The PASS Women in Technology luncheon topic of "Energizing the Next Generation" must have resonated with a number of men attending the conference, since more of them came to the luncheon than ever before. Several men spoke during the discussion, and one asked the question "how does a man inspire girls to get interested in technology?" Steve Jones also mentioned this in his blog post on the luncheon.
The first thing I think men can do is to be open to the conversation. Obviously by attending the WIT event the men in the room were showing their interest. But they make up a small fraction of the men at PASS. I've been helping to organize and promote WIT events at PASS since 2004. Over the years I have approached many of my male colleagues and encouraged them to attend. While quite a few have taken me up on it, many more have not. I've seen all kinds of reactions to the idea that men would attend a WIT event: discomfort, nervousness, lame jokes, embarrassment. In some instances if a man does express some interest he then gets teased by other guys. Women trying to improve our lives as tech workers can only help our colleagues, male and female. Guys, be willing to hear what we're saying, and encourage your friends and co-workers to do the same.
The second thing men can do is to educate others. Have you ever observed a man talking over a woman in a meeting at work? Mention it to him. Ever hear men speaking disrepectfully about a woman in the office? Don't just go along with it--let them know why that is damaging. Do you know that a manager is actively blocking a woman from being hired or promoted because of her gender? Do something about it.
Third, actively support the women technologists you know. Ask your female co-workers about their experiences--you may be surprised how much their lives at the same company differ from yours. And you'll probably find common ground. If there is a woman in a junior role, think about ways you can help her improve and advance in her career.
Fourth, positively influence your daughters, nieces, sisters and children of friends to engage in technology. The more school-age girls are exposed to math, science and technology and the more girls are told they can succeed, the more female technologists we'll have in the future. Volunteer at schools, through IGNITE, Digigirlz, the Girl Scouts, or any other organization that works to engage girls with technology.
Finally, remember that girls need to see people they can identify with in technical jobs in order to believe that they also can be technical women. The more female role models girls see, the more possibilities there are for girls to be inspired. That's why men supporting technical women is so important.