The importance of representation

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Spot the girl.

I’ve been busy putting together and all-female panel for a talk on virtual reality at the AIDC at the start of March. We decided that pushing for all women was important, as so many talks in this space (and others) are dominated by men. However, even whilst believing this firmly, I have nagging feelings of tokenism even though I know it’s not true. The women we have speaking are at the top of their field and deserve to be there.

With this on my mind, I read a brilliant article from Renee Gittins on her feelings of imposter’s syndrome – never feeling like you quite deserve what you’ve got and you shouldn’t really be there.

Her experiences chime in so directly with my own – having these feelings gently reinforced, often unintentionally, throughout our lives.

An example of this, which sticks with me to this day, is from my time being the only girl at an all boys school. Every time I did well in an exam or a piece of work, the same response always came from one of the boys – “it’s because you’re the only girl”. I know they (most of the time…) didn’t mean any harm, it was a joke, but that’s the problem with casual sexism – it adds up and affects the way you feel about yourself. Even if you don’t realise it at the time.

So, if you do one thing this week, read this article. Renee Gittins on gender-fueled impostor’s syndrome:

There is one issue, one excuse, one justification for my “luck” in my achievements that comes up again and again: I am a woman.

I dislike talking about my gender. Years of participating in online communities and reading anonymous comments about other women and me have made focus on my gender make me feel uneasy. At one point I was bold about it, proudly affirming to my online companions and enemies that, yes. Yes, I am a girl.

Expected reactions ensued, from accusations of “attention-whoring” to proclamations of love. Often there was denial or requests for proof; even sometimes there was almost no reaction at all. At the worst, there was stalking, sexual harassment, and death threats called in to my own personal phone number.

[…]

I am in a constant struggle. My gender gives me both advantages and disadvantages, but I don’t want to be defined by it. I want to tell other women about my struggles, I want to encourage girls and let them know what they can do, but I am stuck between being an advocate for my gender and trying not to be defined by my gender.

>> Read full article

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