Every day I remise that my profession, one that is pictured as this brute, as a relic of an old era. I love my career as a software engineer. I get to choose my hours, hold great responsibility, and get paid pretty well. In the end I create things, and that too brings joy. But I hear that my life is privileged and that I was only given access to those things because I am a white male born to well off parents. I find violent sorrow in my soul when people tell me that the women I love can not do the same. The funny part, is it’s not men I hear murmur this. It’s women I hear shouting it.
Something must be wrong.
I would love it if my girlfriend, daughter, or mother were able to work in tech. They are all very smart women, and technology empowers people. It empowers women, it empowers the world. Technology equalizes the bar and no one knows who is sitting behind a keyboard at the end of the day except for you. Technology enables 3rd world countries to take part in the success of 1st world and 2nd world countries. Technology allows all of the worlds knowledge to be given to a young child in Africa for $100. It allows people to move from country to country, to work and to learn about other cultures. Technology has brought us so much closer. But for some reason women feel disenfranchised from it all.
When I have a daughter, I want her to feel what I feel in technology and if that means my industry needs some work, then yes, let’s start now. I want her to feel like she can do anything with a well trained mind and a computer.
Today, things especially got awash when I responded to a tweet that @ashedryden had posted.
@ashedryden : Reporter asked me if it was hard being a woman in tech. I immediately said “do you wanna pull up a chair?”
I quickly retweeted, and FAILed at twitter with
@jdavid: @ashedryden, women don’t get into tech because they get impression is that it’s easier to be a lawyer or doctor. good things are hard.
This spun out of control, and my point was lost.
I had written a much longer tweet, but upon that being closer to 200-300 chars, I started pruning it a bit, which had the undesired effect I was afraid of. I find it harder and harder to use twitter for anything that matters. So, instead, it came off as an attack, rather than support of women in tech.
My response should have been a larger response, because in whole I think technology as an industry get’s better when the ratio of men to women more closely matches that of a well balanced society at 50%. I also think that many of the problems we have in gender equality have to do with the simple fact that there are more than twice as many men in tech as there are women. In fact some studies suggest that just 27% of tech workers are women, and that there are as many as 9x as many men in ‘C’ level executive roles as there are women. Legislating requirements would be hard, and for larger companies there are laws, but tech is forged by small teams, and that means the changes need to come from within each of us.
For years articles have interested me in how to get women more involved. I have been reading article after article. Look at years of my twitter and facebook streams and you can see that I promote great groups like the Bay Area Geek Girl Dinners, scholarships for women to get into tech and anything else I can do. I invite my girlfriend along to all of the tech events I go to and would be happy to bring anyone with.
In the end I don’t know all of the reasons why women don’t end up in Tech. I do challenge the notion that it’s ‘just’ sexism and that men are actively keeping women out. I believe that happens some of the time, but it’s hardly the whole reason. Instead I see a lot of men trying to bring their loved ones along. I see fathers and daughters at Maker Faire and I see guys taking time out of their week to hold programing classes just for the ladies. I see Google and Microsoft offering scholarships just for women, and I see companies as ruthless as Zynga promoting women because the web is now Social, and 70% of purchases online are made by women. Tech needs women more now than ever.
If there is a larger problem with the industry then I think we should fix it. If we don’t know why it is, then we shouldn’t ignore that there is an issue, but we should move on to the things we can do. Not every problem is fix’able now, and in a ‘get things done world’, we often put things off if there is no clear solution now. I see articles all of the time where the tech industry is trying to figure out why smart women choose to be lawyers, or doctors or other professions that require more or similar aptitude as technical degrees.
There are things we can do now, and there will be trailblazers that have unique insights later, but I think at the root of it all we need to be positive an alluring to women in tech. We need to make the industry interesting enough that we can work at the gender balance issues, and then work on the other issues together. Adding more women to tech can only improve the industry.
Having more women in tech will make it easier and more probable for women to offer suggestions to make it better. It will make it easier to rally and build support for new ideas, to build consensus and to create a workplace and technology that favors both sexes equally.