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TechCrunch: Women in KerfuffleTech

October 11, 2010

Time to play the blame game again. From Workplace Diva I stumbled upon this panel from TechCrunch. It’s a “Women in Tech” panel. As Workplace Diva states, it’s very cringe worthy. The host of the panel apparently didn’t think out of three days and what I count as 60+ panels there should be one devoted to women.

I get it. There was the “I don’t support affirmative action” comment from one of them, or a “people should get here on their own merit” comment, or the “only 12% of people graduating with computer science degrees are women.” Those are all the same old tried and true arguments. If a woman is truly qualifed, she’ll get the job/panel talk based on her merits and doesn’t need to be singled out based on her gender. They don’t want “token” women. I get that. Only one woman was unafraid to keep spouting an opinion contrary to the panel host. I mean, if you don’t agree with the idea of a panel to begin with, why host it? Maybe they can have a panel on social networking next year and I’ll host it and tell them all what a waste of time Facebook is and how I think social networking is a bunch of crap and that nobody should be spending any time on the sites to begin with so why bother with new codes. Yeah that would make sense.
Only on a panel of “women in tech” would they have a host who thought they didn’t need that panel. Then one woman asked that they expand their definition for what a woman in tech is, mentioning entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily have a STEM (that’s Science Technology Engineering Math) degree. I died a little inside when another brought up the “women they know” really are interested in more to their life, a work life balance.
Well I’m sick of that crap, and while someone tried to make the counterpoint I’ll make it here. Most of the dudes I work with have wives and children. Most of them even want to spend time with their families. My boss rushed me out of his office yesterday to take a call from his Grandmother. Family is important. They don’t necessarily want to spend 20 hours a day in the office. Yes they like what they do or they wouldn’t have been promoted into leadership positions here, but they don’t neglect their families or play any harder than I do. Yet the assumption is that I will want lower pay or less responsibility simply because I have a uterus, or because I am married clearly I can’t handle the reponsibility at work. If anything I think I’m better able to handle the extra responsibility. My husband works like me versus some of these guys have stay at home wives who are waiting for them to come home for dinner with the family or texting them impatiently when 5:00 rolls around. When both of you are working, and there are no children involved, it’s much easier to understand why there will be days working late. But I don’t get to benefit from any of my actual circumstances because I have a uterus.
And finally to the host of the panel who thinks women should only be given positions as speakers due to merit I’ll assume her ignorance is because she’s worked for some hippie social networking bs site. Dudes think women don’t go into STEM because…it’s women’s fault. They assume we’d rather “work with people” because we’re good at it, or would rather have babies and raise families. That the low numbers in the field are because choices we made, nothing to do with societal expectations or the men themselves. They think when we don’t get promoted it’s because we’re not as good at that thing as they are.
And it all comes down to visibility which I have talked about again and again. If men don’t see women in tech they think we either don’t want to do it, or aren’t capable of doing it. Showing a few “token” women at these things gives them a few more examples of people who want to do the work and they can make their own internal judgment as to whether the women are capable. But more often than not, the “token” (especially at a large conference like this) will be more than capable of standing amongst her male peers. And every time someone sees a capable woman succeeding in tech some dude at a company thinks “huh, well if that woman is okay, maybe not all women are incompetent uterus-holders, maybe i’ll hire one” or “huh, that woman sounds a lot like my employee, Alice, and while I never thought Alice was real bright maybe she’s okay and I’ll promote her to Peon II next cycle.” And maybe some high school student is watching the conference at home and thinking about what she wants to do in college: software engineering or art history? And she sees these women and thinks, well maybe I won’t be all alone if I go into that field, maybe it is something women can succeed at. That doesn’t mean women need their own panel, just they should be represented there. Someone should be making an effort that if 10% of people working in tech are women (probably higher given not all the men they had on were technical experts) then 10% of the panelists should be women. If you’re not accomplishing that it means you’re only asking the same people every year, or only asking your friends or friends’ friends, and other networks of women and minorities are not even being given the opportunity. And if you had to ask 3x as many men as agreed to show up to the panel, that means you need to ask 3x as many women or minorities who you want to be there. Yes women are busy and they may say no. But men say no too. So if you want women and minorities there, you will have to ask more people than will accept.
Maybe I’m way out of line here but I just can’t help thinking if people made slight efforts they’d get huge gains. Everyone on the panel seemed to agree more women working in tech meant a more diverse group and meant a better team and better product. But maybe people only say that and don’t actually believe it? Actions speak louder than words.
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2010 7:27 pm

    Bravo, I agree. Interestingly, I think it's inevitable that tech will do what science has already started doing, having visible tokens. What's interesting is when you reach, as we have, the 25% glass ceiling. Turns out that both men and women become so used to seeing few women around that 25% actually LOOKS like 50% to them, because their vision has been so skewed for so long. We still aren't close to 50% in science, but at least most science fields have caught on that tokens are worth having, if only to shut up those crazy feminists. 😉

  2. October 13, 2010 5:23 pm

    Sigh. I couldn't even watch past the first two minutes of that video, just the tone of that woman ticked me off too much. Yet again… why is a woman who is not technical somehow the "expert" on what it's like to actually be a woman in tech? And be beeyotchy and anti-other-women to boot. wtf?But besides that, yes, I agree – I'm so sick of hearing the party line that the reason women leave / don't enter STEM fields is because of family concerns. It's because they don't want to put up with all the macho / posturing BS.

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