Women In Tech

This wont get me any brownie points but I have absolutely had it up to here with the term “women in tech”.

Imagine me running events for “Men In Tech”? I would be run out of town or how about “Korean’s in tech” it just doesn’t wash, I work in the most inclusive industry and employ amazing female engineers, does sex come into it, of course it doesn’t, on a personal point i love working with women as your left know where you stand pretty quickly.

Do i ever look at a CV and say the person’s sex matters of course not

Do we have a lack of female engineers? of course we do, do we have a lack of female mechanics? of course we do.


The point of this was not to point out inequalities it was to point out that we are already equal and I just don’t get it


Can someone point me in the right direction?




37 thoughts on “Women In Tech

  1. Laura Daly

    This call for more women in certain areas of life comes in other forms as in the Law (although think representation there is higher than in tech) politics, the military etc However I agree with both Pat and Alexia on this single sex events are of no use to anyone. I think women need to do it for themselves and stop the war on potential partners customers and consumers in Tech ie MEN.

  2. Susan

    Hi Pat

    I don’t tend to go to tech groups outside my workplace, whether gendered or otherwise, so that wouldn’t really apply to me. However I would suggest that more women would be involved in such groups if we were not subject to comments like the below from male “experts” (such as a certain Bjorn Furuknap of the SharePoint community in this case) whenever we are presumptuous enough to have the cheek to write a line of actual code


    He’ll deny, of course, that misogyny motivates him, but his “at least I have the balls” line betrays his true motives. Because I will never, by design, have the “balls” to do anything.

    It seems like a passing thing, but it really did affect my confidence as a developer and I KNOW males don’t usually have to deal with that sort of thing.

  3. Pingback: Women in Tech – a response to Pat Phelan | IT and Data Musings...

  4. Ben Moore

    I think the points you are making are somewhat premature and I would hope that in only a few more generations would have to pass before the balance to become more equal so that Women would not feel the need to have such meeting. But for the moment why begrudge them a platform to gain momentum in the patriarchal technology sector.

    I watched this TED talk recently which describes the deep seeded reason about the inequality of Women in Tech by Debbie Sterling of @Goldieblox fame.


  5. ChrisR

    Pat is right in what he is saying. Positive discrimination is still discrimination and will only breed resentment. Gender quotas only serve to put question marks over female hires.

    What is needed is to tackle the reasons why women avoid our industry (I.e the stereotypes and up until recently uncool image etc..)

    My other half is also a developer and she hasn’t experienced the barriers that apparently need to be incorrectly addressed according to some here.

    This whole “lets stop what we think is boys club with a girls only club” is moronic.

  6. Karen Rooney

    I’m with Louise on this, I think its such a shame you feel this way. I joined the tech industry only a year ago, and frequently find myself in classrooms, bootcamps or offices where I am the only girl or one of a tiny minority of women. Pat do you think it is wrong that women in these circumstances would from time to time club together to discuss issues that are specific to them: be it newbie code questions or little sexist comments that grate on our nerves or maybe because we have transferred from similar industries and have stories to share. What exactly is your problem with a minority group who have things in common, getting together in a non-exclusive way (Women In Tech events always welcome men!!)? You say you want more of us around, yet you’ve ”had it up to here” with us referring to ourselves as women in tech??! What you are saying seems to be; shut up, do your job and don’t you ladies dare discuss among yourselves what its like to be in the minority and perhaps offer each other support or discuss ways to encourage more women to join.

    1. Pat Phelan Post author

      thanks for the comment Karen
      i just think these events are way too late to encourage females into tech,
      thats what i would have hoped my post would have bought out, instead its bought out the complete opposite.

      1. Karen

        What do you mean by ‘too late’ Pat? Do you mean we should be teaching tech to young girls? Sure, let’s do that and have more girls in tech!! But what about women like me who have left a certain industry, and want to join tech and contribute? Don’t you think women in tech groups or events are valuable to ensuring more women join the industry at a later stage – should we abandon two generations of females and start afresh with the under tens!!?

        1. Pat Phelan Post author

          You aren’t the norm here Karen in fairness, I hope you will admit this yourself
          Single sex events in tech are (in my opinion) not the correct way to go and nobody said anything about abandoning generations,

          1. Karen

            I’m not the norm in joining tech later in life? Maybe not, but do you think that people like me *should* be encouraged to join? If you focus solely on getting young girls of school age into tech, then you are definitely abandoning other generations who may be able to learn these skills and make a valuable contribution – which I gathered from your original post was what you wanted… but you just don’t want it done by using women-in-tech events? And I am simply telling you that as one of those women, these are useful and helpful. (Someone else here commented about these events turning into bitch contests, and you have mentioned exclusivity a few times; not in my experience, as I said before they all seem to welcome male attendees). I hope some of the comments here have perhaps helped you see that these are positive events to encourage a minority group in an industry, that they are positive, constructive and harmless, that we do not use them to siphon ourselves off into a separate club but rather want to learn how to live and work more effectively and comfortably in the existing one.

  7. Marcela

    Hi Pat,
    There are two things going on with the phrase ‘Women in tech’ –
    1. Network groups for women who are in tech.
    That’s no different to any other minority group supporting each other. For eg. ‘nationality specific’ groups running events for expats – Alliance Francaise, Africa Day.
    People with a shared background that doesn’t feature strongly in their day-to-day life.
    There’s no need for ‘men in tech’ groups, as most of the people in tech, currently, ARE men. Surely you’ve noticed – what was the gender balance at the last conference you were at?

    2. Getting Women INTO tech.
    – The crux of the thing –
    While you seem to be gender-blind, from what you say about your daily dealings (yey for you, and I’ll leave aside the tweeted wise-crack, for which you apologised), have you never looked around the room at a conference, or through your file of job applicants and thought ‘Why are there so few women?’

    The answer is at the other end of the recruitment process. Pre-recruitment.

    I run the Discovery Science Festival (shameless plug, but relevant) and I have a 2/3 majority of kids 6-13 coming in the door from schools and families who are also gender blind.
    By that I mean parents and teachers who see STEMed as not a ‘boy thing’, but for everyone. They want to show every education/career option to their kids, and see what sticks. As we should.

    But the smallest intake group? Girls schools. Why?
    As far as I can see it’s because those influencing young peoples early choices by bringing them to my event, or spacecamp, or coderdojo, or whatever, don’t all see tech as gender neutral… yet. And by the time the girls are 10 or 15 they’ve bought into that divide. Way begore that CV lands on your desk.

    Putting extra effort and phrasing around IT being ‘for girls too’ will, and does, gradually get it into the psyche of those not-yet-gender-blind that tech is a valid choice for anyone who is into it and has the aptitude.

    That said, I’m not into the gratuitous pink-ing of STEM. That awful EU promo video, anyone?

    Here’s a quote from a young woman in STEM – slightly paraphrased:
    ‘Until I was brought to the BT Young Scientist expo I thought science was for grey- haired men in white coats and glassses’
    2 years later, she won.

    1. Pat Phelan Post author

      A heartfelt thanks for this comment Marcela
      I know you do a ton of work locally and I have always admired it.
      The problem is not in the events, I would have hoped that someone would have mentioned education and programs at earlier ages like Coder Dojo, but as I said in another comment , events for women in tech are too late for encouraging women into tech, its needed much earlier in the chain as you have found with your existing programs.

      earlier comment was a throwaway remark, it appears humour has had its day.

  8. Eric

    Is “Women in Tech” a hot topic for me? You bet your life it is. I’m a Product Manager with a Telecoms company, a B.SC in Computer Science and father to a 5-year-old girl who will earn at least 20% less than her male colleagues over the course of her career, with a minuscule chance of getting to C-level. If a female-only event is what is needed to banish the world of male-dominated self-perpetuating cliques, then I’ll fight tooth-and-nail for them.

    I don’t care who believes that there are no barriers to equality. The facts are that there is still inequality. The onus is on those of us who set the tone for the next generation to do something about it, not pretend it doesn’t exist.


  9. Seanán Kerr

    Three points:

    Firstly on quotas and why they work. There’s an experiment in psychology where a child who is having problems mixing with other children in a play group is shown a video of a child like them, getting up and going over to the main group and interacting (see this (fantastic) RSA talk for more on the subject ). The child after seeing this, does precisely that. Point being examples inspire, seeing people like ourselves doing something encourages us to do it too. Quotas can have this effect (they’re not perfect by any means, but sometimes a blunt problem needs a blunt solution), I’m not saying quotas should be introduced, but I can certainly see the advantage of having in place harmless endeavors like “women in tech”. We’re at the early stage in tech, at a stage where we can still define what it means to work in tech and stop the rot, in the UK the breakdown between men and women in tech jobs is 83% to 17%, I’d imagine it’s similar here. When you have a situation like that it builds up pre-concieved notions, people start seeing men as being competant and women as incompetant. Take airplane pilots as an example, there is a culture where it’s assumed men are pilots and women are stewardesses, it gets so ingrained that studies* show that if people hear a woman’s voice making the Captain’s announcements before the plane takes off they feel nervous. The same thing can effect women in any industry where men are in the vast majority, men become the norm, and anyone who falls outside that norm, who doesn’t fit the picture, is at a severe disadvantage.

    *I can’t find a link but this was definitely mentioned on an episode of QI

    Secondly. There is a misogynistic culture in tech (specifically in gaming), I don’t know how pervasive it is, but it exists, and you see it writ large in the cases of Anita Sarkeesian & Adria Richards . I’d occasionally visit sites like reddit, which has a very tech literate user base, when you read posts about feminism, or women like Sarkeesian and Richards the hostility and ignorance shown towards them are genuine shocking. Sexism is real, it exists and I don’t think the tech industry is anywhere near as white on this matter as it likes to think of it as.



    No it’d just be ridiculous and pointless, like having a having a rule where you only do something on a day with an “a” in it, or an association for professional basketball players over six feet in height. I doubt you’d be run out of town either, the likes Kevin Myers and John Waters of this would would probably trip over their own drool fawning over such an initiative.

    1. Seanán Kerr

      The quote should have been this

      Imagine me running events for “Men In Tech”? I would be run out of town or how about “Korean’s in tech”

      1. Alexia Golez

        I’ve been to Women in Tech events and they are either sad, limp events which mentoring and support turn to bitch contests about their workplace *or* corporate diversity events where entry and mid-level employees are treated to motivational speaker type sessions.
        Neither were positive experiences. Tech needs diversity of all sorts. Diversity for folks from people from poorer backgrounds. Diversity for folks who have disabilities. Diversity in the way people think a little different from other. Diversity means lots of things.

        But if my jiggly bits means that I am treated less of an engineer but as a woman in technology then I don’t want it. Treat me like this and you treat me different from other engineers. Am I am not filler for diversity quotas. In my last job, I was jokingly referred to as half the woman quota for my team for diversity purposes. Time for women to not be treated as an accounting instrument for diversity and just as engineers. That’s real inclusion.

        1. Alexia Golez

          Actually, buggered my reply.. which was directed at noone in particular, rather just some thoughts I’d like to add the general discussion .. :) Move along, move along

  10. Kevin Lyda

    First, this is really poorly written – to the point I’m not 100% certain what you’re trying to say.

    Women make up around 30% of the workers in the tech field – and the numbers are even worse in certain sectors of the tech industry (software engineering and system administration in particular). In a field crying out for more talent, not appealing to half the population is laughably stupid.

    Addressing the women in tech issue will quite obviously make the tech field better. Not just a larger talent pool, but a wider array of perspectives. An example of this would be this Scholars at Google tech talk:


    One of the strategies they pursued was to broaden the kinds of languages an incoming CS student was exposed to. In this case they switched to a functional language which few freshman would know and so even those students with a fair bit of programming experience had to take some steps back and break their pre-conceived notions.

    Most of us who have learned imperative languages who then learned a functional language found the experience to incredibly useful experience to our toolbox. So this change at Harvey Mudd helps students with some experience. Meanwhile they generate students who will do the reverse (functional -> imperative) which will likely also be useful to their toolbox.

    Harvey Mudd found that this increased the participation of women past the Intro the CS course. But I also think it would produce better CS students with a wider range of knowledge.

    Instead of language A, they used language B and thereby increased the participation of women. A minor change and yet an important one.

    If you have any experience with chaos theory and fractals, you’ll have come across the Sierpinski gasket. You create it with this very simple algorithm:

    Take three points and label them 1, 2 and 3. Pick a random point within those three points; place a dot. Now randomly pick a number from the set of 1, 2 and 3. Move the point halfway to the point with that number label and place a dot. Repeat those last two steps (random number and place dot steps) forever.

    From that you’d assume you’d fill up the entire triangle those three points define. It’s all random, right? Wrong. You end up with a very specific pattern – one that you’ll essentially recreate over and over no matter how many times you rerun it. The rules cause the pattern.

    Obviously interactions between people and in an entire field of people is obviously going to be more complicated than a Sierpinski gasket. But there are rules, there are nudges in behaviour and they do cause patterns.

    And right now those rules seem to be diverting women from computing. That is a statistical fact. Which pressures are doing this? I have no idea. As the Harvey Mudd video points out those pressures might not be immediately obvious. Whatever these nudges are, it will take some thought and some experimentation to work them out and come up with ways to positively improve things. Computer related degrees are relatively young so quite obviously there are ways we can improve things.

    It involves talking about the problem. It involves acknowledging that there’s an issue. It involves being open and receptive to a variety of views.

    And while this will be difficult for some parochial tech communities around the globe, it is being addressed by very talented and open tech communities in places like Google, Harvey Mudd and others. I hope people consider engaging with those groups. For people who don’t see an issue, well, they probably don’t see a lot of issues. Not someone you want to write code with, not someone you want to build a company with, not someone you want to admin systems with. I’d suggest spending your time with clueful people instead.

  11. Pat Phelan Post author

    love all the comments, thanks
    No one seems to have even read the simple post, anyways
    my points again are
    1. having exclusively female events makes about as much sense as having exclusively male events.
    2. I made the point that we need many more women in tech
    3. Louise,good point, we have four positions open at the moment, I would love to hire brilliant engineers, if you know any looking please drop me a line

    Can anyone tell me whats wrong with above as I don’t get it and I certainly didn’t write this to offend?

    Ps Derek, you’re a twat for all that name calling on twitter but thats fine too, the world needs more twats

    1. David

      “having exclusively female events makes about as much sense as having exclusively male events.”

      I disagree. As women are under-represented in tech it makes sense to have targeted support, mentoring, etc. to boost the numbers. This might apply to other minorities too. And of course these events are not compulsory.

      There is no similar need served by male-targeted events.

      Does that answer the first point in your comment?

      1. Pat Phelan Post author

        Your allowed to disagree David
        it doesn’t answer my point at all as its your opinion.
        We need more female engineers not isolationists events splitting communities
        How do we get more females into engineering?, events for females in engineering wont help that, we don’t have a problem with females leaving engineering if we did I would say bravo to these events.

  12. Derek Walsh

    You’ve already blocked me on Twitter for briefly mentioning that despite your claims, you had not been attacked, so I don’t expect this comment to stay for very long.
    Anyway, you almost figured it out yourself when you said “Do we have a lack of female engineers? of course we do”.
    Combining that with the ever-so-slightly patronising “i love working with women as your left know where you stand pretty quickly” it seems you have nearly all the information you need. You know that women can do tech jobs, and you know that there aren’t as many women in the industry as there could be, but for some reason you are adamant that the response to this must be to do absolutely nothing; that to do anything to encourage more women in tech would somehow be wrong. It’s a completely illogical approach.

  13. Gerry Johns

    Pat. Here is an example of personal abuse directed towards you

    Keith Gregg: “I love how its a badly spelt rant. I love how hes from Cork, I also love how hes a probable failed FF candidate, and love how he looks like something out of Killinaskully. I love how no one would probably listen to him irregardless.”

    Typical idiot who loves taking offence on other people’s behalf.

  14. Colin

    I was at a startup event in the Irish Times a while back and the room had about 150 people in it. About 6 were female and to be honest, that feels a bit weird and it indicates that while it might be unconscious, there’s clearly a reason why women don’t enter the industry in the same numbers and I’d like to know why.

    The way I think about these issues is largely about talent pool, because it’s immediately more obvious than other moral issues when it comes to dealing with the sex of the participants in an industry. If the industry predominantly attracts only men, then we’re effectively halving the pool of tech minded people who we could be attracting. I’d like to attract 100%, and I’d like tech-minded women to tell me how we get there.

  15. Geoff Boyle

    Whilst I don’t think women are necessarily discriminated against in the technology industry (I’m a man so that opinion could be wrong) I do think “women in tech” badly needs to be promoted so that girls consider technology as a career at Junior Cert level if not before.
    Attitudes need to change.

  16. Louise

    Hi Pat and Eimear,
    It’s such a shame that you feel this way.
    The way I see it, events encouraging women to enter tech are just that; events encouraging more women to consider a career in this really exciting, growing, creative industry, which has traditionally appealed more to men.
    Yes, the tech industry is, as you say, “already equal” and I would really, really, *really* hope that all employers are like you and don’t take a person’s sex into account when reviewing a CV. That’s not the problem. The problem is on the other side: encouraging more women to submit CVs.
    If you like, it comes down to simple math. There is a huge requirement for more tech talent the world over, and you simply won’t get the numbers if ‘tech’ only appeals to men i.e. half the population. So, right now, there’s a bit of noise being made about female coders, engineers etc to make sure *all* that awesome talent comes through the door.
    I really hope you can see it from my perspective.

  17. Keith

    Hi Pat,

    While Eimear has valid points, the whole reason *Women in Tech* as a term is being promoted, is because it needs to be. Just like the government are trying to encourage Male teachers in primary schools. There is nothing wrong with trying to promote events for women in Tech, as a lot may be transferring from other industries, and let’s face it, stuff like Rails Girls can help make the transition from one industry to Tech an awful lot easier, can help women, who may be going into a very male dominated sector transition with help and support. It can also be handy to network, and yes there could well be events for *men in tech* but the majority of people in tech are men. I think its admirable that people are getting together and promoting the view that women can work in tech, especially as in schools they don’t offer technology in a lot of girls schools, and lacking coder dojo, there isn’t a lot of exposure to young women who may be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs.

    I find the misogyny behind this post rather disturbing and it seems to scream a case of “you can’t be in our gang”. The tech sector is far too hetero-normative. It needs to be shaken up. Supports need to be there for people. Its not just in the tech industry either.


    1. DC Cahalane

      Pat’s whole point is the entire opposite of ‘you cant be in our gang’ – the problem is that instead of trying to access to mainstream tech industry, an industry where there are absolutely no barriers for women (some of the biggest and most successful names in the industry are women), there is now a movement to create a whole separate branch of female-only events and activities. So instead of one industry group getting larger by more women including themselves, its getting more fractured by a deliberate effort to create division.

      In nearly 15 years working with tech companies, Ive never one seen or heard anything negative aimed or directed towards women. I know anywhere I’ve ever worked, we’ve always been equal opportunity employers, the best person for the job gets the job, nothing else matters. The gap in the gender balance exists because until recently the industry had little appeal for women. The dramatic transformation of the industry over the last 6/7 years has turned a ‘geeky’ industry into a true economic powerhouse that now has multiple roles and job functions beyond the ones that traditionally women weren’t attracted to. The new roles created by the transformation are ones that women excel at, maybe even far more than men ever could, but it takes time. The traditionally geeky jobs have also evolved and now women excel at that – the problem is not that there aren’t enough female developers, its that there aren’t enough developers, male or female, period.

      Positive discrimination is still discrimination and should be reserved for areas where there is a concerted effort to discriminate or put up barriers to entry – no one can seriously produce one single example of such a barrier than exists in the tech industry, especially in Ireland.


  18. Objective-S/he℠

    “There is plenty of thinking that never achieves lift-off, never contributes to understanding and never casts light on issues of importance. Much thinking beats around the bush, wanders off course and fails to inform or illuminate.” –The Question Mark, questioning.org.

    Objective-S/he℠* A Documentary Film: Women In Technology and Gender-Neutrality views headlines or stories leading with the emotional question, “Why Are There So Few Women in Tech” as a falsehood and prejudice. It’s a harmful, unconscious bias in the form of “name-calling,” a subtle discrimination.

    *Note: The name Objective-S/he℠ is a nexus of Objective-C, a computer science programming language, and a hybrid gender-neutral pronoun used to imply balanced treatment of woman and man.

    Language matters and negative comments do not motivate. Everyday, in the course of normal corporate advertising and personal communications, people are “presumed disadvantaged” and are reminded which categories they belong to that are “underrepresented,” “lacking,” or “falling behind.”

    New entrants to the technical career field are subjected to conscious reminders of performance problems or perceived gaps between the genders. Public perception, driven by social and mainstream media, is that technology is a “male dominated” industry or career field.

    The worst part is that the messages convey negative, demeaning things to people who are quite capable. But, motivated by the inequities they see around them and driven by the desire to “combat them,” academicians use crude racial and gender substitutes of underrepresented minority (URM) and non-URM.

    The constant babble of comparative information, worries, instant replays of injustices, thinking ahead to occupations or a future that don’t exist yet, or ruminating about the historical discrimination may cause a person to become trapped by the mind.

    In the USA, women are the numerical majority (U.S. Census, 2010). As of July 1, 2013, “California No Longer Has A White Majority”. So why does society still refer to some individuals as minorities?

    The fact is legal rules exist in democratic bureaucracies to determine social and economic disadvantage. For example, Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §26.67 instructs, “YOU MUST REBUTTABLY PRESUME that CITIZENS of the UNITED STATES (or lawfully admitted permanent residents) WHO ARE WOMEN ARE SOCIALLY AND ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED INDIVIDUALS.

    See: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title49-vol1/xml/CFR-2011-title49-vol1-sec26-67.xml

    An exception or “privilege” is available to Caucasian men and foreign nationals (i.e., F-1 OPT international students) who do not need to prove anything and only by a “preponderance of the evidence” can women like Eimear McCormack make the claim they are not disadvantaged.

    Creating a world where the equal dignity and woman and man and the character of every individual is respected and valued is simple to articulate, but difficult to deliver. Is a solution to equitable participation possible?

    While there are many significant contributors, one culprit that fuels the problem is a formal civil rights monitoring and enforcement mechanism designed to protect the citizenry from violations. Accomplishing this task requires “tracking” people by categories.

    But, what happens when prospective employees do not self-identify or U.S. employers do not report to the mechanism? What happens to people like Eimear McCormack who defy the definition and decide to forgo qualification as a minority? In illustration, Google, Inc. openly refuses to release hiring statistics for an “audit of discrimination” and claims this information is a trade-secret and denies any effort by outsiders to derive suspicion.

    As a competition advocate, the executive producer of Objective-S/he℠ A Documentary Film will argue in favor of eliminating the presumption of social and economic disadvantage,

    The completion of a successful online fundraiser under 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorship at http://objective-she.com will go towards providing technical assistance to employers and labor unions by:

    (1) hosting outreach and orientation sessions onsite or offsite to identify, recruit and develop or improve the individual capabilities of prospective candidates for apprenticeable occupations and nontraditional occupations as executive trainees (29 CFR §541.705)–in compliance with the United States Supreme Court decision in WALLING V. PORTLAND TERMINAL CO., 330 U. S. 148–before creating any relation to the United States Employer;
    (2) providing ongoing succession planning audits for employers, unions, and current workers to ensure a “harassment-free,” work-life balance for prospective executive trainees in apprenticeable occupations or nontraditional occupations;
    (3) setting up and managing support groups and facilitating professional networks for prospective executive trainees in nontraditional occupations on or off the job site to improve their retention;
    (4) setting up a local computerized data base referral system accessible by smart devices to maintain a current list of prospective executive trainees with bona fide qualifications who are available for hire;
    (5) serving as a liaison between hired executive trainees and employers and hired executive trainees and labor unions to address workplace issues related to civil rights monitoring and enforcement; and
    (6) conducting exit interviews with departing executive trainees to evaluate their on-the-job experience and to assess the effectiveness of the program.

    To give feedback to

    Rauhmel Fox, CEO, WHOmentors.com, Inc.
    Executive Producer, Objective-S/he℠ A Documentary Film: Women In Technology and Gender-Neutrality.



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  19. Eimear McCormack

    Hey Pat,
    I had this very discussion with someone else last night, I personally do not like this whole “female bandwagon” thing. I don’t believe in quotas, being treated differently, or expect additional grants because I happen to be female.
    At the end of the day, if you are good at what you do – then gender has *nothing* to do with it. I have never experienced any discrimination because I happen to be female in business, people judge me on my ability to get shit done and that’s the way it should be.
    Eimear McCormack


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