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.
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.
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.