Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bully, Be Gone

I am part of an organization has been around for over a hundred years.  The mission of the group is to promote voluntarism and to teach its members about the needs of the community while also helping to meet those needs.  It is a women’s organization and I am extremely proud to be among its ranks.   I have met and worked alongside so many extraordinary women, and admired and aspired to be amongst them.  My mother (who was one of the most perfect people to love me ever), my aunt (who was a bad ass) and my grandmother were also a part of this group when they were alive (see above pic).  I am so very honored to be a legacy and to contribute myself.

That said, (and that is a big deal), I have also noticed what can only be called gossiping.  We form small groups to accomplish goals. When expectations are not met, the talk behind the back of the person not meeting them is atrocious.  Instead of confronting the person who is lagging, or better yet, asking if they need help, the blaming and back-biting are embarrassing.  It has actually prevented me from inviting other fabulous women to join an organization I love so much. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but in my tenure in this group (over a decade) I have seen it time and again.  Further, I rarely see it when the subject is a man. Instead he is excused for being a man. (k'  just gonna say it. That's sexism)

To be fair, not everyone does it, and there are some women who actually stop it by responding negatively when it happens.  Yay!  Go Team!

And now we get down to it.  The truth is that this kind ofbehavior is a form of bullying.  It is passive aggressive, yes, and as a culture, women are taught to engage in psychological warfare that allows for the cutting down of others as a form of power.  But here is the thing, we are not girls anymore, we are women.  You do not get a Bitch Pass for this behavior.  You didn’t offer to help, you didn’t express your expectations, you didn’t talk to the Chair of the committee, or if you are the Chair, you didn’t reach out.   So, Shut Up!

Just like in corporate America, women need to act like professionals.  Especially in this organization whose public face is everything, and our mission is to better the community we are in.  We can’t help people who do not trust us, and they are not likely to trust us if we cannot get along within our own ranks.  So what I want to say to these women, is to stop being a bully.  What do we tell our children when we see them acting this way?  We tell them it is inappropriate and that they are being mean.  We get mad at them.  We are ashamed of them.


And to the women who tell me that they just don’t get involved, my response is: why not?  This organization is just as much yours, as it is mine.  If you see something that you know is crappy, say something.  Stand up to the bully.  Isn’t this what you tell your children, and what you want their teachers to say?  One of the main reasons we do not do this is because we are busy being “nice.”  

We do not want to lose a relationship.The loss of a relationship is hard, especially for women. Research from UCLA shows that the friendships of women are so healthy and beneficial that women who do not have friendships have a lesser life expectancy.  Research out of UPenn also shows that when women’s relationships are power based lead to depression and are detrimental to overall health.  So, really is it a matter of health to change the conversation to one that is more productive and healthy. Especially in a women’s organization. To say nothing, or to ignore the bully, creates minor victims of the bullying behavior.  A bully gets away with it if he is egged on. Silence equates to agreement.

I know that some of my readers are also in this organization.  I call on you to help stop this behavior with your voice, with trainings, with simple compassion and honesty to do the right thing and stop the bullying of women by other women.  To those of you who are not in this organization, I call on you to do the same in the halls of your school, or the aisles of your workplace.  We cannot afford to have strong intelligent articulate women to be bullied, or to be bullies.  We just can’t.

Stand Up.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The REAL issues women in tech face

Recently I read an article that talks about the myths that need to be debunked about women in tech.  They are five of them and they are things like “you have to work alone” and “you work with nerds.”   Women 2.0 put it out, which is normally a good resource for women in the tech world.

This time however, I scrunched up my face and asked, “How is this specific to women?”  It isn’t.  If you are going to write an article called women in tech myths, perhaps you should start with items that are SPECIFIC to women and that men do not have to face.  What this article does instead is debunk stereotypes about tech, not about women. None of the items listed are about women, except maybe the first one.  It reads “you have to be a math whiz.”  This one is includes women as stereotypical Barbies who spout “Math class is hard,” but it also includes a subtle racial stereotype.  And I can do is sigh at the many different levels of wrong in this.

My favorite item on the list is that you “work with nerds,” after which the article proceeds to argue that engineers were wildly diverse. And interesting. 

Um, yeah. 

Like most populations comprised of people, there are the uber nerds, the people who are so into whatever that there is nothing else, and then there is everyone else.  This one is definitely NOT about gender.  I know plenty of women who are uber nerds in this profession.  I love working with them.

I admit and am the first one to argue that there is a dearth of women in tech, but the problems that women face in tech are things like 1). Not being taken seriously.  (Yes, still). 2) The Brogrammer culture which can look a lot like rape culture, 3) being stereotyped as a people person because I am “a girl and they are more social” (hunh?)  4) not having enough mentors who are my same gender and finally, 5) what to wear (No, seriously.  It’s like this: a tee shirt and I am trying to be one of the boys, but anything fashionable and I am trying to be Nina Garcia.  I have to be both conservative AND edgy.  YOU try it).  Men have none of these issues.

Granted, the most important is number 2, which is a larger systemic issue and is a rant for another time.  This is followed quickly by 1 and 4, which are career killers.  Finally 3 and 5 happen on a daily basis but are not only specific to tech. The “what to wear?” question is a women in business question, and is aimed at those of use who missed the junior high training of lip gloss, shiny hair and eyebrows.  We were reading instead.  Or wearing black embellished with skulls.  The point is, we did not fall into traditional forms of femininity and this is one of the reasons why we are in tech.

The point of all of this is that false feminism exists all around us, even in tech, where women are arguing stereotypes that are not women’s issues.  Maybe this is the point. Tech needs women’s voices to actually address women’s issues.  When we make a post that seems to be about women, but isn't, it is s form of removing power form the real issues. This, to me, is so not okay, and does nothing to further the argument that women belong in tech.