Now, if you work from home like I do, this exercise won’t really work, but if you work in an office, look around at your coworkers and start to notice what gender they present as. Most likely you’ll notice a lot of men and a few women.
Sexism is alive and well in the tech world. Unfortunately.
We hear a lot about efforts (which I support by the way) like Girls and Data and Girls Who Code. These are great attempts at addressing some of the gender issues in the industry. We’ve probably all heard about the “Google Manifesto” (and no, I’m not linking to it, since most of the “science” in it is complete crap and I don’t want to give it any more viewership than it has had. But here’s a link to the problems with it.)
We know that grammar school and middle girls have a strong interest in the STEM field. And yet, by the time college graduation rolls around, we have a disproportionately smaller number of them in the computer sciences for example. So the above attempts to keep them interested help, but honestly only address part of the problem.
The other side is us men. Yes, us. We can tell our daughters all day long, “you’re smart, you can program”. “You too can be a DBA!” and more. But what do we tell our sons? We need to tell the that women can program. We should be telling them about Ada Lovelace and Admiral Grace Hopper. We should be making sure they realize that boys aren’t inherently better at STEM then girls. We should be making sure they recognize their own language and actions have an impact.
What do we do ourselves when it comes to the office environment? Do we talk too much? Evidence suggests we do.
Do we subconsciously ignore the suggestions of our female coworkers or perhaps subconsciously give more support or credence to the suggestions of our male coworkers? While I can’t find a cite right now, again evidence again suggests we do.
Who is represented at meetings? Are they a good ol’ boys network? Who do we lunch with, both at work and when we network?
If you’re a member of a user group that has speakers, what does the ratio of speakers look like to you? Do they reflect groups ratio? Do they reflect the ratio of the industry?
I think it’s great that we have programs such as Girls who Code and Girls and Data, but we as men have to work on ourselves and work on our actions and reactions.
Some suggestions: “Sometimes, simply shut up.” I’ve started to do this more, especially if I’m in a group of women. LISTEN. And you know what, if you’re thinking right now, “well duh… because women talk so much I’d never get a word in anyway” you’re falling victim to the cliches and perpetuating the problem.
Support the women you work with. If they have a good idea, make sure it gets the same discussion as other ideas. And if one of your coworkers tries to co-opt it as their own, call them on it. If you have a coworker (and I’ve had these) that is continually cutting off women in meetings, call them on it.
Seek out women speakers for your user groups. I’d suggest for example Rie Irish and her talk “Let her Finish”. I asked Rie to speak at our local user group. Partly because of serendipity (I contacted one of our women members to let her know about the talk) we got the local Women in Technology group to advertise our meeting and ended up with a number of new members.
And finally, the title. Watch your language. Unless you’re working at a modelling agency or similar, you probably should never be introducing a coworker as “She’s smart and good looking.” Think about it, would you ever introduce a male coworker as “He’s a great DBA and handsome too boot!” Your coworkers, male or female are just that, coworkers in a professional setting, treat them as such.
Two final thoughts:
- If somehow this blog post has impacted you more than the brilliant posts of Rie Irish, Mindy Curnutt, or others who have spoken on sexism in the industry, I’d suggest you examine your biases, not give credit to my writing.
- If you have suggestions for women speakers for my local user group, especially local ones who can make the second Monday of the month, please let me know.