The Girl Who Cried Sexism

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A long time ago a friend and I were discussing another female tech blogger. “You know what?” he said, “The truth is — please don’t kill me — the truth is that men just don’t care what women think about tech.”

Hmmm…

Whether or not you or I believe his statement, there’s no denying that in an industry that is majority male, misogynistic attitudes sometimes come into play. In my experience, a female has to work about 4,000% harder than a male to be respected by individuals of any gender in the tech sector.

I still am passed whispers of how I* don’t “get” technology, while, quite honestly, the very definition of technology allows for the fact that there is a part of it that a given person won’t “get” at any given time.

And believe it or not, sometimes it’s women themselves who are the most “sexist.”

Sure once you’re successful it gets easier, which is why you don’t find many prominent women complaining …

a) Because guys always imagine our voices being whiny when we do.

*I DARE YOU TO TELL ME THIS IS NOT TRUE, MEN*

b) To “not experience sexism” means you’ve finally arrived in the bros’ boys’ club.

Of the many women I know with careers in tech, I would say almost 100% have felt their XX chromosomes limiting them from professional accomplishment at one point or another. Yet they don’t complain, because complaining somehow implies that you’re not successful enough to be above it all.

I’m not kidding, you never want to use, “It’s because I’m a woman” as an excuse for failure. Even though sometimes it feels like it is.

Why were we talking about this again?

Oh, something “sexist” happened in tech. Again. Basically some startup kind of used an image of a girl in her underwear to kind of promote itself, and the good Samaritans of Twitter rallied. Again. And a bunch of dudes wrote posts about it on TechCrunch and other places. Again.

God, I love it when dudes talk about what it’s like to be a woman in tech. Just as much as programmer women in tech probably love it when female media professionals who cover tech talk about what it’s like to be a woman in tech. You really can’t win!

As a vagina that is at least in close proximity to tech on occasion (we can all agree on that point at least?), I’ve been to a couple of parties where the guys brought in attractive, paid models in order to “change the ratio.” At Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, telecoms company CBOSS took this idea a little bit further and provided real Russian escorts to potential and current customers during the event. They were rightfully kicked out of the show.

Meanwhile just last week in Massachusetts, the Boston API Jam offered up its female staff members as beer koozies or something. Sigh.

But, and here’s where it gets interesting, for an industry that is basically one big sausage party, tech is not the worst offender by far, not even up there in the top ten of most “sexist” sectors by consensus. The other industries where sexism is rampant are as old as the hills. Try being a woman and working in finance, or just being around finance guys for more than five minutes.

So why is tech so sexism-sensitive?

In my opinion, people in tech get antsy about any kind of discrimination because the industry is young enough to evoke a change of perspective;  People expect more of us, so it’s a bigger deal when we succumb to easy stereotypes. After all most of us are nerds, and nerds know what it’s like to be marginalized for better or for worse.

People look to Silicon Valley to provide a vision of the future, and get frustrated when that vision reflects the discriminatory ways of the past. We, more than any other sector, have the opportunity to be different. And should be.

And arguably need to be, by necessity. Almost every single (male) VC in the Valley initially passed on Pinterest, but a bunch of women in the Midwest didn’t.

*Disclosure: I am a woman who, depending on your definition, may or may not be “in tech.”

P.S. Those #techsexy folks assure me that ads similar to the one above went out with Robert Scoble’s foxy mug. I’ve yet to see one in the wild.