Microsoft, it seems, do a damn good sideline in chocolates. I was rather jigged up to be able to go to a conference on women in technology at the company’s London headquarters tonight and, what can I say, they knew their target audience. Here are my lovely chocolates:
And here are my nice pink pens:
The offices were so terribly shiny that I mistakenly disposed of a wad of gum in what turned out to be an automatic umberella-wrapper-upper. The speakers were mostly accomplished and interesting, but the gestaldtmind of three hundred professional tech-ladies was perhaps even more fascinating. Maybe it was the end of a long day, maybe it’s something about women in ‘men’s world’ careers – but when it came to the stand-up-if-you’re-wearing-prada excercises, not one of them spoke, laughed or sat down until they were told.
There were interminable talks about ‘work-life balance’, which one American speaker truly suggested that we ‘celebrate as work-life harmony.’ As I was shooting him an ‘I’m menstruating, don’t give me this bullshit’ look, I noticed the rest of the back row quietly doing the same. Noone was fooled by the pro-family rhetoric; if they were, it wouldn’t have been, as I overheard an events manager commenting to an usher, ‘the one event this year where we haven’t had a 40-per-cent drop-out rate.’
The women technologists at Microsoft were anxious as anyone else to be treated as true professionals in their own right, and not as professionals handicapped by the biological and social facts of being female.
Coming home toThis piece of news, however, threw the feminist subtleties of the evening into sharp relief. Not far outside the sparkling boardrooms are the streets, where we can be raped and told that we enjoyed it and that it’d be more of an inconvenience to lose our handbags. We are living in the dark ages, and the most privileged and successful of us had best not forget it whilst trading subtleties over management techniques: there is still a long, long way to go.