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Can someone help me articulate this without anger?

(26 Posts)
Callani Tue 18-Nov-14 10:00:48

I'm a long time lurker on these boards and occasional poster and I've got a situation at work at the moment that I think would really benefit from the insight of the FWR board - MNers I need your help!

My FTSE 100 company is currently having a drive to encourage colleagues to discover digital, coding etc because that's the way the company is moving. Now there's already been a whole lot of confirmation bias with men feeling more confident to apply and people then saying "well, see, women just aren't interested in coding" which I try to address but now they're running an event and the lack of thought that has gone into it has left me really angry.

The event is being described as a 48 hour hackathon and the whole advertising is reminiscent of a fraternity or some kind of male bonding exercise. Alongside stupid phrases such as "Drinks, summary and back slapping" and "Bring your 'sleep when you're dead' attitude" participants are being told to bring a sleeping bag and earplugs so that they can "crash" in the hall. When I queried this they confirmed that they would not be providing alternative accommodation for people who weren't happy to sleep in the same room.

I'm really angry - this is the type of event that I would actually be really interested in attending but there is no bloody way I'm falling asleep surrounded by 100 guys I've never met. Maybe I'm being oversensitive because I was assaulted in a similar situation when I was younger but when I tried to point out that it wasn't ideal for women or people with cultural sensitivities (without raising the assault issue) I was told that people shouldn't expect special treatment and everyone should just be happy to slum it.

Can you please help me articulate WHY this event is problematic in a calm and measured way, because at the moment the thought of this is really making me upset and feel sick so I'm struggling to express my concerns without being written off as irrational!

YonicScrewdriver Tue 18-Nov-14 11:24:38

Can the space be separated by room dividers into male and female?

Point out their shaky legal position in the event of anything happening?

Point out their shaky equal opportunities position in the event of a complaint?

YonicScrewdriver Tue 18-Nov-14 11:25:10

Also, why are people sleeping over?

LineRunner Tue 18-Nov-14 11:30:06

It sounds completely unhinged.

In which legal jurisdiction is this crapfest being held?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BabCNesbitt Tue 18-Nov-14 11:40:05

I presume that no-one with children or other caring responsibilities is welcome at this event either? hmm

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thistledew Tue 18-Nov-14 11:41:52

Does the company have a written Equality and Diversity program? If so, I would have thought that it would be possible to identify several sections of that which would be breached by this event.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 18-Nov-14 11:46:02

You're not being oversensitive. I was assaulted on a reclining seat on a North Sea ferry (groped through my sleeping bag hmm). If anything happened people would be going 'why on earth did you think it was a good idea to sleep in a room with 100 drunk men?' Events like this create a no-win situation for women. Take the risk and be accused of acting irresponsibly in terms of your own personal safety, or miss out on the opportunity for professional development.

Callani Tue 18-Nov-14 11:56:28

Oh thank you everyone - you're really helping me here! I was trying to articulate what you are all saying but it came out as "Well what about women, or people who can't sleep on the floor, or people who don't want to sleep surrounded by people for religious and cultural reasons?!"

I'm glad to have some better language so I sound more measured (even though my points still blinking stand!)

And Countess you're totally right - one of the things that really frustrated me is that they are minimising the potential risk to women by pretending it's not an issue and asking women to put themselves in a situation that they're not comfortable with, but you can GUARANTEE that they'd try to minimise it if anything did happen. Plus, let's be honest, with the representation they've had so far there'd be maybe 5 women for 100 men (and probably not even that with women opting out for the sleeping arrangements) - how safe is that for a woman to be around that many unknown men with no other women for solidarity?!

As for other questions - this is a UK based event and I'm not sure WHY they want to make it a sleepover thing, I think they're trying to emulate the Google code-athons and student all night coding sessions and think this makes them high tech, cool and forward thinking when, to me, it mostly seems poorly thought through, a bit childish and quite unprofessional.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 18-Nov-14 12:02:25

But the people attending aren't students, I assume?

LurcioAgain Tue 18-Nov-14 12:09:31

We have regular hackathons at my workplace - voluntary, not tied to CPD - and they are 9-5 events, not overnighters.

I think you're right that they're wanting to come across as supercool, but in fact they're just being exclusionary (women, people with religious objections to alcohol - incidentally, I'm not sure how being pissed or hungover goes with writing high quality code in any case , people with disabilities). The risk of some sort of assault is very high. It's also excluding people on the basis of life outside work (which may of course be their intention: these fortune 100 companies tend to have "pissing up the wall contests" the real function of which is to prove to your managers that you put loyalty to the company above everything else, even immediate family). I'd hate it because I have a young child and would not be able to attend.

It's also a bloody stupid idea if they want to achieve any decent coding, if nothing else then from a "too knackered to think straight" perspective.

This link has some thoughts from Evan Robinson (author of the impassioned attack on long-hours culture in the IT industry) on just how bad sleep deprivation can be.

ChunkyPickle Tue 18-Nov-14 12:10:30

I've heard of hackathons - they're fine for students - who know each other, can crash back in their own dorms, and have no responsibilities.

They're crazy for working adults - especially a 48 hour hackathon (I've only attended 24hr hackathons, and only when I had my own place to sleep)

Now I would have trouble attending, because I have kids (one still BFing) and beside which I find the whole idea juvenile and not the kind of working environment I want to promote.

In my experience, code that gets checked in at 2AM after an all night coding session is desperate, rubbish code and not something to encourage at all. People work best when happy and rested.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Tue 18-Nov-14 12:11:25

SNAP - Just what Lurcio says.

RandomFriend Tue 18-Nov-14 12:14:35

Whoever planned this probably thinks it is going to be fun for the participants and a good way for them to learn about this digital coding.

I think that in tackling the exclusionary aspect, it may be helpful to go to the goal of the matter which is to get the most people to learn about digital coding, and get them to see that this is not the best way to do it for all of the above reasons. I like the idea of identifying the ways in which it breeches and equal ops policy; and specifying that, because of this, it doesn't serve the purpose.

Then come up with an alternative idea? If they do go ahead with this idea, then perhaps a separate session aimed at either just women, or anyone that doesn't like the idea of the sleepathon?

WreckTheHalls Tue 18-Nov-14 12:16:59

No better advice than what is above, BUT...this kind of juvenile, forced and very obviously MALE bonding shit makes my blood boil.

Are any of the managers women?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Callani Tue 18-Nov-14 12:29:38

I can't see your picture Buffy but yes, that's the impression I've got and it is very noticeable that the idea has come from an all male team. Thank you so much everyone for helping me to pinpoint the problems with this - I hadn't actually considered the childcare issue which will be major for a lot of the participants who are mostly over 30 and likely to be parents. Plus highlighting the sleep deprivation =/= good work will go a long way to make me sound more reasonable as well.

The thing that gets me, is the idea of "let's get more people interested in coding by teaching them the basics in an intensive session that creates something awesome" is such a great one - but it's been ruined here by a guy being so convinced that he is the best type of person to target that he can't see the blockers to so many other people.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Callani Tue 18-Nov-14 12:46:51

Oh I see it now - it was just a confused face! Whoops!

I will definitely use examples of people, what a great way of pointing out to someone how restrictive their practices are being. Fab - off to go make my very articulate, well thought out and reasoned point now - thanks everyone!

ArcheryAnnie Tue 18-Nov-14 12:54:25

Are you in a union - or know which union would be appropriate for your workplace? Because this is exactly the kind of thing they should take on.

If not, you could try asking ACAS for (free) advice: www.acas.org.uk/helpline

There's also ladygeek.com - I do have some issues with them, but they are trying to counter the tech=macho bullshit stuff, and make it possible for more women to get in and stay in tech.

LurcioAgain Tue 18-Nov-14 13:46:31

Given that you're going for the "reasoned response" line, I can really recommend that article of Evan Robinson's that I linked to (in a sort of indirect way) above. I was actually given it to read on a course by Greg Wilson (founder of Software Carpentry) on how to improve software design (and equally importantly software design practices - it's the institutional setup, the corporate structures, the people management, the collaboration practices which are as important, if not more important than the techy tricks like unit testing). In terms of impact in the field it would probably be quicker to list big name clients who Greg Wilson hasn't done consulting for (list of workshops his group has given here). He and his colleagues have worked with NASA, most of the big name banks, loads of universities, a lot of government departments (UK, US, Canada) and done a lot of Women in Science and Engineering workshops.

One thing that particularly stuck in my mind from the course I went on was him saying that the most productive place he ever worked was a small tech start-up company where both the managing directors had young children they wanted to do bedtime routines with - they were out the door at 5.00pm on the dot and expected their staff to do likewise. He's really big on "evidence based management" - and all the evidence is that family friendly policies which encourage efficient but short working days give higher productivity than patriarchal pissing-contest presenteeism policies.

Callani Tue 18-Nov-14 14:53:09

Thanks Lurcio - I particularly like the story about the small tech start-up. I think it's gone well - there's now been a meeting scheduled to review the event and I've been asked to attend, along with HR which should be good.

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