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.