Where are the female tech evangelists?

A few weeks ago, Todd Mace posted the following on Twitter, about his blog post on tech evangelists:

Those are great examples of people contribute a lot to our community – and the rest of this post is in no way a slight to them.


One of Todd’s asks was for other evangelists he may have left off the list.  Twitter provided some more.

Again, those are great examples, and I follow most of those people, have hired some of them on a contract basis, and always enjoy seeing them in person.


In the ensuing discussion, which was a mix of “what do you mean by evangelist” and “thank you for including me,” as well as some more additional names, and not one woman’s name was added to the list.

Not one.

Is it actually possible, that there are NO women evangelists?  I get it, there are fewer of us. When you go to a tech conference, there’s never a line for the restroom (and when is there never a line for the restroom?)  But I don’t think that there aren’t women evangelists, I just don’t think we call them that.

There is a (post-feminist?) trope I’ve heard that says, women who work are balancing so much with work, family, home, elderly parents, that we don’t have time for work-related extra-curriculars.  We go out for beers after work less often, we attend fewer conferences, and we don’t have the time to collaborate on outside-of-work professional projects.

The thing is, I don’t think that’s true.  I am part of a professional networking group that meets monthly.  Two of our community’s podcasts (Speaking in Tech and Geek Whisperers) each have a female host.  And based on anecdotal evidence, I will make an educated guess that tech conferences have a male/female ratio of attendees that mirrors that of the industry.  Speakers, not so much.

In a post that she has since retired, Shanley Kane writes that men and women get different titles for doing the same job.  “When women do it, it’s community management.  When men do it, it’s technical evangelism…When women do it, it’s marketing. When men do it, it’s growth hacking.”  She’s exactly right.  I think there are many, many women in our community who are influencing and impacting and contributing, and I think we just don’t call them “evangelists.”

And since being an “evangelist” is sexy while being a “community manager” (or whatever the title is) isn’t, women aren’t getting as much attention for their contributions.

Do you remember when Mitt Romney referred to a “binder full of women” when explaining how he tried to bring more women into his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts?  Well, I got out my binder full of women…women evangelists that is:

And Gina helped me out:

The point I made to Todd was simple:

And that’s the thing.  There’s a revolution going on around how people learn and communicate. Temple Grandin keynoted at SXSW about learning styles, and Susan Cain’s research on intro/extraversion is being considered groundbreaking in how people communicate at work. Isn’t it possible that evangelism can be a broader practice than was initially defined?

Here’s the other thing.  A lot of recent surveys and papers have pointed out that the single most important factor in job satisfaction is the feeling of appreciation and contribution.  I’ll posit that is true not just for job satisfaction, but for community satisfaction, too.  If we continue not to recognize the women in our community, they (we) will stop wanting to contribute.  And that will be a major loss.

Todd’s not a bad guy – he was happy to add these women to his list. It’s a failure by our community, I believe, to properly recognize everyone’s contributions. And it doesn’t escape me that I added women, but there is a lack of other kinds of diversity in this list as well.

Let’s see how we can get better at this, shall we?

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