November 18, 2009 |
The topic of women in tech is getting popular occasionally for no apparent reason but one blogger choosing to discuss it on a low-news day because he or she happens to care about the role of women in tech and how it is insufficient or not visible enough or whatever.
Last week we saw a new (and a very passionate) discussion of this topic on The Next Web blog started by Boris and continued with a reply in a guest post by Sarah Stokely – and it is no wonder that the posts received tons of comments and retweets as everyone seems to be eager to participate in the discussion on this never-ending topic every time it is brought to the public attention.
But my question is this: why do we pay attention to women in tech at all? How does it come that female presence on the web seems to be a focus for so many people and women do expect to receive some special treatment in tech?
Let me get it straight: I work in tech, I am a woman and I am a blonde – but I have never felt any of the two latter factors to have any impact on the first factor at all. Or rather, I have often felt it was beneficial to me to be a woman (and blonde) – simply because many of the decision-makers are more inclined to begin listening to you because you are a woman. And it depends on what you have to say if you will manage to keep their attention on your words or not.
I write a tech blog, I run a small startup, I consult startups on their launch and marketing strategies and now that I think about it, I have never encountered any single problem or obstacle because I am a woman.
Well, it may be challenging when you are the only woman working in a room full of programmers (male) but when you understand their language and don’t demand any special manners from them because you are a woman – you will be able to work together just fine. But of course if you expect them not to use F*** word only because you are in the room and you are woman – and they happen to use it all the time when talking work – you will hardly be a good team member because they will not feel comfortable. And is it so difficult to survive an occasional F*** word?
In fact, I have always thought that in many industries discrimination is something that women make a problem by focusing on it only – and it does not really exist at all. And the web industry is no exception – no one cares if you are blonde or not and if you are a woman at all when you create an actually useful startup. And again, in many situations men (including male bloggers and press people if you are promoting a startup) are more willing to listen to your pitch BECAUSE you are a woman. Is not it an advantage that we should not really complain about?
But still being a woman I have signed up for a few girls-only online communities that are intended to facilitate, enhance or improve our feminine activities online – and help us achieve more where we tend to miss opportunities a lot now. I can actually remember that when I signed up for one of such communities I had to tick the checkbox to confirm that I am actually a woman – and it did not let me in without stating that much. Now is not it ridiculous?
And how we love to attract special attention to the fact that we are WOMEN and we are IN TECH! Watching a woman on Twitter sharing her experience from a Moscow software conference, I was very much amused by her update saying “Sitting at ‘girls in software’ roundtable. Everyone (but one) is a blonde.” Now can you imagine a roundtable named “Men in tech (software, gaming industry, blogging, etc.)” at all? And even if someone had a crazy idea of arranging for such a roundtable, I can hardly imagine anyone paying attention to the hair color of the participants.
So while I am flattered to make it to various female tech bloggers lists when such lists are created, I have to say that I still feel somewhat uncomfortable about them because I have never seen a list for “best male tech bloggers” – and this is disturbing.
I still think that this is exactly where discrimination is: trying to stand out from the overall crowd of tech people and expecting some special treatment and some special welcome by the industry where everyone actually has equal opportunities. How can we be different in an industry that does not involve any extra physical strength or unusual skills that women don’t possess?
So I think that the main problem for women who do work in tech is not really in men discriminating us or making us feel unwelcome in any of the particular fields we venture into. The main problem is that women somehow expect to be different in the industry – only because we are women and this industry does not have too many female participants (for whatever reasons it may be). But do we deserve any special attention here or do we really want to work in an industry with equal opportunities where everyone will have the recognition HE or SHE actually deserves?