dalia ziada

Solve the gender gap in the tech world: quit bitching

March 11, 2014
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Dalia  Solve the gender gap in the tech world: quit bitching

The gender gap in the technology industry

Over the weekend, the world paused to celebrate International Women’s Day and brands of all sizes dreamed of creative ways to observe the day. Some made stickers to honor achievements of women (like the fact that a woman invented the dishwasher in 1887 and another invented chocolate chip cookies in 1930) and others created shocking video that celebrated how far women have come yet how much struggle remains.

The honest looks taken at the current outlook for women was done by brands to put their stamp on history, and sure they’re spreading their logo alongside these messages, but the original “eww, they’re taking advantage of the situation” feelings I had subsided, because I think it’s important to talk about the challenges many women have.

bar Solve the gender gap in the tech world: quit bitching
And then I read Sarah Parmenter’s piece, “Why the gender gap in the design industry needs to end” and she points out that women aren’t looking for special treatment in the tech industry, in fact the opposite. She asserts that men can’t win in most cases, which I agree with – male bosses, hire more women and you’re accused of trying to assuage your male guilt, don’t hire more women and you’re a chauvinist who is holding women back.



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Then, one commenter caught my attention:

“Oh no not another feminist article. Look, if you want to change gender gap in the design industry all you have to do is tell males not apply or pass laws prohibiting design organization hiring more men than women. All these gender issues never look at the elephant in the room. Which is, once women fall in love, get married, and have kids, their priorities change. This has always happened and always will be. But the minute I say that, I become a racist, sexist, homophobe for stating the obvious. So, the solution is, of course, is to not to fall in love.”

Is he right? In some cases, yes, but not all cases. In my case, I fell in love while in college, married, became a parent, and was encouraged by my husband (who is now my boss) to work my ass off to pursue my ambitions (sidenote: I’ve always been extremely ambitious, so I would never have married someone who didn’t understand that). But in other cases, women do get married and shift their attention – some of the smartest women I know are stay at home mothers with college degrees, and I don’t see them as lower on any totem pole than I. So what if we took different paths? That doesn’t make her less hireable than me, should she use her computer science degree against my English degree, and it honestly has nothing to do with the damn gap, given that so few women actually stay at home – a growing minority, in fact.

So should we beat this dead horse?

So why beat this dead horse that is the “gender gap in the tech industry” if every situation is unique? Because it’s important. No woman is entitled to special treatment, and only idiots expect it. Let me illustrate.

I was once at a conference and I was the only woman on stage. That’s not uncommon, really, and I am fully aware that I have often been the token woman. Instead of moping about it, I’ve taken full advantage of the situation and built some of my notoriety on the fact that I have those opportunities. Should I object and proclaim that there are more qualified men that should be on the stage? Hell no, I’m taking that opportunity and running with it like any smart business person should.

At this particular conference, a group of women (who I am actually friends with) approached the organizers and complained, so last minute, there was a lineup change, and some men that were supposed to speak were cancelled and some lesser qualified women (and crappy speakers, I might add) were featured.

BIG WIN FOR FEMINISM, RIGHT!? Kick men in the dirt while you offer a subpar performance in the name of vaginas everywhere? No. That’s the problem with the gender gap – the whiny people that expect special treatment, in fact, they demand it and hold the tech industry hostage.

For anyone who is guilty of demanding this of any event, I want you to go Google “Dalia Ziada” right now. She obliterates the gender gap in endless ways in the face of her own safety, which makes the “not enough boobs on stage” argument seem petty.

The solution is so easy

The best way to solve the problem is ending the bitch and stitch about the fact that there is a gender gap. It’s narrowing, and most men are truly supportive of quality talent, regardless of gender. Sure, there are places like The Chive whose culture is openly chauvinistic, just don’t go work there. Duh.

The long term solution to ending the gender gap is telling your children, male and female, that STEM careers can be exciting. Train them to be curious and creative, and in the end, the gap will narrow naturally as they build robots together and see each other at age six as equals. Don’t have kids? Find a local charity that works with girls that may someday be interested in STEM studies. Donate some time instead of crying.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Go help the next generation to advance and narrow the gap, or just make your daughter’s life easier by encouraging her to be a creative problem solver (which let’s face it, is the job of a technologist). Focus on narrowing the gender gap and making future lives easier by being hands on with the next generation instead of bitching about it and demanding that qualified men be thrown off stage so that a random woman can fill that seat to satisfy the need of having a woman on stage.

Help the next generation to breathe easier and quit making unreasonable demands that don’t actually narrow the gap.

AGBeat Chief Operating Officer: Lani, named 100 Most Influential, as well as 12 Most Influential Women in Blogging, Bashh Founder, Out and about in Austin A Lister, is a business and tech writer and startup consultant hailing from the great state of Texas in the city of Austin. As a digital native, Lani is immersed not only in advanced technologies and new media, but is also a stats nerd often buried in piles of reports. Lani is a proven leader, thoughtful speaker, and vested partner at AGBeat.


4 Comments

  1. In a world without privilege, of all kinds, yes, that would be a solution, stop whining and put your shoulder to the grindstone. I used to think this, until someone took the time to show me the relationship between my struggle as a person of relative privilege, influence and power.

    Long story short, our struggle to be noticed on stage in tech is related to the struggle of women on the other side of the world who just want to keep their female babies from being sold into bridal slavery.

    As those with higher privilege get our demands met, in all areas of social justice, it’s like a sound barrier being broken, or the first four minute mile. This used to be more apparent historically when our struggles were all closer together. We were able to own property, vote, not be considered property, etc.

    It’s much more complex than this, of course. We also need a new measure of success. I never let up professionally because of men or kids — in fact I work this hard so I can be in a better professional place when I have them. But I was never taught either/or because of my cultural background.

    What those who have struggled before me taught me is that when those who have begun to receive their equal rights let up, the more important rights we have struggled for disappear as well. The backsliding continues until some of us are barefoot and pregnant, and others of us are on plantations.

    I’m not saying you don’t have a point, you do. But it isn’t just unfair for anyone to pursue a position they would later have to abandon because of family. It’s also unfair that those who have them, male and female, have to make those kind of sacrifices to be in those positions. Which is another can of worms, because capitalism, which I’m in favor of as a company owner.

    I’m saying that it’s a lot more complicated and we need to look for more answers to all of this, including the idea that there’s only one feminist agenda we should all be in lockstep with.

    • Tinu, thank you for the thought-provoking response. I don’t think that your additional thoughts negate anything I’ve said, in fact, you’ve strengthened them.

      The issue is extremely complex, nuanced, and different for every American worker, which is why I alluded to a stay at home mom versus a COO.

      To me, the women before us that REALLY had it hard are to thank for the narrowed gap, but women that focus on headcounts on stage of genders are slapping the faces of those that were treated like shit for so long to pave a positive road for US. All I’m saying is that we must keep our nose to the grind and make the road even MORE positive for the next generation, and being a baby won’t cure any ill here.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to weigh in – your thoughts are tremendously helpful on the topic!

      • You made a really strong point about the ling term solutions. A really strong one. I hate to admit how much, especially in my culture, the pressure to marry and have kids and be the best as GD everything had me So confused as a kid.

        Even today, I have chosen to have a very non-traditional relationship with a man that makes me super-happy. But the societal pressure from friends and family about how I “should” be married… I wonder what century I’m in. I may get married but it’s not a goal of mine.

        This same world told me I *could* aspire to professional greatness, but when I began to, shunned me for not having a neglected kid and troubled marriage in tow.
        So please don’t get me wrong -I felt I was adding to, rather than negating your point. Expecting special treatment is the opposite of justic. But some don’t know the difference.

  2. Pingback: Women and men are more likely to hire men for math-based jobs - AGBeat

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