Yet again the subject of women in our industry has reared its head and yet again I find myself basically fuming. Why exactly do we keep rehashing this discussion? Can’t we just get over it, already?
Okay, first things first – I realise there’s a wider discussion about women in any industry, and specifically in stereotypically male orientated ones, such as science, engineering and technology. I happen to work within a specific sector of all these – web development – and therefore I realise I’m only qualified to really comment on this one area, and that’s fine. I only want to comment on that one, this time.
The Guardian published “Geek Goddesses” today suggesting that there aren’t more women in the field because of a lack of female role-models:
Young women show huge interest and aptitude in these fields, out-performing the boys in chemistry, maths, biology, physics and technology at A-level. But while 90% of 11-16-year-old girls think technology is cool, 73% would not choose it as a career because of its lack of female role models.
Is this suggesting that 73% of women need a role model in order to pursue a career? What the hell? I’m sorry – I thought that people chose careers based on aptitude and interest rather than a lack of people to follow or look up to. And let’s just pretend for a minute that that factoid is correct – do people need to have role models of the same gender (which this article also suggests)?
I find that some articles paint web development as an inherently sexist industry. I must have missed a memo detailing how and when this occurs, because that’s such complete and utter nonsense as far as I’m concerned. I find it hard to think of an industry that in my experience has been nothing but completely open, inviting, easy to join and easy to work within.
I have spent the best part of the last 3 years attending, or being involved with organising, all kinds of geek events – Geek Dinners (not the “Girl” variety), Pub Standards, @media, d.construct, SxSW, WSG… the list goes on – not once have I ever seen a women being ignored or belittled because the men in the room think she’s “not in the know”. I don’t know what events Sarah Blow is hanging out at, but, quite frankly, they’re not the right ones if she’s being treated as she claims to have been in the article.
Articles like this can only do damage to our industry by describing it incorrectly in a bad light – why on earth would anyone want to be involved in an industry that is made out to be bigoted, let alone the women this is aimed at?
If you think you’re being subjugated, creating a little club just for you not only drives home the idea that yes, you do indeed need to be treated with kid gloves, it lets any discriminatory behaviour off the hook by walking away from it.