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Sexism in the tech industry

(8 Posts)
EmBOOsa Mon 15-Oct-12 16:48:14

Really interesting article on net magazine about sexism.

Few quotes
"Those that believe we live or work in a meritocracy will argue, "but I don't care whether someone is male or female, I only care about how good their work is!" This inaccurate belief that their personal perspective is how the industry at large functions is an anecdotal logical fallacy and part of the problem."

"Our media culture today is overwhelmingly dominated by movies and TV shows that tell men 'this is what you want' and tell women 'this is what you should be'. You probably haven't picked up on this consciously, yet your brain will have picked up on it subconsciously. But take note next time you look at a tech conference's website: do its promotional photos and videos show many female attendees? Are there many female speakers? If not (and they frequently don't), how do you think that comes across to women? What message might that send to them?"

They also talk about false equivalence;

"One common counter-argument against the objectification of women is that 'men are sexualised and objectified, too!' but this is what is known as false equivalence; what matters isn't whether men and women are portrayed in an idealised way, but whose ideals they are portrayed by. Women are portrayed by men's norms and men's fantasy ideals, and men are portrayed by – men's norms and men's fantasy ideals. The incredibly muscular, well-toned man may be appreciated by (some) women, but he is largely a male power fantasy. Women, in our culture, are also depicted under male power fantasies."

This article demonstrates this with images.

"One common argument for low ratios of women in professional sectors is that 'women are just not as interested in X' where in our industry X typically means programming. But this is another fallacy, which we know because in societies where female developers are welcomed and prominently feature among the best, young women are as interested in programming as young men are."

Some of the responses are infuriating, so be warned, they will make you angry.

wanderingalbatross Mon 15-Oct-12 17:44:28

I work in the tech industry, and I've never come across that much in the way of sexism. The things mentioned in the article are endemic in society as a whole, I don't think they're particularly specific to tech companies. That's not to say the industry shouldn't be addressing these issues, but most of the companies I know are trying to keep the women they have, even if they don't go as far as actively trying to recruit women.

That's just my experience of a small subsection of the industry, but in my experience they are better than other industries.

I'd really like to get involved in the future in encouraging more women into science/engineering/technology though, as I think that'd be a big step forward.

EmmelineGoulden Mon 15-Oct-12 22:34:13

I think a lot of the bigger tech companies are better than most in terms of wanting to encourage women. They are in need of good people and recognise that they can't afford to ignore half the potential talent pool. Their problem in that regard is that they are not involved in education at the Junior school level - which is where girls start to drop out of tech.

I think, especially in the US, the problem is in the development of an interest in computing in the teen years that can go hand-in-hand with a narrow sub-culture that excludes girls. Outside of a structure that promotes equality this can result in mysognistic environments that narrow the opportunities for girls and women to stretch their experience.

Certainly 20 years ago the Free Software movement could be a nightmare for women. You needed a thick skin to ignore the casually sexist and sexualized remarks and insults, and there were few environments that followed the sort of discourse conventions that women were more used to. I don't know how different things are now, because I found it OK to put up with at the time and then ended up in a niche were it wasn't so prevalent (though still reared its head from time-to-time) and haven't even been there for a few years. But I see it still in things like the actions and pronouncements of Anonymous and on quite a few of the more techy forums.

I know this exists in many male dominated fields, but I think there is more of meme in the tech industry that they are a meritocracy and a belief that somehow, because it's a new industry they don't carry the baggage of sexism that older industries might.

Portofino Mon 15-Oct-12 22:48:40

I work in the tech industry and we have means in place to recruit more women, plus an active diversity policy. The issue still is that girls are not doing the IT degrees.

RedBlanket Mon 15-Oct-12 22:58:28

I've worked in technology for years and it is very male dominated in the UK. We have a customer database of appeox 500 companies and I could name off the top off my head every company with a female IT manager/ director.

OTOH I have dealt with a few Indian software companies were there were as many female programmers as male ones.

EmBOOsa Mon 15-Oct-12 23:04:27

"The issue still is that girls are not doing the IT degrees."

I know when I was at school the girls were very much discouraged from IT, I'm only 28, so it's not all that long ago. sad

"The things mentioned in the article are endemic in society as a whole, I don't think they're particularly specific to tech companies."

I mostly agree, but tech is one of the industries known for being male dominated so it is definitely at the more extreme end of that endemic.

Portofino Tue 16-Oct-12 21:05:15

RedBlanket - yes - we hire a lot of offshore developers/programmers. Lots and lots of women. We can learn something from India I think.

MurderOfGoths Thu 01-Nov-12 13:39:47

Sorry for resurrecting the thread, but this is grim. And does absolutely nothing to help make the tech industry look less sexist.

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