relate to this post on feministing – particularly the last section above. I know I’m about to kill the conversation, but someone has to mention the elephant in the room. Surely?

Everyday, I feel that I explore a different excuse for why not to open my mouth. I wonder what I am trying to change or achieve. And then I feel guilty for letting things slide. In the end, I am proud that I choose to speak up but I’m still searching for the best way to do it.

When I don’t want to be me —


There’s no one better than the Bloggess. She seems to share my interest in many strange geeky things and has no fear of using the word vagina. Frequently. I didn’t post much in 2011 due to moving overseas and finishing my thesis… and starting the robot blog(s). So I’m kicking off 2012 with the sort of post I’d like to be posting, if only I’d finished building the dinosaur out of plastic spoons etc.

Why women have to work harder to do startups | VentureBeat

This article by Julia Hu is spot on the money. It takes money to succeed, not talents that women have proven they have. More women run successful small businesses, but anything that requires asking for funding is harder for women.

It isn’t about changing women any more. It’s about changing what is effectively a boys club for funding into something more flexible. Something that can see why women are underfunded, undervalued and RIPE FOR ACQUISITION.

VALE Lynn Margulis 1938-2011

“Gaia Is A Tough Bitch”

I have found Margulis’ comments about culture and science to be very astute.

“If science doesn’t fit in with the cultural milieu, people dismiss science, they never reject their cultural milieu! If we are involved in science of which some aspects are not commensurate with the cultural milieu, then we are told that our science is flawed. I suspect that all people have cultural concepts into which science must fit. Although I try to recognize these biases in myself, I’m sure I cannot entirely avoid them. I try to focus on the direct observational aspects of science.”

Ada Lovelace Day – Carol Bartz

It’s Ada Lovelace Day and to share the woman in tech who inspires me was hard. I can think of a lot of fantastic tech heroines. Ultimately, I choose Carol Bartz, ex CEO of Yahoo and AutoDesk. Throughout her entire career she has not been afraid to be a woman in a hostile environment. She stayed in tech, she fought to the top of the industry and she kept a family life balance, saying it’s not possible to be perfect. She looks totally glamorous, swears like a trooper and worked her way through a comp sci degree as a cocktail waitress.

On balancing a career with family, Bartz says: “I have a belief that life isn’t about balance, because balance is perfection … Rather, it’s about catching the ball before it hits the floor.” ^ Kharif, Olga. “To Autodesk – and Beyond?”Business Week. (May 12, 2004) via Wikipedia/Carol Bartz.

In the 70s, Bartz worked at 3M but they wouldn’t promote her because “women don’t do these jobs”, so she moved on to various companies including DEC and Sun Microsystems. As CEO of Autodesk in 1992, Bartz transformed the company into a focussed highly successful business. Bartz also served on several boards and has been a member of the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Bartz’s move to Yahoo in 2009 was perhaps a ‘glass cliff’ as most were sceptical about the chances to resurrect one of the original internet dinosaurs, huge but facing extinction.

 In spite of pleasing business analysts with her performance over the last two years, Bartz was ignonimously dumped from Yahoo a few weeks ago, whereupon she called the board a bunch of ‘doofuses’ who had ‘fucked her over’. I love how Bartz went out fighting. She also continues to behave with integrity, honoring commitments made before leaving Yahoo for talks, donations, and visits.

She’s telling it like it is. Sometimes it just can’t be rosy for women in tech. I love the Wired cover of Limor Fried, who is another kickass tech girl goddess. But evoking Rosie the Riveter just reminds me of what happened to all those women who ran the factories and farms while the men were at war. Booted out when the war was over.

Although Ada may have been forgotten, originally computer programming was going to be a female job, while the men built the hardware. But it seems that the moment an industry looks interesting and/or lucrative, it becomes a male industry.

Statistically, no matter how well women are performing academically, and no matter how many great role models we can now point to, there still aren’t many women at the top.

“Since 1966, the number of women receiving bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in the US has increased every year to come close to half. The proportion of grad students closer to 40%. The more technical an area is seen to be, the fewer the number of women.

Research on women’s participation in the “hard” sciences such as physics and computer science speaks of the “leaky pipeline” model, in which the propoertion of women “on track” to potentially becoming top scientists falls off at every step of the way, from getting interested in science and math in elementary school, through doctorate, postdoc, and career steps. Various reasons are proposed for this, but the vast differences in the “leakiness” of this same pipe across countries and times argue for a cultural interpretation.