The Plight of Women in Tech Lately
A couple articles/incidents got me thinking, and I wanted to get my thoughts out there.
Boston API Jam – a Hackathon for “Brogrammers”
The Boston API Jam, organized by Sqoot, took the whole “brogramming” idea a little too far. The idea of female event staff getting beers for these so-called “brogrammers”… just an awful thing. BostInno posted a great article on the whole incident: Boston API Jam Publishes Event Invite with Sexist Language, Enrages Community, Sponsors Quick to Pull Out. It was great to read that even the Boston dev community did not approve of these guys and their actions.
The part that gets me is this part from their so-called “official apology” (as quoted on BostInno):
While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended.
It’s clods like these that remind us why the WiT movement exists. We already know that it’s a male-dominated field going into it; we don’t need immature, sexist guys to make that point.
And these guys… they’re learning the lessons the hard way. They have issued an official apology on their blog.
Me personally… if I were in the Boston community, I’d be one of the ones speaking up against the Hackathon after all the crap they pulled. But that’s just me. Sexism – and any other discrimination for that matter – in the field is one thing that I won’t stand for.
Why I Stopped Telling Young Girls to Go Into Engineering
Reading this article, it got me thinking a lot. I don’t regret going into engineering – everything makes more sense to me now. I was born with an engineer’s mentality but really couldn’t understand how I fit in until college. Being raised the way I was, I learned how to be successful from my parents, and their lessons have taught me to succeed despite random “no” and “you can’t” messages. There’s a reason why some of my close friends in the industry challenge me with “no” and “you can’t do that” lines – they know that I see them as challenges to surpass. That glass ceiling people mutter about – it doesn’t exist in my world. The boys’ club – I kicked down their doors a long time ago and have been able to play with the boys because they know that I’m serious about what I do and am fair competition.
Yes, I was in the minority in my Computer Science and Engineering Technology program. But I didn’t stand out because of my gender – I stood out because I was active in the student community and played nicely with others. Even to this day, I’m used to being the token female dev or even the token female architect, but the reason why I stand out isn’t because of my token gender status – it’s more because I’m not afraid to speak my mind and happen to know my field. I’ve been watching development on various platforms for over a decade, and my observations of the trends as well as observing where things are going are what keep me ahead of the curve. I am me, and with my knowledge, experience, curiosity, and rest of my personality… I stand out. I’m used to that.
So looking at the “Why I Stopped Telling You Girls to Go Into Engineering” article… it also made me sad. I can only hope that when women who want to go into engineering find that article, they realize that it is one woman’s experience. Here are my thoughts on some of the points she made.
Finding an All Male Environment Entirely Focused on the Technology
I have to admit it… I typically prefer working in a mostly male environment. The cattiness and office drama between women versus that between men are so different, and I’d rather deal with that of men. But that’s just my personal stance. This doesn’t mean that I don’t work with female developers or that I don’t play nicely with them – some of my friends are female devs as well. But they’re like me – can’t be bothered with cattiness or drama.
Instant Gossip in the Office
Gossip exists in most workplaces; this isn’t exclusive to engineering. She mentioned that there are awkward social situations where working closely with a guy leads to instant gossip. As someone who’s been subjected to this (both in my past and yes, even currently), I understand why this would get her down. Honestly, though, when those involved acknowledge that the gossip is there but far from the truth, you learn to deal with the gossip. You learn to see it as people making up stories because they can’t fathom the reality. And eventually, you learn to shrug it off and not let the gossip bother you.
This happens no matter who’s working in the environment. Heated arguments are bound to happen, no matter the topic or industry. When an argument gets heated, step away. Arm yourself with the facts, and don’t get judgmental in the argument, as that puts people on the defensive side, making them more argumentative.
Quota Filling Conferences
This point drives me up a wall. If I know that a conference is bringing me on board for my gender rather than for what I have to share knowledge-wise, I’m going to reject that idea. At the same time, having been on various conference boards, I don’t go out of my way to seek out female speakers. For me, it’s never about the gender or race or creed of the speaker – it’s all about the content. On one of my recent conferences, I saw the lineup and an organizer pointed out that there’re now female speakers. All I could do was *shrug* – that is not a selling point for me, nor should it be a selling point for others. I honestly wouldn’t notice if a conference lineup was all male or all female unless someone pointed it out to me. For me, I look specifically at the topics at hand and especially if they interest me.
Lack of Diversity of Thought
She mentions a lack of diversity of thought but also mentions that she doesn’t like to go to tech only conferences and doesn’t seem to like talking with others at conferences. Then she goes forward to say that she’s lonely. In this case, it sounds like she needs to get out more to realize that there’s a ton of diversity of thought in our development communities – regardless of the platform or language. People in our field have random backgrounds – from music to law to psycholoy to journalism to engineering. We all have different experiences in our careers, which have impacted the way we think. There truly is a diversity of thought… if you actually go o conferences and talk with other people in the industry.
These are just my thoughts on these articles. I’m sure others have theirs as well. Got something to add? Leave me a comment here, as I’m curious to see what others have to say! And if you’ve blogged about it, leave me a link to your blog to check out your post!