As ethically-sourced clothing intersects so heavily with feminism, today we will be discussing issues affecting women in tech.
Despite the rise of women attending college and becoming the majority of the workforce, one area that continues to be ignored by women and girls is computer science.
There are many theories as to why girls love using computers (women are the majority of social media users) but don’t want to learn how to program or build computers. There are those who chalk it up to gender differences plain and simple. Some believe it is because girls are repelled by geek or hacker culture. Universities and companies who hire computer scientists are constantly recruiting girls and trying to show them why computer science is a great option.
One part of the theory why girls are excluded from hacker culture is that it is too “frattish” and misogynistic. That is why I find the lap dances at a recent Yahoo! event (Yahoo! paid for women to dance in skimpy clothing at a “brainstorming session”) to be especially atrocious.
Sure, the Yahoo! folks said they were sorry, but no apology will erase the damage done and the way this incident adds to a stereotype about women’s place in the tech world. Instead of a forced apology, I would like to see Yahoo! increase their outreach to girls in high schools. I know they already make some effort, but incidents like this lap dancing fest demand a higher response. Yahoo!, please increase scholarships, internships, summer camps around the country and anything else you can think of. There are plenty of organizations working on this issue. Yup, it’s throw in the kitchen sink time!
Many people might scoff at this, laugh it off or even excuse it as “boys will be boys.” But incidents like this leave lasting impressions. They reinforce a stereotype about not just a company, but an entire field. Yahoo! isn’t the only organization who has suffered from bad public relations due to a frat boy mentality, after all.
Earlier this year at a Flash developer conference the poop hit the fan when a keynote speaker used graphic photos and crude language that was utterly unprofessional. The organizers, Dave Schroeder and Hoss Gifford, did apologize, thanks to some organizing by the Geek Girls. his apology The first apology, Schroeder’s, allows us to peer into the mentality that occurs, even to men, when we allow a “boys will be boys” mentality to rule:
How did this happen? There is no long exhaustive answer. I made a terrible error in judgment. I knew there was potential for this to occur and I blew it. And for that I deserve to on the hot seat for this. Hot seat accepted. Which I think raises a good point about the gender issues addressed above. Even a guy like me, who knows what is appropriate and what is inappropriate can be lazy at times, or even appear to be in a mild coma when inappropriate behavior occurs. It’s important keep your own values close and online all the time. I’ll certainly be working to improve this aspect of myself.
Dave admits that he messed up and it is a wonderful apology, but it also allows us to see that even a self-professed feminist can buckle under the pressure to not rock the boat in this industry and just see what happens. From what I can tell here from his own words, he gambled and lost.
Hoss on the other hand used the “I can’t be sexist, I’m a husband and father!” line. Um, yes you can. I’m sure we could rally a ballroom full of women who can attest to their father’s sexism.
But this isn’t about Yahoo! or Hoss or any other dude who thinks he needs to wow a tech audience with porn and offensive language. Honestly, if that’s your M.O. you might want to look into your raising the ante of your content and reassessing the IQ level of the audience. What this is about is that these separate incidents set a TONE for the entire industry.
This is why an innocent enough comment about sparkling pasties can offend. It’s not that we are hypersensitive, but rather that we are tired of having to endure a Tailhook gauntlet at tech conferences, whether physically or environmentally.
And then back to girls. Girls are online, they are reading our blogs and seeing how adults act at our professional meetings. Not too many girls are going to see all of this evidence and say, “Hey! I want to be a computer science major and develop the next Flash.”
So dudes, keep the frat boy antics in your head. If you are father, ask yourself, “Would you want your daughter to see this power point?” Because in the world we live in, chances are she will, as will her friends. If you aren’t a father, just say no to porn in your presentation, plain and simple.
To the young women reading this…Not all of the tech industry is a frat party. Check out the Grace Hopper Celebration or your local She’s Geeky events.