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An Open Letter to PCS

kumajirou, canada
Dear officers of PCS:

Thank you for accommodating us in the public briefing last Friday. It has been a venue for clarifications and exchange of ideas. I am sorry for seeming to be very judgmental about your activity "Search for the Digital Pinay" because I based everything in the various documents that I have seen. It is true that people fail to see the motives behind the words and actions and I am glad that you have shown us what you wanted to do.

I am happy to know that you want to encourage women into the information and communications technology (ICT) industry. To promote them is also good, nothing wrong with that. After all there have been awards given to notable men in the industry. To value the leadership skill of professionals and the leadership potential of graduating students would indeed give these people the recognition that they so deserve. You have good intentions. However, it seems to me that the mechanics of the entire search that you are conducting, aside from the wording of the documents that have circulated from your office has not been able to communicate your intentions well.

As we have talked about in the public briefing, the title "Digital Pinay" is problematic. How? Because people define it in various ways. The way that you have defined it to us, from my understanding, includes every person who is involved in the ICT industry. However, in my opinion, the people who have reacted negatively to your search for the Digital Pinay have another idea. As we have pointed out, we have understood the usage of the title Digital Pinay to refer to someone who is quite adept in a more technical manner, rather than focusing on the leadership skills and potential as you have pointed out. This is a case of catch phrase that has not been used properly and so it has been miosconstrued by a number of people, online and offline. You have positively reacted to the suggestion of using a subtitle to qualify what you mean by the title Digital Pinay. If this has been done earlier, there wouldn't have been much furor over this.

I understand that you are looking for women who have intellect, skills, a pleasing personality who can command the respect of her peers and inspire others - in other words, an excellent well-rounded person who has good leadership skills. This is good so that people will see who the role-models are in the ICT industry. Sometimes, people have worked behind the scenes, made an impact but hasn't really been recognized by others. However, the search for such people and the criteria for judging them should be carefully planned. This has to be studied carefully. These events, when they are held every year, would set a trend and would create a certain mentality in people, depending on how these things are conducted. There are so many contests and awards that are currently being given out and I think that people have gotten critical as to how they are conducted, especially by organizations that are supposed to have a significant place in the industry and the society.

The stigma of the label beauty pageant on the search for the Digital Pinay probably would not be removed unless PCS would remove every beauty pageant-like aspect, such as the modelling of clothes during the awards night. Yes, you have said that you have considered that as part of the awards night in order to see how women dress up and carry themselves in various situations (casual, formal, at work) but that is very much like how pageants are conducted. If you really want to see the way they carry themselves and their poise, you could try alternative ways to do so. These alternatives will be enumerated later. Another thing that you might want to reconsider is the percentages for judging. Over-all, there is 40% given to intelligence and the rest of the 60% refer to personality, appearance and popularity. You have reiterated that it is because you want to find a woman who is feminine at the same time intelligent and that there is the reality that for someone to be looked up to, s/he has to be personable. Good point. But to allot 60% for it in the overall criteria is still too much. Maybe 50%-50% would have been better and not so beauty pageant-like. After all, you have said in your statement that it isn't. So maybe you could make sure that it isn't.

Some people in forums, on blogs, mailing lists and offline (including myself) have reacted this way: re-think the entire schema. Maybe the search for the Computer Girl or Ms. PCS has worked before, in the 1970's to the 1980's but so much have changed in the ICT industry from that point onward. People have obviously become more gender-sensitive for one thing and the culture has drastically changed as well. No wonder that you might not have anticipated this kind of a reaction from us. Maybe it's a generation gap, as Mr. Querubin has said. And so it is indeed important for things to be cleared up when such a gap exists. But because the search for the Digital Pinay has been launched in October 2004 and has only caused a stir in the country recently but you decided to continue this, you might as well think of another kind of schema for your search for the Digital Pinay, et cetera, in case you would implement a similar kind of a contest/awarding in the near future.

I hope you don't mind me asking but were you able to take down notes when were suggesting all sorts of things, when were clarifying things during the public briefing? I do hope so because we are expecting results from the said public briefing. We have noted your words as we were in the meeting and I hope that you did the same thing. In Filipino, "nawa'y hindi lang ito nakalista sa tubig." It would be futile if every suggestion has not been noted. In any case, I have noted them down and have received other suggestions and questions that could actually help you reformat your search for the Digital Pinay.

Alternatives:
1. Title of the search: Instead of using "Digital Pinay" and only that, put a qualifying subtitle such as "the search for the young women leaders of the ICT industry." Another suggestion that was brought up was call it the "Digital Pinay Award" because an award is definitely different from a title.
2. Reformulate the criteria for judging so that you give equal importance to intelligence and the personality of the person. Actually, this would not be very easy because if you are indeed looking for upcoming leaders, you do not look only at intelligence, poise, popularity and appearance: you also need to look at the character. I have met people with all of that but they did not have character. In leaders, that counts a lot.
3. Since the coronation night would be replaced by the awarding ceremonies, maybe the modelling of clothes could be scrapped out completely. If you would like to see them in their finery, casual wear, etc., you could judge them during the interviews, press cons, etc. Let the awarding ceremonies be awarding ceremonies and nothing else.
4. Think about the prizes and awards that you would give to the awardees. Maybe you think that Php25,000 is enough and maybe it also depends on your sponsors but it would be better if you could give more than that to those in the professional levels. After all, they have busy schedules as well and they would have to leave some of their work behind. Php 25,000 doesn't seem enough for the time that the awardee would leave her work. And maybe you could also give some cash prizes to the runners-up. If you could give them other things aside from the cash. Maybe something that they could use like PDAs, laptops, top of the line mobile phones that would help them in their work.
5. The Nokia awards, CISCO awards, et cetera – Hmmmm... I am thinking that maybe you should consult this with other people. I personally feel weird about this.
6. Ways to find out the poise, intelligence, et cetera of your nominees:
Xenia's suggestion: Press Conferences wherein the candidates can speak up. They would be required to wear formal clothes there.
Dang and Clair's suggestion: Series of talks wherein the nominees will speak up about ICT, promoting, showing what they know.
Professional Level - They could conduct career talks in schools especially in the senior and junior year levels of high school. In March that is, after the short listing. This would show how smart these women are, how poised they are in given situations.
Student level - They could also facilitate in talks within their own schools, promoting ICT. During the career talk, they could also interject their comments on being students and what students can do to promote ICT within their own communities and schools.

All levels, they could write essays which would be published in the local newspapers. Just so people could see their passion and if they could inspire readers, well and good. That would be reflected in text votes.
They could also have a mini sports tourney of a sort in order to be able to wear sportswear. Then see from there how they conduct themselves.

Some questions from http://www.livejournal.com/~mierin_lanfear that could help PCS re-think the way the Search for the Digital Pinay will be conducted:
Personality: Will there be a managerial/psychometric-type of test for the nominees? Will they conduct panel interviews for the nominees (i.e., mock job-interviews)? Will the judges/panelists go undercover and interview nominees' co-workers? If nominees are working on their projects, will the judges let them present their work in front of an audience, or publish them?

Presentability/Femininity: If nominees are working on their projects, will the judges let them present their work in front of an audience? Will the interviews of the nominees be published in broadsheets, complete with photos (office/casual)?

I hope that you would consider these things so that your search for the Digital Pinay (the future women leaders of the ICT industry) would be better.

Because of the search for the Digital Pinay, Head Geekette posted suggestions for other activities that PCS might hpld in order to promote ICT (from http://thegeekettespeaketh.pinoyweb.net):
  • Reach out to the less fortunate yet deserving students
    One of my dreams is to hold a free weekend courses on basic computer use for students in public schools. I’ve never met anyone in the IT industry who came from a public grade/high school (other than the Science high schools and UP) . The problem has always been volunteers, a place to teach, and computers to use.
  • Computer Summer Camps
    This is what got me started in the IT industry. I’ve been computer literate since the age of eight when my dad bought me a Commordore Vic 20. He then enrolled me at the (then) University of Life Summer Computer Boot Camp. This was back in 1983. Wouldn’t it be nice if this were held again for kids of different ages? Not only that, there was a requirement that the students should enrol in one club as well. So I ended up taking dance. My point? I’m a geek, but I still have a life.


Mr. Querubin has mentioned that we should move on now. These comments and suggestions have been made with ICT promotion in mind. If we have to work together in order to promote ICT, we have to look at the various facets of it from various perspectives.

Thank you and good day.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jan. 25th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)
digital pinay 2005 public briefing
hi clair, the story on the digital pinay 2005 public briefing is online at http://news.inq7.net/infotech/index.php?index=1&story_id=25327

cheers!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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kumajirou, canada
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