As I walked into the chaotic registration zone on the corridor internet hosting Xiaomi’s press convention, my first occasion of the 2019 Cellular World Congress (MWC), I quickly turned conscious that I regarded… completely different.
I used to be dressed moderately neatly and was even dutifully carrying my delegate’s lanyard similar to all people else, regardless that I hate it – it’s too lengthy and I needed to tie a knot in it once I realised folks weren’t admiring my belt however making an attempt to learn my identify.
However, within the sea of individuals milling round awkwardly, ready to gather a cross giving them entry to the occasion, my colleague Tracey and I have been two of only a few girls.
It was a girl who gave me my cross. It was additionally a girl who was pouring out glasses of wine for the reception afterwards. However there have been no girls talking contained in the corridor through the presentation.
We left in a rush to go to a different occasion throughout city, hosted by Huawei, the model all people is speaking about each right here in Barcelona and around the globe.
As soon as there, I regarded on the lengthy queue snaking spherical exterior the attractive Italian Pavilion within the coronary heart of Barcelona. I used to be as soon as once more within the minority. Inside, there have been no girls on stage right here both.
I shared a taxi to the following occasion with analyst Carolina Milanesi, who travels the world attending expertise business occasions reminiscent of MWC. It was the identical yearly, she instructed me as we chatted.
“At CES [the Las Vegas technology fair], the factor was sales space babes and skimpily dressed folks – that’s not the case right here however girls are within the place of being the hostess, they’re good and look good however they’re serving,” she instructed me.
“You’re both sexually objectified or you’re the housewife however you aren’t seen as making a choice about tech or shopping for it.”
At my last occasion of the day, hosted by Microsoft, the organisers had clearly tried to even out the presenters, alternating women and men – though after the primary 4 audio system, there was a succession of males earlier than the following girl joined the stage.
On day one of many exhibition itself, I spent an hour within the precedence queue to check out Microsoft’s HoloLens2. Not solely was I the one girl in that queue, there have been solely a tiny handful within the huge, normal queue, which, I heard, was 4 hours lengthy. The safety guard on the entrance was a girl.
Across the convention halls, I discovered myself always jostled by crowds of males swarming round idea vehicles, robots and 5G smartphones. In the meantime, the press officers who have been always pinging me on electronic mail, asking me to satisfy their exhibiting shoppers have been extra prone to be girls than males.
Claire, not her actual identify, is attending MWC for the primary time, working for one of many main world manufacturers.
“I’ve to say I’m shocked by how few girls there are on the occasion – barring in fact hospitality and venue employees,” she instructed me
“I believed that this needs to be completely different [to other industry events] – it is way more shopper targeted – however a typical theme among the many girls I’ve met right here is the truth that the halls are a sea of testosterone.”
She thinks some expertise firms have to rethink their priorities.
“The business talks sport about being related to girls – nevertheless it’s onerous to imagine that for some firms it is something greater than lip service whenever you look across the corridor,” she mentioned.
One firm below scrutiny for a lot of causes already is Huawei, which has an enormous presence right here.
In a single corridor, it occupies an enormous house, simply the scale of a grocery store. And each single delegate’s lanyard bears the Huawei emblem.
We arrived earlier than its stand opened however ready to greet folks when it did have been girls wearing nationwide costumes from around the globe.
Fortunately, there have been no bikinis however nonetheless I couldn’t fairly determine whether or not this was a ravishing show of world inclusivity or a cringeworthy homage to Miss World.
The million greenback query right here in fact is – why aren’t there extra girls right here? It’s not like feminine attendees are screened out. In the event you’ve obtained the 450 euros, and/or press or analyst credentials, you’ll be able to come.
A spokesman for the International System for Cellular Communications commerce physique, which organises MWC, instructed me that in 2018 24% of the delegates had been girls, a 1% improve on 2017. Over 100,000 folks attend.
He additionally instructed me concerning the Women4Tech programme, which runs quite a lot of occasions aimed toward girls working in and across the business through the 4 days of MWC.
I really like tech, I’ve spent years protecting the topic as a journalist and I don’t really feel my gender prevents me from doing so. It’s very uncommon that I really feel actively unwelcome at an occasion – I don’t right here both – and the times when folks used to ask me who was taking care of my youngsters whereas I used to be working appear, thankfully, to be behind me.
It’s extra delicate than that – and never essentially a acutely aware bias. Maybe it’s a vicious cycle – girls like me come alongside, really feel a bit like we needs to be serving the drinks after which determine to not return. We have now to shout louder, jostle tougher, elevate our arms larger to get these photographs.
The boys I’ve spoken to about it appear a bit embarrassed. The ladies appear resigned.
An business buddy of mine instructed me it was one cause why she selected to keep away from these occasions.
Don’t neglect, although, that ladies are equally anticipated to eat all of this expertise. And if we disappear, our voices won’t be heard in terms of their design.
Right here’s an instance of what I imply.
At a networking occasion one night, I chatted to the proprietor of a cell phone firm over a glass of wine. We have been discussing the brand new development for folding telephones. And I mentioned I would like one which folded out to be the scale my present telephone is now.
He requested me why on Earth that was the case, so I confirmed him how awkwardly it suits into the pockets of my denims. And he was completely astonished.
His fitted simply wonderful, he mentioned – he’d by no means even considered it.