Felicia Day interview: Actress with 'geek cred' talks women in tech

Felicia Day has an unexpected claim to fame. The star of such cult favorites as Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and The Guild has gained geek-girl cred through her swift and early adoption of mobile technology and the gaming culture. But Day has also fought an uphill battle to earn respect in an "old boys' network."

Despite a significant body of work in legitimate technology venues, Day has faced criticism from bloggers and was called a "glorified booth babe" on Twitter by one journalist (who was later dismissed from his post). In the face of blatant resistance by some members of the technology community, Day continues to advocate for women in tech.

SearchCIO-Midmarket.com senior site editor Wendy Schuchart caught up with Day at International CES 2013 in Las Vegas to get her perspective on women in tech. Day offered her thoughts on how the IT culture is changing and suggests that public sentiments might be shifting when it comes to booth babes at technology conferences.

This Felicia Day interview is part of our site's ongoing examination of women in tech. Stay tuned for part two of our exclusive Q&A!

There are a lot of women out there that are role models, and it's just about getting the message about what they do out there.

With the ascension of Marissa Mayer to the Yahoo CEO role, do you think [the role of women in tech] is changing? When do you think that women will be equally represented at places like CES?

I think that there is a growing representation of women in this industry, in tech, and in gaming as well. I think the more people who are out there, the more women that other girls can look up to as they get into tech and see that it's accessible -- someone they identify with, feels comfortable with it -- that is really the only way to really change. Having people like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer -- there are a lot of women out there that are role models, and it's just about getting the message about what they do out there. That's why I kind of like what I do. Even though I come from the entertainment side, I do love technology, and I hope that what I do makes it more accessible for girls and women to feel comfortable and to step into a world that might feel a little intimidating.

Do you have any technology role models who happen to be female?

Like I said, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. There are not a ton out there. I just basically grew up admiring people and loving tech. My grandfather, really, was probably the biggest influence in my getting into tech because he always gave us his hand-me-down electronics. My mom and dad equally felt comfortable with tech. My mom is actually pretty gadget-y; even though she's not great at it, she is willing to jump in and experiment with it. I think that was a huge factor in my life: not only having bigger life role models, but just small-life role models, just maybe as a teacher, a cousin or anything. Really making it seem like that's a part of your life, and it can be really, really comfortable.

More on women in tech

Video: Getting started in a male-dominated IT industry

How women can break through the glass ceiling in IT

If you weren't in Dr. Horrible, Dollhouse, and all of the wonderful entertaining things that you do, if you had chosen another career path, what would you have chosen?

I actually was a violinist before I started acting, so I think I would probably, most likely be a violinist. I also loved writing as a kid, so I could have seen myself as an author. I do have a math degree, but I really like math as an art versus a practical application. As much as I love games, I think I would have done more of the liberal arts things in my life, but always been somebody who integrated. That's really the thing: We're not all one thing, and you don't have to be all one thing or an expert to adopt something in your lifestyle. This technology that you see at CES touches every part of your life, and it's not necessarily that you have to be a "techofile" or anything to make it part of your day-to-day activities.

Let us know what you think of this interview; email Wendy Schuchart, senior site editor.

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Interesting. I have never heard of Felicia Day. I had to look her up, and I don't recognize her. But, good for her for sharing her experiences and her perspective.

I just have to say, however, that I reject any kind of implication that you need to have "geek cred" to work in technology. I work in technology because I'm good at it and I tend to think analytically and logically. I don't follow technology trends. I'm not into gaming. In fact, if I have to listen to your ridiculously long conversations about Dark Souls 2 while I'm trying to work, you'll practically hear me rolling my eyes.

But, yeah, if you're a woman in technology and that's your thing, good on you :)
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I got to know about Felicia Day through the show Supernatural.
She portrays a cool geek hacker, who is also into fantasy and martial arts, and also a lesbian. A lot, but she's done pretty well.
And her hacker acting is good enough for a movie like that.
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