Women in technology

Sun, 02/09/2014 - 19:46 -- BlueWinds

So, I thought I would take some time to articulate some of my experience as a woman in tech.

1. Male privilege is real, and it is harmful.

The company I work with is rather small right now - a dozen people, only half of them full time. The CEO is male. The two other full time "tech" people are male. Two more part time tech contractors are male. The social media consultant is female, but we have as little in common as it's possible for two people to have (she has two children and never talks about anything except kids, partying or fashion).

There are gender driven assumptions at play constantly. They're very subtle - each one not worth noticing, but they add up. Despite the fact that I'm more confident in my opinions, the CEO gives me orders when he disagrees, whereas he gives my male colleagues arguments.

Privilege doesn't mean easy. It just means that I deal with things - very small things - that the men I work with never even have to consider. When was the last time someone hinted, subtly, that the calendar was responsible for your bad mood? A tiny, ever so unimportant put-down and reminder of gender hierarchy.

2. If you want more women in tech, you need more girls in tech.

The single largest factor in me ending up in tech was early exposure and encouragement. One summer when we were getting a new computer, I expressed some vague interest in seeing the inside of the old one. My dad moved in into my room and left a screwdriver.

After I took it completely apart, I asked for help putting it back together. My dad obliged, and we spent a week reassembling everything (I was thorough - every single screw that could be removed had been). That was how I got my first computer.

I was... 7, I think? Maybe younger? He handed me a screwdriver. That was life-changing. Goldieblox are so close, and yet so far. They're cut, dried, prepackaged and safe. Spend that $100 on an old box-PC and give it to your little girl. Give her a screwdriver. Yes, there are sharp bits inside. Sharp bits are better for for learning than rounded corners.

3. Ignoring a problem doesn't mean solving it.

I keep hearing arguments like so: "how can you expect gender to be less of a factor in the future, when you keep bringing it to the forefront?"

Let me digress with another anecdote for a moment. It's relevant, I promise.

When I first started playing Magic: the Gathering, I was terrible, like all beginners (especially like all very young beginners!). I didn't know I was bad - I was the best in my little local group. I only really learned how much better other people were when I went to a bunch of tournaments and got crushed repeatedly.

Then I knew I was bad, and it was frustrating. And I had trouble getting better, because all the people I could practice with were even worse. Over time though, I helped everyone (and especially myself) improve. In fact, I got pretty good - I even won some tournaments of a couple hundred people. I stayed sharp by constant practice, and carefully analyzing my every move.

Now, I don't care as much anymore. I play perhaps once a week, and I play with some very good people. I'm not the best in the group, but a little above average. And mostly, I find it really easy. I evaluate game states at a glance, and come to correct conclusions most of the time without even thinking about it.

Now, back to gender.

My magic experience follows a pretty standard pattern of learning, in four stages: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally unconscious competence. The opening criticism seems to imply that we can somehow skip the middle steps - the ones where we're aware of a problem and learning how to fix it - and skip straight to the end.

Nope. The first step to fixing a problem is knowledge that there is a problem. Different people are at different places - but to say "stop using the word feminism!" is a pretty good sign that you need to be exposed to more of it, not less.


Dasanko on

I'm "fortunate" with those matters (point 3 apart), as in my case, only very ignorant online persons do bother to bring up the gender differences.

On the other hand, I didn't lay my hands on a PC I could tear apart until I was about 12 or 13... awfully expensive at the time (the one I finally got, at the time, would be about... $3000 now!).

Woolfe (not verified) on

As a representative of portion of males in tech, I'd like to apologise.

It's funny, I am in Aus. My sister got into tech before me(well kinda, both at the same time really, but she was older so "got it" better than me), and indeed was my boss for a while (aah nepotism). Every environment I have worked in since then, I have never really noticed any gender discrimination. I am sure it was there, but for me at least I hope I never displayed it, or took party of it knowingly. I have worked with, under, and over females in a variety of tech roles, and some of them have been awesome, some have been great, some have been average, and some have been terrible. Oddly enough just like the blokes. Altho actually I think there have been less that have been terrible. Tho that may simply be a numbers game. Honestly I wish there were more women in tech. Then I wouldn't have to deal with the bald squad by myself(50% of the IT staff in my current company are bald!!!)

BlueWinds on

My experience is mostly things you wouldn't notice unless you were on the receiving end - I'm not being sarcastic or understated when I say they're subtle, the sort of things that make themselves felt on a statistical level rather than a personal one. It's definitely better than things were 20 years ago, and I hope they'll keep getting better still. :)

No need to appologize for belonging to a "group" that isn't really a group. I have no bones about the fact that there are some women who are terrible to be around, and some very pleasant men, and that most people are something of both at different times.

In short, you're an individual, and responsible for yourself, not your gender. Treat everyone as individuals - men and women and Muslims and Atheists - and you're doing good. (I mean "good", not "well" ;) ).

Espera on

As a disclaimer, I am male.


What you describe is unfortunate, and I hope it is a remnant of a dying age.  At least now, as you say, it is 'subtle, little things', but I seem to recall it used to be much more obvious, blatant and harsh. That is not to excuse what you are going through, but it is to suggest that maybe things are improving, and we can be optimistic. But as you say, the problem needs to be addressed openly, now swept under the rug. If the women at my workplace told me that my behavior needed a minor adjustment, I would have accomodated them without a problem. As it was, all my bed coworkers at my former employer were women, and we got along very well.

BlueWinds on

It is getting better! The fact that I can complain about subtle, little things means the big, obvious ones aren't happening any more. For that, I thank my mother's generation. Hopefully my daughter (if I evere have one) can thank me someday when things are even better. :)

Dorllanen on

An interesting read. Nothing to add really, since my work environment experience with women is somewhat different (although I can only say it from a male colleague/friend perspective).

Not really related, but this reminded me when I first got my PC. I really, really REALLY wanted it for some time and finally my mom and dad gave  me one on Christmas as a surprise. I screamed and jumped around so much and was so happy I actually semi-lost consciousness for a little while and had to lie down.

Nowadays I'm a cynical, grumpy asshole, but I guess it's somewhat reassuring that this wasn't always the case.

Fohn (not verified) on

You made a mistake at the end of your four steps: the last should be unconscious competence (I think).
In any case what you say does bring up a good point, by then thinking that we are already there, when we are not, we end up letting things slide and those small things can fester (like the white lie in power puff girls) and then we back to square one again. Welp sorry hear about your experience I can't empathize since I'm still a student, and male (you have a lot males here, well that is what you'll attract with the main content being what it is), but do your best girl!! (sorry shouldn't have said that since I'm younger)

BlueWinds on

Fixed the typo, thanks for pointing it out.

Woman vs. girl is an interesting issue. In general I try to use woman when referring to anyone who isn't a child.

In contrast, on a personal level I really want to be young and cute and innocent. Being called a girl is pleasant. So thanks for the tought, and it's a good thought, but I don't mind being called a girl rather than a woman. I speak for myself and not my gender in that regard. :)

infernalperson on

Well written!

Sev (not verified) on

I'm super surprised you're a woman, I never would have guessed. If ever there was a niche hobby I'd expect to be 100% sausage fest, it'd be the development of Brothel Sims. I'm incredibly glad you're part of the scene, it makes me feel like so much less of a creep to know women not only play these things but also make them. So thanks for that, and I hope you keep on with game development whatever form it takes. We definitely need more female devs.

Some Guy (not verified) on

A few months ago my store hired 3 new guys in my position. One of them learned quick and was only given 'orders' a day or two. He was in high-school. Another needed orders for maybe a month, when he switched positions (and actually did his job). He was past high-school but not in classes. The third guy still needs to be told what to do, constantly. He never works unless a manager is within eye sight or it can get back to him. Several of us have wanted to punch him out from time to time. He is in school for business management. Go figure.
On the other hand, in the past few months 2 girls have come as well. The first came a couple days and then never showed up again. Shame, because I only had to make a minor correction once. She didn't need to be 'orderd' to do anything. The other girl I honestly don't know what happened with, but she was the same work smarts.

In fact, every girl I have worked with has been well motivated and usually a great deal more sense than their male counterparts. I may not be in tech (yet), but this is what I've seen as a (storenamecensor) employee. Neither i nor management treats with inequality based on gender. Its ethic that counts here, which happens to be us enslaving men most of the time.

... and then there is the view I get from my fiance. Not so much really because she is a girl, but because she has a disability. She isn't stupid, she just has her own ways learned from home from her crazy mom (that are wrong) and its hard for her to change them, especially under pressure. She can do (almost) all the things her coworkers do, but she knows how to do some things that only a couple of the managers even knows, and she is getting better at the things that are hard for her, but for the longest time she would only get 3 hours a week. Every other employee (minus 1 severely disabled guy who got 1 hr) got 6. (yes they're all low) As far as treatment goes, another girl was allowed to dye her hair for work, and my fiance was told no. The cashier left her post without permission to go take a smoke break and the guy responsible for organizing orders and announcing them refused to do it at the same time. My fiance hopped on cashier. Meanwhile the regular is outside and the link between cashier and cook is not talking to her, all during a rush. Boss scolds my fiance for not giving the orders to the cooks and not being fast enough cashiering (even though HE was training her cashiering and would know). The mia cashier and the missing link both get off free without even a word. They even have the nerve to harass her about it. My fiance has these kind of unfair treatment stories every week.

I really don't think I can be much influence myself in the matter, but I do support change. Hopefully through a combination of my generation (largely known for pro-choice and equality) and future generations having positive role models. Still, I know there are (badwordhere) people out there in any age range.

As a sidenote,
"unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally unconscious competence"
I find to be a little off. Firstly, i think you are unconsciously competent before you are consciously competent. You learn to be better at something, but don't know how good that is until it is proved. Furthermore, as to your magic story, the stages would then have been (and ill abrv these as UI/CI/UC/CC)
You just started playing Magic: UI
You played with some one and sucked bad: CI
You got better: UC
You realized you were better: CC
You went to a tournament and realized you were still bad: CI
^ but wait, wouldn't that mean that when you realized you were better, you were actually still UI?
You helped your group get better and yourself with them: UC
You won a tournament: CC
^ What would you do if you joined a higher league (maybe country-wide) tourney and got crushed? Are you CI again or not?

You see my frustration with the series...
We decide something is a problem. We realize what the problem is. We find a way to overcome the problem. We evaluate the solution. Repeat forever.
You decide your game is bad because you see better.
You find out what it is about your game that fails in comparison.
You find out how to fix the issue.
You see if the solution causes problems to other areas.

Rin-tin-tin (not verified) on

I've worked at a national retailer, and by and large, the man you described going through business school describes a number of those who are going through school.  Many of them, but not all, do enough to get paid (and not fired) and that is exactly all they do.


Experience tells me it's usually not their competency is in question, but their disinterest in the job, though some may be genuinely incompetent too.


Some of my best co-workers were people going through school, the ones who wanted to do a good job even in an unrelated field, but almost all my worst ones were those who didn't care about the job and didn't care who knew it.

Menthis (not verified) on

As a male thats worked in special needs care + education and pre-school childcare I can honestly say it actually goes the opposite way in some lines of work. The worst part was having accusations of paedophilia by parents due to working at a nursery, on my first day (at 18 years old) I was openly told by one mother "any man working with children has to be a paedophile, it just isn't natural"

Unfortunately many people still hold on to primitive ideas that certain jobs can only be done by certain people.

Working now in retail in a small shop I can say it's a completely different environment. Male manager, female treasurer, 2 male supervisors 1 of which is on the autistic spectrum and 3 female supervisors. Everybody gets treated as an equal, even the trainees can openly discuss their opinions on things with management and know they will be given time and consideration for their thoughts.

BlueWinds on

Yeah, the reverse happens as well.

A kid falls over on the playground and skins his knee. Someone standing nearby (unrelated) stands him up, dusts him off, asks if he's alright. If that someone is a woman, everyone smiles. If that person is a man, everyone thinks he's suspicious. It's pretty sad.

Rin-tin-tin (not verified) on

First off, two important disclaimers:  IANAD, though I do work in related practices, and I am male, so do not experience this directly.


What you wrote about in your four stages of UI-CI-CC-UC is a described cognitive bias, sometimes known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.


It's an effect that shows up in basically every field that states that the *more* incompetent someone is, the less they can estimate their own level of competence.  This mainly takes the form of an individual vastly over-estimating their own competency (UI).   As a result they have no impetus whatsoever to increase that competency, they are, after all, in their own minds already competent, and will disagree, sometimes violently with people who challenge that competency.  Additionally who have a very high level of competence will often under-estimate how competent they are, because if they found a task easy, it must not have been a hard task, rather than recognising that the ease stemmed from their own competency (The CC-UC part of your description)


This makes it very hard for the individual even realise that there is a problem because they feel like they are handling it correctly, and direct confrontation often goes poorly.  Personal relationships are also something many people feel they have mastered because of marriage and kids, or similar circumstances, but failing to realise that what applies to that relationship may or may not (some skills obviously do apply to both areas) apply another to another personal relationship (such as working with a female subordinate/co-worker/boss)  is also an example of a person being unable to judge their own competency.


Like in your Magic:The Gathering example, minimal education in a subject often leads to a much greater understanding of one's own true level of skill (From IU to CU, as there is not always a corresponding increase in the actual level of competency, just a recognition of lack of competency), but not always, especially in an area that may feel like (to a person not experiencing it) both subjective and a non-issue.  


Additionally most of us have experienced that one (or many) person, who no matter what refuses to address their own incompetency even when offered education and evidence that they have a low level of skill in that area (Example: That one scrub who teabags/hates on everyone he kills/etc but still finishes last in Cawadooty or similar, only to repeat the process ad infinitum).  If working with such a person, avoid like the plague.


I am not saying this is less of an issue because of this (it's not, it's still a large issue), I am merely stating that this is a known effect, and perhaps, some evidence that these people (some of them anyway) really do not mean any harm by the subtle slights, they just honestly believe they handled the situation far better than they really did.


Just as a note, Dunning and Kruger (et al), while the ones who characterized the modern definition of this noted that great thinkers of the past have also noticed this effect (Confucius and Shakespeare among others have mentioned this subject)


(On a lighter note, I use parantheses way too much)

hw (not verified) on

Keep writing such texts more often. They are interesting and enlightening at the same time.

Zachary (not verified) on

Not sure if this is very relevant to this post, but I wanted to put it somewhere, and this didn't seem half bad. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oscar-g-lopez/problem-of-gender-in-america... An article on gender problems in America, referring to two incidents of import recently, and I relate strongly to the Michael Morones tradgedy, so it hit a bit close to home.

Zachary (not verified) on

Also, I realize I just posted an article talking about male issues in a post about female issues. I apologize for any misunderstanding. I'm not trying in any way to undermine the sever issues regarding women today, but I thought the article would be important to show my idea that there are major problems with the way people view gender regardless these days.

BlueWinds on

It's closely related - gay and transphobia are important too, so I don't consider it off topic here.

"Masculinity" is in as much need of an overhaul as "femininity" - it's a different mold, but men are only a little less forced into their roles than women. That the main male roles are "protector, lord, breadwinner, dominant and confident" don't make them any less harmful for those that fail to conform.

Well, maybe a little less harmful, but that doesn't make it right.

super on

So I had to catch up because I got a job recently. Yay! Money!

I love working unsupervised. I hate working for a boss, or anybody that has social power over me while I'm working. I'm a hard worker, but if you use your supervisory position to tell me I'm shit, directly or no, I will slack off just to spite you. Call it a reflection of yourself that I'm not as interested in working hard here anymore. That doesn't mean I'll suddenly sink to the average work ethic of the company -- I'll still be above average, just not as phenomenal as I could be. I'll build things in my mind while I'm working that I can use to better myself, a relationship, my finaces, or a project I'm working on at home.

My suggestion, if you fall into the hardworking, grind all day without coming up for air category of people (while working, not necessarily while working on a personal hobby or project) -- don't give them an opening.

If you're in a bad mood, sure I get that, but really the problem here is your relationship with your inferior superior isn't what it could be -- when I'm in a bad mood I try to make others feel better. When I make someone else feel better I feel better. And stuff like fear, you can beat that with valor. Opposites attract and all that jazz.

I hate gender roles, most of the time. I feel good when I get to be the hero. I hate that men are viewed as predators when interacting with children.


Anyway, I'll share my painful experiences dealing with gender roles.

I'm a young man. A couple years ago, I was pretty depressed, and I lived on my own for about a year and a half. After that I lived with my mom for a while. I grew my hair and beard out because I was reading about sikhism, a philosophy that describes gentle human interaction, being at peace, meditating before and through sunrise, and not cutting hair. There are writings that say your hair stops growing at a certain length, at which point little antennae-like things develop at the ends like flowers on a tree. And once your hair gets to be that length, you have all this energy because your body isn't spending as much energy growing the hair. There's also a bit about it being connected to the nervous system, which makes sense, because it is near the brain and it kinda looks like veins. There's a bit about trees and lightning here too, but that's for another time.

You wouldn't believe how much crap I got from my family. Most of it was suggestion rather than orders, as you say, but they came from my mom, grandma, and sister, and I perceive female communication in this area to be largely indirect. There would be a guy with a goatee on tv and mom would say "ugh, gross." And you could tell it was because of the goatee / beard after a while, and it was very annoying, and that was her reaction almost every time. It's like, I fucking get it, but I'm not going to snap at her. I prefer arguing calmly to verbal abuse.

Then if there was a guy on tv with long hair, she would start this conversation where she said only girls should have long hair, because long hair is feminine. Seriously? How can long hair be only feminine? Better, why can't men be feminine, or show feminine characteristics, like gentleness? And excuse me, but these men show completely that long hair isn't exclusively girly.



Another situation was where I was working at a factory, and I was still anxious around people because I had been living in isolation + depression for so long. So to make myself feel better I would smile a lot and laugh a lot. I still do. One day my boss came in I said "good morning," and smiled at him, like I would do to any friend or family. His response? To mutter to no one in particular, "Oh, everybody's HAPPY today. All the guys are Happy. Too many Happy people."


The sad conclusion I have come to is that these people are simply not worth your time. You can't fix everyone. They must take it upon themselves to grow and make positive changes. Teach a man to fish, and he may yell at you because he's bitter that his boat sank, and he'll refuse to fish, and he'll call you an asshole for trying to teach him something he is ashamed he didn't think of earlier.


Sorry it's so long. Had to get that off my chest. Do what you want, don't let others affect you. So what if there are racists/bigots/gender-heirarchists? I consider them to exist on a parallel dimension. It's simply not worth it. The effort required to make change at such a deep level (indirect suggestion, indirect bullying, etc) in so many people would take probably centuries. I mean, there's still ubiquitous racism, it's just at a deeper level under the surface. Hard to erode that. Not to tell you not to try. Try, just don't expect to change the world in one lifetime. I've already accepted that I can't make the worldy impact I'd like to see, even if I were global benevolent dictator, even if I had money to lobby, etc. It just won't happen without more people involved. And that has to come from within, mostly. At which point it will solve itself. Self-awareness and all that.