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Why I won’t give talks about being a woman in tech (soledadpenades.com)
374 points by robin_reala on July 20, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 354 comments



I went to ngconf this year and two of the talks that stood out to me were given by women.

One was the angular materials talk / demo and it was amazing. The presenter was exuding tech prowess, I was blown away by how easy she made it look to make a dog adoption website. One of the best talks.

The other was by the CEO of girl scouts giving a patronizing 5 minute talk about how we need all help women in tech succeed and change ourselves so the world can change for the better. One of the worst talks.

I had those in mind when I read the article and for that reason I think I can see where she's coming from. When a woman just gives a tech talk, it's just a tech talk incidentally given by a woman. Isn't that the goal? More talks like the first one I described?


I had to look for the best talk you've mentioned.

Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRiV_b3WsoY

Very good talk indeed.


What's that? "Hey, this is how we quickly engineer simple, yet inaccessible, websites whose drop-down menus break without Javascript? Look!: Your browser only needs 500MB of RAM and 2 seconds of CPU time of your laptop executing the jumbled piece of Javascript that outputs this otherwise trivial HTML and CSS without regard to what these standards actually are intended for!" "Loading..."


Inaccessible? Very large markets have access to Javascript and 500MB of ram. If you can reduce costs and time to market you have created value. Even if the result doesn't match some unobtainable technical perfection.


tangential argument identified, watch out for this angular hater who appears slightly off topic.


Well, I don't think it's the goal of a CEO of a social organization to give a talk on tech issues. Their focus is on social issues, so I don't see this as a good example.


Perhaps then she shouldn't have been giving a talk at a tech conference.


That falls under the purview of the organizers.


But it's well within the public's right to criticize them for doing a bad job at.. 'purviewing'.


I said nothing contrary to that.

The choice of who speaks at a tech conference is at the discretion of the organizers. So, criticize the organizers, not the speaker.


What would you expect a male CEO of a social organization to talk about at a tech conference?

I suspect that while social issues might come up, the expected talk would be the male CEO focusing the talk on running his organization and the tech that is involved. Perhaps the importance of competent tech or something or another. The actual social issues would merely be highlights, and he'd probably skip talking about the male experience in tech.

I'd understand if she were talking about tools they were using to get young women and girls interested in the tech field, as I'd expect this sort of thing with someone involved with Boy Scouts - but this doesn't seem to be the case.


I wouldn't expect the male CEO of a social organization to be giving a talk at a tech conference.

I would expect the CTO/CIO to be giving a talk at a tech conference.


Perhaps it is perfectly fine for people to comment on the fact that women whining about this stuff is the worst possible approach to solving it. That the author's desire to be brought in to actually talk about tech is the correct position if you want to make real headway and that her insta-delete policy is brilliant.

One of the problems with being a woman in a tech environment is that there is already too much focus on the fact that you are a woman. Like that is something bizarre. Putting additional focus on it and allowing you to only talk about that and not about your actual professional expertise is all kinds of problematic.


To say nothing of the fact that it doesn't seem coherent to distinguish between "tech issues" and "social issues," this literally only makes sense if you think that the lack of diverse folks in tech isn't a social issue. That's deeply, deeply wrong. Of course it is a social issue.


I didn't say anything contrary to that.


Some people are completely lost on the idea of intent vs the result. If we're not 50/50 on gender balance apparently we're all super racist.


Sexist. ;)

I do wish we made as much of an effort breaking racial and class barriers in this industry.

Unfortunately I have sat in on hiring discussions trying to argue for why we should hire the strongest engineer and my colleagues in the room are trying to come up with reasons not to hire because the candidate was black and/or working-class.


You had colleagues who didn't want to hire someone just because they were "working class"??? Seriously? Were these colleagues a bunch of fedora-wearing hipsters or something?


I would actually argue that classism is far and away the worst problem in this industry.

It just plays out in ways that you don't expect. Hiring mostly grads from top schools is exactly that.

In my circle are a lot of junior and fresh out of school developers and one guy I know who killed it in his interview was ultimately not hired and told it was because he didn't "look like a developer". He dressed in normal business casual attire. Another friend of mine who is a significantly worse developer interviewed (and struggled through his interview) for the same job and ultimately was hired because he fit in with their hoodie-wearing, ping-pong-playing frat-bro, drink every day at 4pm culture.

There's a fine line between "culture fit" and "cultural homogeny". Fortunately I know that hiring a diverse team is the best way to cultivate a strong team.


> hoodie-wearing, ping-pong-playing frat-bro, drink every day at 4pm culture.

A lot of people, including myself, would be glad to be excluded from such a place. I don't wear hoodies, play ping pong, act like a bro, or drink every day, and I especially don't come to work to do those things.

It's nice when an office has beer taps and ping pong tables, but those things don't bring me in to the office every day. Good coworkers and a good environment for working is what makes me want to go into the office.


Add me to that list.

All I want from a workplace is a good computer, somewhere quiet to work (preferably with a door but I don't want to spark that debate, it's tiresome), an efficient manager who ensures a) everyone knows what they should be doing b) communicates a) effectively c) clears obstacles.

I never found it so I started a company (of which I'm one of two employees), it's not without challenges but it largely beats working for other people.


What are these "doors" that you speak of? I've seen them on the entrances to conference rooms and, of course, to get in the office itself, but I can't imagine why anyone would want one for themselves. ;)

Are you hiring? (I'm only somewhat joking there. I'd practically kill for a small office of my own.)


This my office - http://imgur.com/a/H7fxb

I've never measured it but it's around 300sq/ft, anyone I employee in the future (one day..) will get at least that much space, a budget to buy whatever computer gear they want and can have any desk/chair they want (I'll even build them one).

The cost of that stuff to the cost of a developer salary is a rounding error - I understand the stupid reasons companies skimp on that stuff but they are just that stupid.


My office cheated and made the doors glass.

Massive sliding glass things that are cumbersome to open and close and very noisy. They might as well not even be there.

Also the walls are glass, so you can see and hear everything in the adjacent offices.


> A lot of people, including myself, would be glad to be excluded from such a place.

Me too, but then I'm far enough along in my career that I have other options. I mentor a number of younger people, and it's very concerning to me that they might have to work at a place like that. Or, worse, get turned down because they're not the right demographic.


I am 100% with you, but for "startups" this is increasingly normal. My friends needed jobs and the market is rough for juniors right now.


I'm with you on this one. I actively avoid applying to companies that advertise their "culture" as a perk of working there. I want to work in a workplace, not a daycare center for underdeveloped young men. And I certainly don't want to go on company retreats where everyone wears the same T-shirt.


I don't know — ageism?


Yeah, that too.


If sexism in society does not cause a non-50/50 gender balance, what does? It must be innate preferences or abilities. I.e. the explanation is either nurture or it is nature.

Some people are willing to easily chalk up the differences to nature, without much in the way of concrete evidence. Others see dramatic changes in the representation of women in various professions over just a couple of generations,[1] and conclude that society must be driving the change, not genetics.

[1] http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-...


If you play Blizzard's latest title Overwatch you'll probably have complaints about balancing issues. If your post on their forums you'll likely get a response akin to "the statistics show a 49/51 spread, it's balanced!".

Why don't people realize that 50/50 won't actually make them happy? Ever.


It's pointless to argue about whom to blame as it is to defend oneself against accusations of blame. Fix the problem, not the blame. If there is no gender parity, there is a problem. You didn't do it, I didn't do it, but it still needs to be fixed.


>If there is no gender parity, there is a problem.

This seems to be an extraordinary claim made in the complete absence of evidence. Is it a problem that there are more women going into early childhood education or biology, but more men going into petroleum engineering? Why? Why aren't men and women allowed to express their preferences without it being pathologized?


> Why aren't men and women allowed to express their preferences without it being pathologized?

Because those preferences are mostly the result of sexism.

In 1970, there was no law against women being doctors or lawyers in 1970, yet less than 15% of graduates in those professions were women. Many people said the exact same thing you're saying now: oh, these are just natural preferences and aptitudes. Yet today, women make up 50% of graduates in those professions? Did something change in their genetics? Or did those professions just become less sexist?

What the heck explains 50% of accounting graduates being women, but less than 20% of CS graduates? Some weirdly specific gene?


>Because those preferences are mostly the result of sexism

Another extraordinary claim made in the complete absence of evidence.

Are you claiming that men and women don't have different preferences? Are you claiming that Iran, where 70% of engineering students are women, is less sexist than the US?

>Yet today, women make up 50% of graduates in those professions? Did something change in their genetics? Or did those professions just become less sexist?

So medicine, law, education, biology, veterinary science, and chemistry got less sexist, but philosophy, physics, and engineering didn't. That's your claim. That you've made, again, without a shred of evidence.


> So medicine, law, education, biology, veterinary science, and chemistry got less sexist, but philosophy, physics, and engineering didn't. That's your claim. That you've made, again, without a shred of evidence.

Yes that's my claim, and yes there is evidence for it: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-.... From 1970 to 2005, the proportion of women medical and law graduates went from 50-10% to nearly 50%. The proportion of computer science graduates went from 15% to 35% in 1985 but dropped below 20% in the 2000s.

There are only three possible explanations for that data. (1) certain industries got less sexist while computer science lagged behind; (2) society got less sexist about women going into certain industries; or (3) womens' biological preferences changed dramatically over just a few decades.

(3) is ridiculous, so the answer must be (1) or (2), which are both the product of sexism.


(3) is ridiculous because it's an insane strawman that you set up solely to be ridiculous. You've defined any non-biological change in preferences as sexism. And if that's the definition you want to use, then "sexism" sounds like a perfectly normal and acceptable part of society.

You are claiming that physicists are sexist but biologists are not. You are claiming that philosophers are sexist but doctors are not. This is an incredible claim, that requires incredible evidence. It doesn't pass the sniff test.

Conversely, I'm claiming that as women have become more free to pursue whatever career they want, they have self-selected into certain fields that appeal more to them than others do. This is a very common sense claim. It requires no special pleading or special evidence.


> (3) is ridiculous because it's an insane strawman that you set up solely to be ridiculous.

No, (3) is insane because it implies that biologically-driven preferences can change dramatically in just a few decades.

> You've defined any non-biological change in preferences as sexism.

That's (2), not (3). And I'm not sure what else to call socialization that discourages a particular gender from pursuing a high-reward field like computer science. I'd certainly call it sexism for men to be socialized to avoid well-paying jobs in nursing.

> they have self-selected into certain fields that appeal more to them than others do.

Why do they prefer to forgo a field like computer science or engineering? Is it because it's mathematically intensive and detail oriented? In that case, how do you explain half of all accountants being women? Is it because women care less about making lots of money? But plenty of women go into medicine and law. The "women prefer to forgo a popular, well-paying field" theory only makes sense if you don't bother to ask "why?"

And it's hilarious that you keep criticizing me for not offering evidence, when your whole position seems rooted in "women prefer certain fields, because [???]". Seriously, what goes in that box?


>No, (3) is insane because it implies that biologically-driven preferences can change dramatically in just a few decades.

That's the strawman. You've said either everything is sexism, or everything is biology. Then you've used the fact that clearly biological preferences have not changed in a couple decades to suggest it must therefore be sexism.

Somebody who's apparently a lawyer should be able to recognize how terrible that logic is. So you're either being disingenuous, or you haven't thought to examine your reasoning.

>And it's hilarious that you keep criticizing me for not offering evidence, when your whole position seems rooted in "women prefer certain fields, because [???]". Seriously, what goes in that box?

Your box: sexism, and only sexism.

My box: absolutely everything that goes into people having preferences for things.

Seriously, your reasoning here is atrocious. The null hypothesis is not "there is pervasive social discrimination against women that prevents them from entering this field", and yet that's what you leap to for all explanations for everything.


Right. And I'm all for encouraging more people to get interested in this industry, but I don't do it by pointing my figure at all of the people already working in this industry.


It wouldn't be a problem if inequality wasn't influenced strongly by negative factors for women. The tech industry is rife with evidence of hostility toward women; IT Barbie and gendered toy marketing are other examples of how women are not on equal footing with regards to entering this industry.

And there is also the problem of women being paid less to do the same job.

To paint a picture that says the current landscape is "normal" is to overlook a lot of broken things.



Three articles by the same person from the American Enterprise Institute and then some obvious opinion pieces with restricted sampling sizes.

Imo, the smoking gun should include a gun and it should probably be smoking.


I find it's a really convenient indicator that it's time to excuse yourself from a conversation.


There definitely are many problems and things that could be improved, however, the point is that even if all of those problems would be fixed, there would be a gender disparity in choice of occupations.

The GP statement "If there is no gender parity, there is a problem" is strictly false, even in an ideal world managed by fairies where all these problems are totally fixed, we would not observe gender parity - it would for most professions be much closer to 50/50 than nowadays, that's true, but it would not be at 50/50.


  even if all of those problems would be fixed, there would
  be a gender disparity in choice of occupations.
  ...
  it would for most professions be much closer to 50/50 than
  nowadays, that's true, but it would not be at 50/50.
1. I'm pretty sure reasonable people consider something "close enough" (like 46/54) to be gender parity. I understand that you read the statement as being strictly 50/50 but prose != computer program; maybe read what the GP was trying to say when reading.

2. On what basis are you assuming there would be a gender disparity, all other things being equal? (There isn't.) Can all other things be equal? Probably not perfectly, which is why most would consider "close enough" parity to be a win, but we're certainly not close now.


re: 2, and please forgive the slight necroposting.

That men and women might be biologically predisposed to find certain pursuits more attractive than others should not be controversial.

But even if we cast biology aside, and assume (against all evidence) that differences in preferences are due solely to socialization, is that bad? Is it bad that women feel more drawn to caregiving careers and men to analytical ones? Even if, which I do not for a moment believe, these differences in behaviour and preference were due solely to socialization, so what? As long as people are happy and fulfilled, why would that socialization be a wrong that needs righting?


> and gendered toy marketing

Why don't you go into the toy business with androgynous products and let's see how you do ?


>Is it a problem that there are more women going into early childhood education or biology, but more men going into petroleum engineering?

Don't the petroleum engineers make more money than the average biologist?


Which might explain why men, who are far more motivated by money than women are, would seek to enter the field despite it being a much more difficult degree and arguably less rewarding career.


I personally know several successful professional women who have a policy of refusing to belong to any women-only groups. Their reason is that in their experience such groups are populated by people seeking reassurance. The result is that they offer the "support" of lowered expectations. Which won't help you succeed.

One also pointed out to me that if a group of men were to form a men's only business club, that would be seen as sexist. It is no less sexist to form a women's only club, but nobody sees fit to criticize it.

This is not a bias against women in general. They just refuse to deal with people whose identify first as women, and only secondarily as professionals.


There's nothing wrong with seeking reassurance. Not everyone can be naturally confident, and in most cases the lack of it becomes a barrier. Take maths in British schools for example: most kids presume that it's hard, and I've witnessed many times when they just refuse to try and have a go because of this pop delusion (because yeah, it's almost cool to be bad in maths). But I've also taught lower set kids where their learning (and consequently test scores) boosted significantly once they realised that the 'fear' was all in their heads.

But confidence is not like a switch that can be flipped on/off. It might surge, but then it will tail off again. So you need support - not necessarily all the time - that's enough to push you back up in the air. In the classroom, a good mentor will give you that. In an environment that is often perceived by a group of people to be a bit 'scary' - like tech - the occasional empowerment talk will give you that. That's why I don't (well, no longer) see these "women" talks as awkward - on the contrary, they are much needed. You might roll your eyes, but there will be some in the audience feeling just a little less scared about the too-big-for-me ideas in their heads - and so increase the likelihood of executing them.


It's kind of unnerving how many responses in this thread boil down to "well, it doesn't work for me, I never needed emotional assistance, so it's not useful for anyone."


If you are a member of a disadvantaged group, you often do not have the ability to identify as a professional first and a group member second. That is the effect of being disadvantaged. Other people will make your life seem primarily about being a group member. Think about dealing with sexist/sexually-charged comments, racial tension at the office. Even if you want to just be a professional, other people will get in your way (and not always intentionally). Maybe imagine what life would be like for one of those people.


Argue for your limitations, and surely they're yours.

To the extent that you can focus on what is under your personal control, you are likely to be happier and more productive. To the extent that you focus on things that are not under your control and can't be changed, you will be unhappy, unproductive, and will have a built-in excuse for your failures. This is not an either-or choice, it is a spectrum. And the farther you manage to go towards taking responsibility for your life, generally the better you will do.

This does not diminish the real challenges that various historically disadvantaged groups have. It is what I believe the best advice is for them based on everything that I have learned..including from people I respect who are members of various disadvantaged groups.


Nah man, of course it diminishes their challenges. You literally start your post by diminishing their challenges; you do this in response to a post that makes the highly uncontroversial point that minorities are perceived differently in the workplace.

The interesting thing is that your line of advice really just needs a single, model minority person to prove it right. "Look! She didn't accede to the haters! Please ignore all the other people like her who gave up along the way! She obviously focused on what was under her personal control, and that's all that mattered."

But it isn't all that matters. If that were true, diversity in tech would not be an issue. Instead, only the most resilient people, those most willing to overlook the ongoing and systemic discrimination, make it.


You appear to be arguing against your impression of what I said, instead of what I actually said. What I gave was practical advice for how to have the best life possible given the circumstances. I said nothing about how easy it is to do it, or the circumstances.

Furthermore the REASON why I pointed out that it is a spectrum is that it isn't all or nothing. If you're truly stuck feeling like a victim a lot of the time and can't change it, you're still better off than you would be otherwise. Better off does not mean well off - discrimination is real. It just means better.


I sortof agree with your "toughen up!" stance; as a member of a minority group this is actually practical - but only when I've developed sufficiently thick skin. I've worked in organisations where I was blatantly ignored/sidelined (I'll spare the details of how I came to conclude that it was due to discrimination rather than other factors) and that was pretty demoralising. I share your opinion, but count my blessing that I am able to carry it out.


Fellow minority and I agree with a toughen up stance as well, as I think we do have to toughen up to actually get ahead.

But that isn't a reason to deny people help, deny people the chance to say "hey, look I'm feeling really alone right now". I wouldn't be as "tough" as I am now if it weren't for a few people who gave me a hand when I truly needed it. I wouldn't be where I am without reading a ton of blogposts by other marginalized people who feel the same way as I did.

There are, no doubt, people who like to wallow in their insecurities, but they aren't any worse than the people who say the marginalized should just suck it up and work harder, or that people who feel marginalized should shut up.


Exactly.

The phrase, "To the extent that you can..." was meant to convey the fact that the perfect ideal is not feasible. I also tried to make it clear that the attempt is worthwhile because even if your best is only an occasional success, you'll still wind up better off than you would otherwise.

On the question of toxic organizations, I'd like to point out that recognizing that the organization is toxic and choosing to be elsewhere was under your control. I commend you for making that choice. There will always be toxic people and toxic organizations. Some, like the police, we have little choice about dealing with. But there is no need to put up with ones that we can avoid. And by avoiding them, we make our lives better.


I'd argue that there are other reasons for seeking a group of one's similarly disadvantaged peers than 'focusing on things that are not under your control'. Simply being in the presence of individuals with similar experiences offers solidarity, which is not equivalent to focusing on the negatives of those experiences. Nor would I agree that 'seeking reassurances' (quote from grandparent) necessarily leads to lowered expectations.


There are plenty of reasons why one might choose to investigate such groups. And would hope that such groups might have positive things to offer.

However experience suggests that you are likely to wind up around people who are quick to explain all failures as discrimination. Because they do this for themselves, they are unlikely to be successful. If you adopt this attitude, your odds of success are also hurt.


While I understand where you come from, this is the kind of advice I would give a friend or family if they came to me and said “hey, I am having a hard time in the industry and I think it’s because I am a minority”. Do your best, try to grow a thick skin, etc.

However, I believe you can’t possibly extend that (positive and helpful) feeling to an outside “political” statement. If our aim is to make the industry welcoming and accepting to everyone, I believe we should do more than what you describe and try to figure out a way to make it right.

It might not help minorities in tech right now, but it will eventually.


Yes you can.

If you have a minority that has every disadvantage but believes that they CAN succeed by their own effort, that minority will succeed and it will reduce bigotry against them. Indeed the history of the USA supports this - we have had wave after wave of disadvantaged immigrants. They have nothing, have trouble with the language, and are widely discriminated against. But a generation or two later you have seen Italians, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian Jews, Afghans, and many other minorities integrate into the mainstream and do well.

But get a victim culture established in a minority, and things won't improve for them. They are unlikely to actually face more discrimination than, say, Cambodians did when they arrived here penniless and not speaking the language about 40 years ago. But they will have a worse future.

Look at it a different way. If you're from a disadvantaged minority, you've likely got a strike against you for having a bad background, and another for current discrimination. Add a victim mentality, and you're out. It doesn't matter how good the evidence is that you're an actual victim, it is the mentality that you can't afford.


> things that are not under your control and can't be changed

Maybe those things can't be changed in the short run, but maybe speaking up about them helps move society in the direction of changing them in the long run.


> If you are a member of a disadvantaged group

Short, fat, scrawny, aging, young, poor, immigrant, religious, atheist, nose-picker.

Maybe identifying as a card carrying member of a "disadvantaged" group isn't the healthiest outlook to have.


>Maybe identifying as a card carrying member of a "disadvantaged" group isn't the healthiest outlook to have.

Maybe some people don't walk around looking for every opportunity to trumpet their social group like an American Express card and just have certain realities that they deal with that individuals who aren't say a minority, a woman or physically disabled aren't privy to and sometimes have baggage thrust upon them just by virtue of their position.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12090093

This comment comes to mind and I think illustrates an example of what I mean by this.


The comment you pointed to seems very reasonable to me, I am assuming from the rest of your comment that you don't think it is.

We all have such realities, and typically few if any other people realise what's going on. Just be kind. To everyone (note to self: be better at this).

It's not specific to any particular group (though: apparently short men have it quite a bit worse than other "protected" groups: http://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/height_discrimi... )


I'm by no means asserting it isn't reasonable, In fact I'm using it to bolster my point in suggesting an opposite side to the same coin of "card carrying member of x" in a manner that demands attention to perhaps what informs and enforces the perception of "identifying as a card carrying member of %group%" with a dash more nuance than what exists on the surface.

For some people, their identity and association as a member of %group% is something they outwardly display to be observed and consumed by others, and they have their reasons for it. For others, it's something they keep to themselves and prefer to carry on and be judged on the merits of their contributions to work and family, and they have their reasons for that. These things don't invalidate one another.

For others still, their association with %group% isn't something they choose, and is prominent and obvious by merely walking into a room and for good or ill, a person often finds themselves navigating all sorts of assumptions, guesses and biases about that association whether or not they can control it. That was the thrust of my comment.


Not exactly sure the point you're making, but I really enjoy Paul Grahams essay on the topic of identity.

http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html

> Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.


>Not exactly sure the point you're making

Some women choose to openly identify as (for example) feminist and embrace all of the connotations and reactions that come with that.

Some women choose to identify as feminist more privately and live their life being fair with others and only discussing their group association among certain circles they feel allow them to do so free from worry of being ostracized or criticized for that group association.

Some women choose not to identify as feminist at all, want nothing to do with the modern brand of 'feminism', but might still have to put up with some of the externalities of being a woman in certain spaces that sometime get associated (sometimes unfairly) with, or are critiqued by modern feminism.

This is an example. This is my point.

The comment I referenced above perfectly illustrates an example: just because I am a member of the black community doesn't automatically mean I desire to constantly be the spokesperson for position n that impacts the black community. Some individuals choose to be in that role, other's don't; however that there are those who don't want that burden shouldn't be taken as an indicator to mean they're immune from the biases and assumptions that come from onlookers who see me as an opinionated and (I'm trying to hold back from typing this word because of the baggage inherent to it in this context) articulate black man and ask me "Well what do you think about Black Lives Matter?"

Does that clear it up at all?


> just because I am a member of the black community

> doesn't automatically mean I desire to constantly

> be the spokesperson for position n that impacts

> the black community.

Sure. But again, everyone has something like that. I am German. When I lived in the US, do you know how many times I had to give my opinion on Hitler? Or dissuade people from the notion that because I am German I must obviously be a fan? When discussing things with British people, you know how many times they dig up "2 wars"?

As a man, I have to put up with the fact that women who know nothing whatsoever about me will see me as a danger, even though in fact they are almost certainly more of a danger to me than I am to them.

That's life.


>That's life.

And that's my point. We agree more than you think we do, we're just using different ways of arriving at the exact same nexus. It's life, it doesn't however mean I have any obligation to indulge those curiosities, and I for my part, have no desire to. There's no more wrong with me understanding and acknowledging the position some people are in and their willingness to engage than there is with my own position and my tendency to go "No thanks" when asked to give some explanation on the black experience.

It's life. Absolutely. I don't have anything to say to the contrary.


You don't get to choose all of those labels.


Ah, I get it, you're not talking about the comment itself, you're talking about the behavior the comment is addressing.


Yup, you nailed it!


Agreed, identity politics and self segregation are unhealthy and unhelpful, both inside tech and in the larger context.


People look at my boobs and identify me as a woman -- I don't really have to do anything but exist. It's not really about my outlook.


And imagine how much harder it must be to advocate that you're a professional first and a group member second when you're the Vice President of "Women Coders of San Diego" or whatever other group advocacy organization would be relevant.


>If you are a member of a disadvantaged group >Maybe imagine what life would be like for one of those people

Who here isn't a member of some disadvantaged group? Being "white" and "male" doesn't mean you're home free. So I don't need to "imagine" being one of "those people"; I am one.


    > If you are a member of a disadvantaged group, you often do
    > not have the ability to identify as a professional first and 
    > a group member second. That is the effect of being disadvantaged. 
    > Other people will make your life seem primarily about being a group 
    > member.
The only power other people have over you is the ability to alter your thoughts. Thoughts, however, can be ignored. Some thoughts are just harder to ignore than others, but practice makes perfect. So while it is possible for other people to instill a thought in your mind of who you supposedly are, when you are aware of this thought, you have the choice of whether or not you want to believe it. Caveat: the pleasant feelings associated with identifying with a positive thought also disappear.


Other people have power to not hire you, fire you, not offer you opportunities to advance, not invite you to the "old boys club" to network etc. Add to that your caveat, and good luck with that.


Every human being has the ability to not hire someone else, thankfully. How difficult life would be if we had to hire everyone we met.

With regards to having the right to fire people you've previously hired, I think that's justified. In places like Italy, where they make it hard to fire someone once hired, youth unemployment is abnormally high, because it's quite natural to shy away from entering into a contract you can't get out of.


This doesn't account for the fundamental attribution error.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error


The "fundamental attribution error" is a symptom of the very issue it itself is trying to solve: too much thinking. Thinking about why we think too much won't get us closer to a solution.

The fundamental problem is believing every thought that pops into your mind. We do that when we're not conscious of thought. Whether a compulsive thought concerns "internal characteristics of a person" or "external factors of a situation" is not relevant.


No. The FAE essentially says that choice is stronger than luck. You can't choose your way to becoming the King or Queen of England and you can't choose your way out of being a black person in the US (e.g.'s all). Every point in your comment depended on choice, without considering that intractable circumstances that everybody lives within, for good or bad.


If you can't stop thinking about the intractable circumstances of your life, the problem is with your inability to stop thinking, not with the supposedly intractable circumstances of your life.

Life is inherently intractable. If you can't stop thinking about this fact, you indeed do have a problem.


Does it still count as mansplaining when the subject is why all women should agree with, and behave like, people who use the word "mansplaining"?


> It is no less sexist to form a women's only club, but nobody sees fit to criticize it.

It is not -ist if a disadvantaged group does something to counteract its disadvantage without considering the privileged group. If women are disadvantaged, it is reasonable to do something to fix their disadvantage without having to interject "but what about men!?"

So, for example, Ubuntu/Debian/Arch Women groups are not sexist and we don't need an Ubuntu/Debian/Arch Men group because... well, because that's just what normal Ubuntu/Debian/Arch is, mostly men.

The situation for men and women in tech is not symmetrical, so the approaches to handle the problems need not be symmetrical either.


The Black Panther Party are often regarded as a -ist group, and their goal was to counteract an disadvantage in society. The methods used however had a lot to be criticized, and I would hope that society could learn by such movement and see what approaches work and which didn't. Segregation in the name of diversity has historically a bad reputation, so I would consider criticism regarding "women only" groups to carry enough history to be worth addressing.


>If women are disadvantaged

Except they're not. In fact, in tech, they're advantaged. Female names on resumes get more callback than male names. This has been studied.

The reason there are fewer of them is because fewer of them are interested.


I'd like a source for that, since my understanding was the opposite.[1]

Quoting from the abstract:

"In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. ... Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent."

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.abstract


I would argue that it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was great and necessary when women really were disadvantaged. But now that they are generally "equal", it's detrimental to them. I.e. It's entirely plausible that society is self-correcting against the unfairly-claimed bias by...being biased. One can "factually" be certain that men are not "favoured", therefore they can treat men exactly as they see it. They take their degrees, their experience, their work at face-value. However, they can not honestly do so with women because they know that there is a claimed bias against them. Therefore all work, degrees, experience, etc, of women is suspect as there is no way to know which items were "embellished" to promote the "equality" of women.


I dunno. I work for a pretty liberal company, that definitely tries to avoid -isms and what not. I've also seen the same ideas from men vs women given far more credibility when presented by a male speaker. I find it somewhat disturbing. That allied with a lot of the scientific evidence of bias (look at the IAT studies, all 12mn of them) leads me to believe that this is still a problem.


I have also seen the same ideas from some men given far more credibility when presented by other men. In fact, it happens all the time. I have seen men ignored even when presenting solid evidence, because a higher-up had made up their mind. This happens. All. The. Time.

I find the IAT somewhat ridiculous. For example, it asked whether I associate black with "sports". Well, I do, but there is nothing "implicit" or "biased" about it. It is my lived experience as a high-school sprinter.

In addition, stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable effects in all of social psychology. It's not "wrong". What would be wrong is not adjusting for the individual once you get to know them, but AFAIK that same research also shows that most people drop the stereotypes quickly once they actually get to know an individual.

And yes, there are people who don't. In other news, stupid people exist and earth still round.


  But now that they are generally "equal", it's detrimental 
  to them. I.e. It's entirely plausible that society is self-
  correcting against the unfairly-claimed bias by...being 
  biased
To say women and men are generally "equal" right now is failing to recognize ways they continue to struggle and the pervasive ways sexism continues to affect women. There's a lot of unconscious bias in society + strong evidence of it. And I'd find it dubious to claim tech is some exception.

I think "overcorrection" is a valid concern (if people begin devaluing women's opinions thinking they're diversity hires or somehow hired at a lower bar), but I for one haven't observed us being there yet. There's still this yawning divide between being a man vs a woman in both society and in the smaller sphere of tech. There are many things we take for granted as men: e.g people don't assume I, a man, work in marketing despite sitting with other engineers -- these sorts of things negatively affect women who are otherwise fully / more than qualified to do their jobs.

Anecdotally, a number of women in my life who worked in tech have since left the industry citing aggressions of varying levels. This is concerning :(


Over correction does already happen (not sure if you meant you haven't yet observed over correction, or the negative fallout of it). See for example Glowforge's approach: https://glowforge.com/blog/at-glowforge-we-pay-for-diversity...

While I absolutely wish that any person felt welcome in tech regardless of race, gender or other choices like orientation, I'm not convinced this is a good approach. It's an explicit statement that they are desperate for diversity, and as a result it calls in to question the justification for those hires. How much did the candidates diversity factor in vs. their competence?

They claim that non-minorities won't be disadvantaged by them and I believe they are being honest here, but it still sends a very mixed message.


So over the four years since the study quoted was received for consideration for publication, we've totally overcorrected?


I would like to see the studies you're referencing. However, taking what you're saying as truth (a thing I am reluctant to do), I still find it a big leap to claim that the reason that there are fewer women in tech is that fewer women are interested in tech, and I would still be inclined to believe that women in tech are at a disadvantage. Proving lack of interest seems difficult, at best - for instance, is it that women are inherently just not interested, or is it that women are left to feel like being interested is not "womanly" or that they should feel ashamed for being interested? There's a lot of confounding factors, and many of them reveal potential disenfranchisement of women before they even enter the tech world.

Here's why I believe that women are disadvantaged in tech: Women in tech are part of an out-group, just by being in the minority. This necessarily puts them at a disadvantage. We know that women make less than men in most environments. Acquiring a job more easily is one thing - sure, if I assume you're telling the truth, women get more callbacks. But consider the prospects after initial employment. It is not as simple as "women are more employable in the tech industry" - it needs to also be the case that women are making equal pay, given equal opportunity to advance their careers, and are expected to do equal work.

I guess what I mean to say is that it feels like you're doing exactly what we should not do with complex social issues: oversimplifying.


> Women in tech are part of an out-group, just by being in the minority.

A key insight I also saw in a study about gender equality in the teaching profession (done by the Swedish institute for higher education). If you are a male student entering a profession with 80% women, you are naturally going to doubt and question that decision. If you pass that first wave of doubt, you get hit by a second wave as soon the first road bump hits (like a failed exam). Male students (studying to be a teacher) are much more likely to ask: "Should I be doing this?" compared to female students in the same class. Then third wave hits when the person is entering the working profession and has to work in a culture that has integrated gender identity.

The big question should be how we can fix this problem in a general way. Based on Swedish statistics, only about 10% of women and men work in a profession with equal gender distribution, and about similar number for people who work in a profession with a dominated gender of opposite gender. About 80% of the work force, both women and men, work in a profession where their gender is the dominating gender. The trend from the last 30 years has been steadily in the wrong direction, with more gender separation in the work force.


> The trend from the last 30 years has been steadily in the wrong direction, with more gender separation in the work force

Interestingly this has been a trend most strongly observed in the most free, socially egalitarian and rich countries. In other words when men are women are most free to pick a career path they naturally self segregate. In countries that are less free and have more pressure to pick economically efficient career paths (i.e. social/financial risk of career failure is severe) there is a more even spread of genders. So I'm not sure that increased gender separation can be easily characterised as the "wrong" direction...


I am inclined to agree that it's not necessarily "wrong" - but mainly because I don't believe it to be a black and white issue. Self-segregation is beneficial to the individual - they feel like part of the group, and that reduces stress. But it certainly feels like there may be societal factors that force people to make that choice, and those may be negative. Likewise, diversity seems to me like something to be sought out. If I am only surrounded by people who are very much like me, I tend to only see problems from one perspective, or have my own personal biases reinforced.

As with most things, it is not as simple as "this is wrong." There's a lot to consider, and to me, it isn't the self-segregation that we should fight, but rather, it might be the case that we should fight the root cause of the desire to self-segregate.


I think the statement that on average women are less likely to be interested in tech careers is likely reasonable. For example, take veterinary science ... this is a rigorous and demanding area of study previously dominated by men, but now dominated by women. You can Google about this yourself, but here's an article I just found [1].

So why has this happened in the veterinary sciences, but not tech? One answer could be that somehow male computer scientists turn out to be horribly sexist compared to male vets. A more plausible explanation could be that with meaningful swathes of societal gender discrimination against women removed they are perfectly capable of moving into and dominating a technical field when that chimes with some aspect of female nature. In the case of veterinary science that synergy would come from the female predilection towards caring and nurturing. I'm not saying every woman cares about things like that, but on average more do than men. The male predilection towards abstract and systematic thinking could in my opinion go a long way to explain their over-representation in the tech industry. I think those are uncontroversial statements, although sadly after 30 years of sub-standard echo chamber research in the social sciences that may not be a popularly held opinion.

The benefit of this way of looking at things is that it doesn't paint women as somehow deficient and needing of special treatment. Rather than bombarding them with negative messaging it recognises that women are perfectly capable of reaching out and taking what they want from society. A more empowering feminist message, no? And indeed neither does it paint an entire industry as systematically sexist - which sounds to me like the sort of oversimplification you take objection to? But there's big social media capital and real world rewards propagating sexism in tech memes.

> We know that women make less than men in most environments ...

> ... it needs to also be the case that women are making equal pay

I'm not sure it's fair to start these sorts of statements with "We know that..." - the most charitable depiction would be to characterise such statements as debatable. In the UK women under 30 now earn more than similarly aged men, in other words they have reversed the pay gap for that age group [2]. Again this suggests to me that until biological imperatives take hold women are more than capable of competing with men in the workplace. What happens post 30 is down to life choices. As a whole women are more likely to value family life and make life choices based on that, whereas men are more likely to devote their energies to their careers. It's not a zero sum game, there are sacrifices on both sides there. And again, that doesn't hold true for every woman and every man, but to claim entrenched massive systematic discrimination seems to me at best tenuous.

[1] https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/100215g.aspx

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/aug/29/women-in-20s-e...


> perfectly capable of moving into and dominating a technical field when that chimes with some aspect of female nature.

It doesn't have to be female nature. It could just as easily be culturally encouraged nature, or a combination of the two (a culturally encouraged aspect that was originally developed from human nature, in a self reinforcing loop).

> The male predilection towards abstract and systematic thinking could in my opinion go a long way to explain their over-representation in the tech industry. I think those are uncontroversial statements...

They should be uncontroversial. It's obvious there are actual differences between male and female minds, and plenty of studies have shown physiological differences. Unfortunately, bringing science of this nature into a discussion about equality is often immediately vilified. On the other hand, this information can be used for the basis of some fairly horrendous reasoning, so it's easy to see why people are quick to discount it.


Care to expand on what you think that horrendous reasoning could be?


For example:

Since all people aren't created equal, we shouldn't strive for equality, since some people are clearly better than others, so let's embrace that.

Since we aren't all physically or mentally equal, and some people are clearly "better" with respect to some aspect X that we/I/some group I'm part of has classified as important, those people are more worthy than others.

Etc.

There are arguments that can be logically made for a society based on those, but not if you want a society like we enjoy and promote in western civilization (not no imply a specific difference in other cultures, I'm just not qualified to comment on them). I think the world is a better place in many, many ways because we've promoted values of inclusion, equality, happiness and life. I'm happy to discuss alternate societies with different values and how what that might be like as a thought experiment (some of the best science fiction is in thus vein), but I'm not really interested in that when discussing problems our society currently faces. We should be able to agree on those core values I mentioned earlier, and taking time in each discussion to reassert and prove that those are important to everyone involved just detracts from useful conversation.

In other words, it's entirely possible that in some instances negative steroetyping based on race, sex, nationality or any number of other attributes is actually somewhat accurate, but we've decided as culture that the downsides are fairly bad, so for the most part we shouldn't do that. I agree with this.


The point when you transition from "X and Y are different" to "X is better than Y".

It commonly takes the even more pernicious form of going from "X and Y are different on average" to "any given X is better than any given Y". If you're lucky, this last statement at least has a "until proved otherwise" caveat.

Unfortunately, history is rife with this sort of reasoning. People slip into it _really_ easily. It doesn't help that there is a natural tendency to perceive your in-group as better than out-groups, so to the extent that X above ends up feeling like someone's in-group and Y ends up feeling like an out-group, the "X is better than Y" conclusion is very hard to avoid.


>In the case of veterinary science that synergy would come from the female predilection towards caring and nurturing. I'm not saying every woman cares about things like that, but on average more do than men.

I think that's BS. From what I've seen throughout my life, women are much more likely to be cold, uncaring parents than men. Notice how you always hear horror stories about mothers-in-law, but you almost never hear anything bad about fathers-in-law. I think we as a society have somehow gotten the idea that women are nurturing and caring, because we want them to be, but it's entirely wrong for the most part.


Except women frequently are a majority, not a minority. In the US, 60% of college students now are female. They just don't go into technical professions.

From what I've gathered from being around different women and talking to them, I think all this talk about being "disadvantaged" is missing the real root causes. They actually are disadvantaged, but the problem isn't the workforce, fellow college students, etc., nearly as much as it is their own upbringing, and their very own parents.

If you really want to fix the problem with women in tech, you need to take all female children away from their parents and raise them in state-run facilities where they're taught that they actually can do math and play with toys that aren't dolls and pursue careers in these fields. Somehow, I doubt this suggestion will be seriously considered....

In short, our very own culture is to blame here. That's not something that's easy to change, because now you're advocating having the state usurp the power of the parents to parent their children.


> If you really want to fix the problem with women in tech, you need to take all female children away from their parents and raise them in state-run facilities where they're taught that they actually can do math and play with toys that aren't dolls and pursue careers in these fields. Somehow, I doubt this suggestion will be seriously considered....

Been tried throughout history. It almost never works and is as horrific as it sounds humanitarian wise.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_sc...


Yeah, I hope it was obvious that I wasn't seriously advocating that. I'm just pointing out how this stuff is embedded into our society, and it's hard to root out without taking extreme measures (which will likely have even worse unintended effects).

Also, it doesn't help that most of our kids seem to be raised by people who are either uneducated and poor (and thus don't pass on to girls the idea that they can get an education too and be good at math), or by people who are conservative and/or religious (and who actively discourage girls from doing well in math and science because of their traditional sexist values). The people who do have liberal values about this stuff aren't having kids (or not very many), so we just have this almost religious belief that our liberal values will somehow pass to these kids through societal conditioning (which they do to a certain extent thanks to the media and internet).


I've seen more people than I thought possible advocating against democracy, for coups, for segregation, and other crazy things I thought humanity had moved passed. I no longer know what's serious and what isn't anymore.


While I agree with the premise that our culture is (at least partially) to blame, I want to clarify something about my post. When I use the word minority, I do not mean "there are fewer women. Rather, I mean it in the way that the census bureau would mean it: women are underrepresented in our society. There are fewer women in politics, and positions of power, than there are men. Women may outnumber us, but if they are not in positions of influence, where their needs and concerns are being represented, they still qualify as a minority. Minority is not exactly the best word to use, because it conjures that image of a small group standing up to a big group, but it is the common parlance term for the idea of a group that is underrepresented in our society, unfortunately.


Fewer women are interested because they don't want to work, go to school, and socialize in sexist environments. While I'm sure that not all "tech environments" are sexist, enough of them are to convince women not to pursue careers in this field.

That's a disadvantage, especially because tech careers are luxury careers these days.


I spent a lot of my teenage years hunched over a Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide. The "environment" was me and a computer that didn't care about my sex. Certainly nobody encouraged me, least of all my friends and family. Where were the teenage girls who shared my obsession? For that matter, where are the women who hack for fun and ignore the shit the industry is up to?


A notable conversation with my mother: Why don't you call your female friends more? maybe sit & talk on the phone with them like you're supposed to? we're a little worried that you're a girl who just wants to read and play with computers.

This concern didn't last too long & I got plenty of eventual encouragement on the STEM side, but my mom was worried I was abnormal and would never have a happy, successful female life because I was playing with computers instead of people. Women are supposed to socialize and be caring and nurturing.

So where were the girls like you? Hiding from their parents.


> Where were the teenage girls who shared my obsession?

We were around. I spent my teenage years hunched over computers in my garage too (TRS-80 and IBM XT for me). As it happens, I didn't get into the BBS scene -- my parents wouldn't have looked kindly on tying up the phone -- and knowing how girls get treated in chatrooms, it's a good thing for my career that I didn't.


I want you to help me understand something.

Why do you feel the need to rationalize away the fact that getting involved in tech is something that was easier for you because you're a dude? It seems like there's this sense in which people like you believe that by admitting to being privileged will somehow diminish your accomplishments. I've got news for ya: it won't. You seem to feel as though there's a zero sum game, where raising the accessibility of what we've achieved to people who aren't like us will somehow harm you. Again, it won't. Where does this fear come from? Why not love?

I too spent a lot of time learning to code alone with my Macintosh Classic. However, nobody ever told me this was something boys didn't do. I had a bunch of (male) nerd friends who thought it was pretty cool. Rather importantly I didn't have a bunch of ugly, creepy girls slobbering over "that cuyuute nerd boy". When I took a (worthless) programming class in high school, everyone in the room was the same gender as me. When I took CS classes in college, almost everyone in the room was the same gender as me. It was a perfectly normal thing for a dude like me to be into. In the workplace, nobody remarks on my gender. I'm not a "diversity hire". I don't have anything to prove.

But my reaction to realizing this is that I fucking love my career, I love hacking, and I want to share what I love with everyone, to make it as easily available as it was to me. Why would anyone not want this?


In part I'm pointing out a problem with the frequent claim "girls are equally interested until school and work deters them", because they had years beforehand to exhibit the obsession.

In part I don't think we should encourage anyone to write software because it's damn near impossible to do well. The industry's salaries are already luring in entirely too many sloppy blub programmers who don't care about or even understand quality work. I would much prefer to only work with the minority who have always known this is what they have to do and could never have been deterred. Even if the industry were completely inhospitable for some reason, I would still be writing code as a hobby, and I see very little use for anyone who does not.


My issue with this is simply: what kind of profession is this if you have to decide you want to "join up" as a teenager or you're shut out for the rest of your adult life? I was pretty obsessed in my youth, and I didn't have nearly the toolset available to kids today, but we need to move past this teenage hacker stereotype if we want to attract more attention from serious, well-balanced adults on career day.


It's the kind that's nearly impossible to do well, even for the right kind of freak. Software engineering needs a hell of a lot of systematizing and simplification before it's well enough understood that well-balanced adults can begin to accomplish something useful after simply studying it. We're still in the bloodletting-and-leeches phase of the profession.


> Fewer women are interested because they don't want to work, go to school, and socialize in sexist environments

This is preposterous. The field of law was exclusively male not long ago, and is around parity now. Same with medicine. You think the first women in law school and med school were welcomed and supported? Do you think female doctors and lawyers a generation ago encountered less sexism than women in tech today?


The field of technology is undergoing exactly the same growing pains that law and medicine did some time ago.

I think in the next decade or two I think we will see women achieving the same kind of representation in tech that they have in law and medicine. And as this process takes place, haters will hate, pretend there isn't a problem, and spew various kinds of sexist nonsense, just like they did when women were entering the fields of law and medicine. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be doing the actual work to make it happen.

* edit: made it nicer.


> Keep whining though. Maybe you'll be able to prevent the spread of the dreaded females into yet another bastion of male dominance.

I didn't say there was no problem; I said you were wrong about its cause. From that you conclude that I'm a sexist who is actively trying to keep women out of tech?

Jesus man, I know this is a contentious issue, but get a hold on yourself. I've hired and promoted female software engineers. When I left my last job, I spent nine months grooming a woman on my team to take over my job (not because she was a woman, or even because she was clearly the most qualified, but because she was the one who expressed interest in it and busted ass to learn it and took classes to improve in areas she was weak in.) I may be a sexist or I may not be, but you're not in a position to judge based on a comment in a forum you didn't like. Maybe take a breath and remember that there are real people behind these handles, eh?


Nah you're right. I posted in anger, then edited it. Seems like I need to get a sleep(3) in there somewhere.


> The reason there are fewer of them is because fewer of them are interested.

Which is at least somewhat due to societal pressures though.


Could it not also be said that societal pressures push men towards tech and other high stress/paying work?


If you look at any list of "most dangerous jobs", it's invariably a list of male-dominated professions.

Are men going into these roles because they all have a death wish, or is it maybe some sort of cultural push to be "manly" and a "provider"?


At my daughter's high-school, there was a lot of societal pressure for girls to be interested in tech/science. Most of them remained uninterested in math/computers, though quite a few went into life-sciences.


> would be seen as sexist.

"would be seen" talks about everyone, and I obviously can't speak for everyone. I'll try to anyway:

A men-only club would be judged differently since men are perceived to be the privileged class -- a concern would be that in this club, unfairly obtained advantages are carried on. A women-only club is much less of an issue, because women are perceived to be disadvantaged as-is. Having them organise in a secret circle won't cause any damage.

Beware: I'm not commenting on how sound this reasoning is, or defending or denying anyone's right to meet non-publicly.


You have indeed captured the standard reasoning. But when a group of people forms an exclusive club, the result is inevitably politics. And politics of a kind that is bad for everyone. It is bad when people in power do it. But it is also bad when people who are disenfranchised do it.

The specific comment in question came about as follows. It was triggered by her recommending a book club to me, then having the organizer ask me not to come "because it would change the dynamic too much to have a man there." This lead to the woman who recommended it to me dropping out of said club because it became something which she did not wish to be associated with.


>Having them organise in a secret circle won't cause any damage.

Are you stating a fact or is this part of the thoughts of society in general?


Part of thoughts of society (as I perceive them). I, personally, have no clear opinion.


I guess this is a pretty good policy in life with everything - gender, nationality, color, race, age etc (there are exceptions of course).


That's an excellent policy. I hope more women follow in the example of your friends. I'm tired of hypocritical and self-serving redefinitions of words like "oppression" that allow certain groups to engage in otherwise-unacceptable behaviors just because of their group identity.

We need to emphasize our common identity as technologists, not atomize ourselves into mutually acrimonious groups based on personal characteristics having nothing to do with technology.


Digression: That's an old tired dead horse. When the minority organizes, somebody always calls 'double standard'. "They're racist/sexist too!"

Forgetting these folks don't have the institutional power to harm others. Forgetting that the rest of the world is a de-facto mens/white/whatever club already. Lets just retreat to the ivory tower.


Forgetting these folks don't have the institutional power to harm others.

Really? I'd say an accusation from those groups can ruin a career.


I've been reading some depressing articles recently about top scientists who have been accused repeatedly, and who kept their careers for decades.

http://mashable.com/2016/01/12/astronomy-professor-sexual-ha...

So maybe one day a single false accusation will be able to ruin a career, but it seems at the moment, multiple factual accusations won't.

Meanwhile, these men do threaten to, and follow through on threats to, ruin the careers of the women unlucky enough to find themselves trapped in professional settings with these sociopaths.


Remember ShirtGate? I don't think it ended this guy's career, but it was a close call.

"What should have been the best week of Matt Taylor's (Rosetta project scientist) professional life ended with him weeping on TV as he apologized for his alleged crime."

More at:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-rosetta-...


Like Christian Ott of my alma mater? Seems to be doing fine!


Yeah, maybe. But consider their very limited career options, maybe they have little to lose by trying to call attention to the biases they constantly live with. A man's career is ruined! Cry for him - because now he's living like a woman? There's some hypocrisy there.


Are you seriously claiming that random innocent men deserve to be ruined because of their gender? Are you really claiming that this state of ruin is "living like a woman"? I like to think that women can amount to something.

When you're approving of driving innocent people out of work because of their chromosomal makeup, maybe you need to step back and reconsider your principles.


whose career ? Name one.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5419071

I don't have more time to figure out the guy's name but his HN username is mr-hank: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681


Richards got fired and got loads of death threats and racist messages, because of a single tweet. The guy got off easier with just being fired.


I didn't know that this was a competition.

Also someone else getting worse makes this okay? Two wrongs make it right?


The dudebros also got new jobs. Richards did not.



was reinstated, is a professor of immunology at the same university.


Do you have a source for that? All I can find (from Wikipedia) is that he was forced to resign from three positions he held, and that he was reappointed to one.

There's another article from a news source I don't particularly trust saying he was offered a new position in Japan.

Either way, even if he's doing fine now it was months of upheaval and a dedicated witch-hunt over comments that were taken completely out of context.



Still has a job, just not the same job. Same can't be said for Adria.



Dude continuously harasses a woman well after being told to stop, then having his account suspended. That's not "I said the wrong thing", that's criminal harassment.


Scott Aaronson had some pretty tough times for doing absolutely nothing.


Then he got a promotion, and now leads an institute at UT


If you have to ask this question, I'd say you're either not paying attention or being willfully ignorant of the tightrope-walking act men have to perform these days to not get lynched by internet mobs.


That's not institutional power. It takes advantage of public opinion, rather than institutions like the government or powerful corporations.

The accusation could be just as harmful coming from an individual, in most cases. It depends on the type of accusation, though.


Punching up vs. punching down.

I'm still reflecting how I feel about this, though my inclination is to be forgiving to disempowered minorities -- or majorities.

It's not as if the empowered majority (or minorities) haven't, and don't, make use of similar organisations and tactics. There's something about balancing power which matters.

That said, I'm also somewhat leery of, say, exclusively gender-divided organisations. Contra: the National Organization for Women, which admits both women and men.


> It is no less sexist to form a women's only club, but nobody sees fit to criticize it.

I advise women who need advice for the specific gender obstacles they must defeat. (Obviously this is a perverse situation and the first order of business is to find women they can speak with. But its not easy to find trailblazing women.) If you face an obstacle, it's irrational to ignore it. You learn, plan and defeat it.

Wanna see a men's only club? We have some at my workplace — management, dev teams, etc. Same with other companies I work with.

Sexism is about a power dynamic: men dominating women. Male supremacy. Since men benefit and perpetuate it more than women, women's only clubs are simple self-defense against a system loaded against them. (In favor of mediocre men.)

BTW, men often reward women who act like "one of the guys" and snipe at other women. Makes men feel better about their prejudices; gives them an example to point to of how proper women should act.


I went to a recent tech conference and a few things came back when I read this article. In particular that the conf had a lot more female talkers than male ones (It was curated and invitation based).

Most talks were good but a handful were nuggets where clearly the deciding factor why that person got the talk was because she was a woman and not her expertise in the area.

Your typical dose of women who code talks were im there too but one that stood our from the rest was a woman who thought she kept having to tell people things like "use your slackbot to tell people to stop using 'guys' and 'team' instead." or "women need remote work so they can cry silently when their male colleagues steal their ideas".

I am not denying that there are gender issues in tech (though in my career path I have yet to encounter them), but I paid good money out of my own pocket for that conference.

I am not going there to see you speak. I am going there to learn and get value for my money.


My wife gave a tech talk locally earlier this year and I didn't even think anything about her gender in regards to the conference until just now. Thinking back, there were very few women giving talks that day, and none of them were about 'women in tech'.

My wife does talk about being a woman in tech, but not in conferences. And in general she says, "Whatever, use the term 'guys' if you want. It doesn't matter." She's more worried about people treating her differently (changing their speech patterns when she's around!) than anything else, I think.

The idea that women should work remotely so they can cry if they get upset is... Horrifying. For many reasons.

First, that women should cry if unfair things happen. And that guys shouldn't, or that they don't have a reaction at all. (Hint: They do.)

Would some prefer it? Sure, but so would some guys, for the same reason. And other reasons.

Anyhow, good on Soledad for insisting on talking about the things that she wants to, instead of being pigeon-holed. In the end, I suspect her talks about actual tech are a lot more effective at raising awareness of the women-in-tech issues than talks on the subject itself would be.


Most talks were good but a handful were nuggets where clearly the deciding factor why that person got the talk was because she was a woman and not her expertise in the area.

And how did you come to "know" this, exactly? As opposed to merely speculating that that's what the deciding factor was?

Really, now -- please do tell.


> clearly the deciding factor why that person got the talk was because she was a woman

Wow, what a coincidence! Every time I'm disappointed by a talk at a conference, I just know intuitively exactly why that person was chosen to present. Until now, I thought I was the only person with that super power.

I'm sorry for being obnoxious, but it's worth thinking about why it's so easy to reach this kind of conclusion. Maybe it's a bias that's so pervasive in our culture that we don't even realize it's there.


I feel similarly about being a black guy in the tech industry. It is always the deliberate efforts to "reach out" to minorities that make me feel the most uncomfortable and unwelcome. I have given talks on AWS, Cassandra, Python, and other subjects. You could never get me to talk about "being a minority in tech." Similarly I live in Tokyo and have no interest writing or talking about "being black in Japan."

Thoughts from my blog: https://righteousruminations.blogspot.com/2014/11/another-si...

Recent thoughts on tokenism: https://righteousruminations.blogspot.com/2016/07/on-changin...


I respect this person's rationale. I'm thankful to hear her perspective.

I know lots of incredible women in tech doing great things. I assume they and everyone else wakes up each day and has to figure out what challenges they'll be overcoming, and how they will end up spending their one life on this earth.

So this public rejection of gender-specific talks nourishes me, because I am dropping all packets when someone starts to talk about gender or privilege issues.

I feel that enthusiasm for these topics is a tell that the speaker is a narcissist who believes other people exist to either validate their own opinions or serve as an adversary. It is uncompassionate.

I suspect a group of academics organically instrumented a taxonomy that directly mirrors established trolling tactics. They have spent the last 10 years providing gender studies philosophies that are being implemented by graduates- who will now get to discover firsthand whether these ideas are constructive.

Kids now think that disagreement is evidence of cultural misogyny and racism. Well, I disagree, but I'm not going to bother trying to engage with this type of person. Where is your diversity now? How is your behavior going to cultivate the outcome you desire?

It's left me feeling exhausted and repulsed by the topic. I'm wary of some women in tech now because of their enthusiasm for these ideas. It is very frustrating. I'd like to support them, but I also want to lead a happy life. I want positive, encouraging people around me. The privilege crowd just doesn't seem healthy.

This person seems pretty thoughtful. She has nothing to gain from posting something like this. I feel a little less cynical after reading her post.


Very nicely worded sentiments and I think it's a good counter-point, a rational and thought out one, to the knee-jerk habit of having a trend-chasing, "WE CARE!" framing around certain issues. This piece is strong in pointing out that "ISSUE X IN TECH" is not particularly a "tech talk" - it's more in the sociology/humanity side of discussion, right? I like how this tries to make that distinction.

On a personal note, I think I appreciate the article a bit more because I could substitute "handicapped person with condition X" for the same kind of framing that she's discussing. I don't want to be known as X, I want to focus on the subject matter. If I happen to be an inspiration for others in the X group, super, great, blaze a trail and thank me later if you really feel compelled, but that's not the purpose of me pursuing success. It's not "in spite of X" it's just that X is another inconvenience in the way of goals, much like having to pay taxes or empty my cat's litter box, scope and effort aside.


Sandy Metz, of "Practical Object Oriented Design in Ruby" [1] fame made a comment about this on The Bikeshed[2] recently. She stated that she refuses to make reference to gender when she is giving her talks, though her gender is ultimately what got her the opportunity to write a book and talk in the first place.

Ultimately she is regarded as an amazing teacher and a dynamic speaker, not because she is a woman in tech.

[1] http://www.poodr.com/ [2] http://bikeshed.fm/70


100%. I value her work because its well done. Not because she is a women.


I just happened to have listened to that bikeshed episode last night. It's damn good and Sandy Metz is a captivating speaker. Check it out!


I'm glad there actually is a competent woman who can say this out loud. Nowadays it's impossible to say anything against "We need more women in tech" without being called a sexist.

I do realize it is harder for women but the world is not a fair place. Poor people who were born to poor parents are born into an unfair world. A white guy or asian guy who really wants to play basketball in NBA finds himself in an unfair situation. But that's what powers these people. A lot of successful people came from bad background because they grew up being sick of this unfairness and they tried hard to get there.

To use the NBA example, you never see Jeremy Lin or Yaoming giving talks about how "We need more asian basketball players in NBA". They are well aware of how that's how it is, but still managed to succeed by pushing themselves hard.

Again, I do realize it's unfair, but if I were someone in an unfair situation I would spend 100% of my time working hard to overcome it, instead of using my precious time thinking and talking about how my group needs to be more well represented.


Soledad came to my city (Thessaloniki) for a conference a few months ago, and gave a very interesting talk on the new audio/graphics APIs in browsers. It was a great talk, and, I agree with her, much more interesting than "I'm a woman, here's my experience".

I also dislike the mentality this mindset implies that I, as a man, should be surprised that a woman can code, and should therefore ask her about how she managed that feat, as if it's not pretty much exactly the same as how I started.


"It not only is very insulting and distracting, but also pigeonholes you into “talking about being a woman in tech”, instead of “woman who knows her tech”. It feels like, once again, we’re delegating on women and other vulnerable collectives the “caring for others” matters, in addition to their normal job. That is not OK."

Sometimes, identity, gets in the way of things.

Do what you feel comfortable with. Do it for yourself. Don't do it for or because of others. Feel that you want to do it for your sake and for its own sake. Doing something because of agendas, can be good for the group, but, it's less clear it's always good for the individual.

In a nice world, you'd be valued for many things, not just your economic productivity and contribution. And our identifiers would be afterthoughts. But for friends and foes alike, some at least, it's clear identifiers are important and some would want to find leverage and make use of the opportunity. Yet, it's not owed, and it's up to you if you feel comfortable with lending yourself for a cause, as it were.

That said, just do what you like to do, don't explain it as a result of principles, etc. What I mean, our decisions don't have to be internally politically explained, or consistent. Just like liking or not liking broccoli does not have to be internally politicized to like it or not like it (or bacon).


Showing that women have great technical aptitude by giving a legitimately interesting tech talk is much better for the cause of promoting diversity than just talking about being a woman or minority in tech, IMO.

I worked at a large online retailer that catered primarily to women, and internally there was a large push to hire more women. We hired two women on my team. One was fantastic, one was horrible. The fantastic one passed the interview loop without reservation, and would have been hired regardless of her gender. The other did not do as well and multiple people had reservations, but she was hired anyway. She was an immediate burden and terminated after three months.

The first one didn't need any sort of handicap for being a woman -- she was qualified and competent. The other one just didn't belong in this role. But management aimed for diversity over competence, and ended up hurting morale.

Treating people like equals is the best way to achieve equality. Don't insult them, and don't let those who legitimately don't have the skills necessary through because of their identity. Seems pretty common sense to me.


> No! The answer to an all male line-up is not a talk on women on tech by a women. The answer is diverse people in the line-up, talking about tech.

At the last US Pycon, where 40% of the speakers were female, there were a broad range of topics. Several female speakers did speak about "soft" issues like being a woman in tech, but many others also spoke about "hard" purely tech issues. There were also males on both sides of the soft/hard line. You can see the topics here:

https://us.pycon.org/2016/schedule/talks/

I don't think it's a problem to give soft talks, and I think Pycon is doing a great job of increasing diversity. It's not perfect and there's work to be done, but I really don't see soft talks by women as an evil to be avoided. If people want to give soft talks, let them do it.


I 100% agree with this article. Whenever I am invited to talk, I always speak about my work and expertise, as opposed to women in tech stuff, because being there and being good at what I do, is much more effective than statements about diversity (IMHO). The only time I've done women in tech type conversations, it's been in small, intimate settings for an all-female audience. In that scenario, it makes sense to discuss the challenges and learn from each other.


Something similar happens in science too. Anecdotally i watched it happen with my supervisor, as the latest "women in science" wave started about a decade ago. She got a number of administrative positions, which I increasingly felt she got "because she was a woman". That led to her being visibly left behind in her scientific field. It's funny, because she s far from what you would describe as feminist.


I agree 100% with the author.

Another thing that I feel this "let's talk about women in tech" attitude is causing is causing a negative effect, rather than a good one. An example of this is my (female) friend who rolls her eyes at any mention of "women in tech" and makes jokes about all these online "troll" feminists[1].

We should as a community—like the author herself said—focus more on inspiring women to join the industry; not talk them into it. I think the author's suggestion to have confident women talk about their awesome tech is a great start!

[1]: I am not trying to discredit feminism. We can't deny there are some people who take it too far when they have online discussions; this happens regardless of the topic being discussed.


Yes. I agree. So much.

These are my metrics for a good tech talk:

1) It is informative

2) It is entertaining

3) It is actually about tech

Well IAWAT (I Am A Woman In Tech) talks can be 1 and 2, they cannot be 3. That would be okay, if they were informative or entertaining, but they so often aren't. Many just quote the same statistics we've heard before, and call for change. There is a reason that I will watch Piotr Szotkowski's "Standard Library, Uncommon Uses," Or Linus Torvalds' talk on Git, or Hilary Mason's opening talk at FutureStack, or absolutely every talk Bryan Cantrill does (even if it IS just to play Bryan Cantrill Bingo), or countless other talks whose names I forget. Because they are informative, they are entertaining, and they are about tech. And male or female, if you give a good talk, I'll listen. If you just want to get on the stage and talk about your gender, then I will be out of your talk faster than an ICMP packet travelling down an empty fiber cable.


This is called the Unicorn Law:

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Unicorn_Law


Enjoyed 'but also pigeonholes you into “talking about being a woman in tech”, instead of “woman who knows her tech”.'

Subtle difference, I believe that's the purpose of this up and coming podcast show that I've been following [1]. Women having a space to talk about tech instead of talking about how's it like to be a women in tech.

[1] https://thewomenintechshow.com


Personal story time...I was at a recent conference, listening to men, women given talks. One of the women, in her talk, uses an interaction with her daughter as the framing narrative for the talk (imagine Socrates and Glaucon, only this woman and her daughter). Almost immediately, three guys to my right start making fun of the speaker, sotto voce, making all manner of little jokes to themselves, that are becoming increasingly gender-specific.

When one of them says loudly enough for me and others to hear, "Your daughter sounds like a real bitch! hur hur", I turned to them and said, "You guys need to knock this off now."

Embarrassed silence. And it stayed that way. Of course, I'm a tall well-built, well-dressed white guy, i.e. all the things that automatically command respect.

The thing is, I don't think those guys were bad people, I don't think they sat there in their minds thinking, "let's tear the woman down". I really don't think they thought about it at all. I also don't think they'd have sat there, chattering away, if a man had used the same framing story (father and son, father and daughter).

I think there's a lot of unconscious, unconsidered, unthoughtful bias that they (and we) all carry around by default, that makes it easy to pick on weaker people if you're going to pick on anyone. And there are a lot fewer women around these tech conferences, and they're used to placating aggressive people, putting up with shit, etc.

I guess, I wish women didn't have to talk about being a woman in tech. I hope they keep doing it, though, until people start thinking about this kind of asinine behavior.


You did the absolute right thing in that situation. I was in a meeting once with a CIO, middle management, and two female developers. At one point, the CIO got bored with the tech-talk and drove the conversation to his recently taking his son around to visit college campuses... and then onto the topic of which campuses had the hottest female students. The middle-managers immediately joined in the conversation, while the female techs stared at their hands uncomfortably until the meeting was over. The CIO was eventually dismissed for incompetence, but I will always regret not standing up to such incredibly unprofessional behavior.

In the 1990s, working for various government contractors, it was common for techs with military backgrounds to accuse male coworkers of behaving "like a woman" as a means of short-cutting discussions. As a nerd, I was often victim to those kinds of attacks. I'm incredibly thankful that increasing diversity in the workforce is creating a culture where those kinds of statements are no longer tolerated. Fostering a workplace that's good for women also fosters a workplace for men who don't fit traditional cultural norms of masculinity.


Honestly, it would have been fine if it was just guys in the room that knew eachother. That is a strange conversation to have around women that you don't know.

A lot of this stuff is basic understanding of what is appropriate for the given situation. It is simply understanding what is polite in the given context. It seems so simple, but maybe a lot of people aren't tuned into the feelings of others.

I can't speak on the military thing. That is an entirely different culture that I don't have any understanding of. I do remember people saying things like "stop acting like a girl" when I was young, but that seems to have gone away. I know that I don't use phrases like that - and I am not making a conscious decision not to use them. They just seem innapropriate.


Wow I don't have anywhere near the empathy for those yokels mouthing off, that others seem to have. Real dipshits. No way they are innocently unthoughtful or unconsidered. They seem to have issues.


I don't think anyone on this thread is expressing empathy for them, or approving of their behavior. They were clearly being disrespectful and immature (i.e., dipshits) during someone's talk, even if the rhetorical mechanic being used came across as silly.

The objection is to the too-easily-made assumption that a male presenter using the same setup wouldn't be mocked by these guys. The most you can conclude about that story is that two douches exist and mock someone who put themselves out there to make a public presentation, instead of trying to force a gender narrative onto every bit of rudeness in the world.


Yeah, I agree with you. I attended a similar talk by a woman framing the talk about the time when her mom died, and, guess what. Nobody said that her mom or sister sounded like a bitch. Does that mean sexism doesn't exist? It probably just means that there were no assholes in the audience, like the GP's comment just means that there were a few assholes there.


You'd probably be more empathetic in person; the Internet has a funny way of making people forget that not every ill-considered action is a window into a person's soul.


Or thought all of our souls are dark and twisted, such is life.

Or is it just me?

sorry...


> yokels

A yokel is, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, "an uneducated and unsophisticated person from the countryside". Do you have any reason to actually believe they were from the countryside, or do you just assume that if someone is a dipshit they obviously must be country people?


Semantics aside, how do you feel about these individual's behavior?


They were dipshits.


I don't blame them for personally considering, reflecting on it, and adopting a view of women that permits sexism. I think the culture is still deeply sexist. I think that's the default position. I think they were just aping the world around them, unthinkingly.

I do blame them for not paying attention to all the women in the world saying "look guys there is a problem that we are experiencing," but you know what? That's part of the sexist worldview again!

Dismiss the woman, she's just a hysterical baby, whatever, do anything but listen because you might be made temporarily uncomfortable as you realize you've been part of the problem, and need to change your thinking and behaviors if you want to make the world more just.

I fault them for being shallow, unthinking people, but that's a big part of the human condition. :/


> I think the culture is still deeply sexist

What's also deeply embedded in many circles is that acknowledging any difference between men and women is "sexist". I've seen people called sexist for acknowledging that using attractive women in advertising leads to increased clickthrough rates. Should we deny the evidence of our own eyes?

You're complaining about people "aping the world around them". Isn't that just called acknowledging reality? I understand and sympathize with the desire to make the world more fair. I think cultural crusaders have gone well past that point, however, and are now asking people to deny real facts. They're applying social pressure to make people make false claims about the world.

Don't these people realize that using the thread of ostracism and unemployment to suppress earnestly-held, non-malicious beliefs rooted in honest observations of the real world is just going to lead to resentment and a massive backlash against not only the overreach, but against any actual bias?

People who call everything "sexist" are bringing about a world where everything will be sexist.


Granted, people should not be distracting class clowns during a conference. The line about the daughter? It's impossible to tell if it was funny without knowing what the speaker had just said.

This entire post appears to be a statement about how female speakers are unfairly treated at tech conferences, but in reality it is the poster saying "look everyone, I'm a hero"


The entire post appears to be about female speakers being unfairly treated is because because it's a story about a female speaker who was being unfairly treated.

The "look everyone" jab is completely unwarranted.


If you think shushing some jerks at a conference is heroism, I submit to you that you have set the bar too low.

I also shush kids who talk in movie theaters and tell irate customers to back down when they're yelling at store clerks. None of that is heroic, either, it's what I would hope is basic human decency.

I don't want to live in a world where the guys sitting next to me are calling a conference speaker's daughter a bitch. Do you?


There is an element of revolt among techies too. When you tell people (men or women) not to do X , you should always expect them to do more X out of defiance. Techies get preached on a regular basis about women in tech nowadays.

As an experiment, try to do the same preaching about latinos and watch the racist remarks rise.


> I also don't think they'd have sat there, chattering away, if a man had used the same framing story (father and son, father and daughter).

What would you have said if they had?


I'm sure I would have said the same thing. Thing is, they didn't do that for the previous male speaker. (And they didn't make a sound for the remainder of her talk, or at all through the following talk, which I got up and left from halfway through.)

I get it, there's no air-tight way to prove that these guys were talking shit just because it was a woman on stage, and rudeness is rudeness no matter who it's directed at. I just saw it directed at a female speaker talking about her daughter, using language that is hostile to women, called it out, and it stopped.


I would agree. I'm not quite sure talks about "being a woman in tech" really solve the problem unfortunately (And I think that was the intent of the article), but clearly there is a problem that has to be fixed. That said, I think the other comments just show how this behavior is allowed, which is really sad. Imagine if the men in your story were making comments about the speaker and their child being black - I doubt the comments here would be as 'kindly' as they're being to these men.

I perfectly understand that it could have been a joke - but if you're going to make a joke like that in a public setting, then you make sure others around you can't hear it. If you're wiling to say something like that loud enough that others can hear you, then it's not really a joke anymore.


If you're wiling to say something like that loud enough that others can hear you, then it's not really a joke anymore.

You sure have a strange concept of joke. I define a joke by its contents, not the number of people who hear it.


> You sure have a strange concept of joke. I define a joke by its contents, not the number of people who hear it.

If you define it by its contents, then how is "your daughter sounds like a real bitch!" a joke? Context obviously matters. If you're willing to say something like that loud enough that others can hear it who obviously won't know the context, then you're clearly not that worried about it not coming off as a joke.


I'm not entirely sure you can tell if this group was biased or not with this one interaction with them. As you mentioned:

> I also don't think they'd have sat there, chattering away, if a man had used the same framing story (father and son, father and daughter).

If you didn't observe them sit quietly for a talk before this given by a man, who's to say they didn't just do this to every presenter (man or woman) for the whole day until you told them to knock it off? I've met plenty of people who got their kicks from being loud when someone else was supposed to have the stage, and who it was didn't matter.

It's not that I don't believe in anecdotes as helpful reminders to be better people, but I'm not sure this is a great anecdote for your point.


You must go to a very different type of conference to me. I've never heard anyone being heckled at a professional programming conference.


My anecdote was a little further reaching. I don't go to many conferences, so I referenced the sum of my experiences, professional or not.

You're right, though. Professional conferences should at least be better than the average of all of my experiences.


Same here. I have never heard heckling at a conference. If anything, people get too nervous to say anything at all.


>When one of them says loudly enough for me and others to hear, "Your daughter sounds like a real bitch! hur hur", I turned to them and said, "You guys need to knock this off now."

/r/thathappened category

This really sound so fake that I actually created an account to call this out.

>The thing is, I don't think those guys were bad people, I don't think they sat there in their minds thinking, "let's tear the woman down". I really don't think they thought about it at all. I also don't think they'd have sat there, chattering away, if a man had used the same framing story (father and son, father and daughter).

.....


> This really sound so fake that I actually created an account to call this out

Do you remember Adria Richards.


When did she actually confront anyone in person?


>Of course, I'm a tall well-built, well-dressed white guy, i.e. all the things that automatically command respect.

? None of those things automatically command respect.


Yes, they do. Tall people make more money and are more successful in the workplace [1]. Wearing higher-class clothing elicits more responsiveness and lowers the perceived social status of others [2]. And of course, leadership is associated with being white and male, which leads to better responsiveness in work-type environments to white males [3]. I also seem to recall a talk by a professor at Berkeley showing that having some gray hair and wearing glasses commands more respect as well, though I can't find the research to back that up at the moment.

[1] http://timothy-judge.com/Height%20paper--JAP%20published.pdf

[2] http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/xge0...

[3] http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/conferences/2013-w50-research-sym...


None of that seems to make a case for "automatic respect".


The role of prejudice and discrimination in Americans?


Except they do, because they signal wealth, power, and authority - at least in European/European-descended countries.


Policing speech like that just breeds resentment. You not only guaranteed that these people later made the same comments to each other in private, but also inched a bit closer to resenting people like you and your entire cause.

Mind your own business. You have no right to interfere in a conversation among friends, even one that triggers you. If you want to encourage change in the world, be the change and set an example. You're not going to change how people feel by suppressing expressions of those feelings.

Not once in human history has this censorious approach actually worked. But it's created powder kegs plenty of times.


> you and your entire cause

It's entirely possible his "cause" was polite interaction in social gatherings, with a specific focus on audience behavior and how not to ruin the experience for everyone around you.

> Mind your own business. You have no right to interfere in a conversation among friends, even one that triggers you.

When people are making public comments in a forum that is detracting from the reason people are assembled and you are there for that reason, it is your business.


What? OF COURSE he has a right to interfere, he can say whatever he damn well pleases. Furthermore, all he said was to knock it off; you seem to imply he lectured them or something similar.

He set an example by demonstrating their behavior was not socially acceptable.


Yup. Where I come from, this is what leadership looks like. Create the community in which you want to live and work--and if it the community in which you want to live and work doesn't have sexist dudes ripping on people for the fun of it, then make sure that they don't.


[deleted]


Criticizing a woman, even calling her a bitch, is not misogyny. Misogyny is hating women because they are women. What OP described is just heckling.

And what OP did is white knighting, i.e. a man defending a woman, because she's a woman, in order to appear virtuous. Like posting about it on HackerNews.


No, what he did was reinforce what is acceptable social behavior in that situation. While the specifics of the situation may have spurred him to act quicker or in a case he wouldn't have, that's irrelevant. The behavior being called out is unacceptable no matter who is giving the talk. People did not attend the talk to hear people heckle the talker, there are other forums for that (stand-up, and there are some talks which might be more comical and some light heckling might be acceptable).

Rude behavior was called out. It's rude regardless of the people in each position in this scenario.


> Criticizing a woman, even calling her a bitch, is not misogyny.

Calling a black person a "nigger" isn't racism -- but (outside of specific contexts that weaken this conclusion) its a pretty strong indication of racism, and (subject to pretty much the same contextual considerations) not addressing it normalizes racism, whether or not the actual utterance was motivated by racism. The same is true with "woman", "bitch", and "misogyny" in place of "black person", "nigger", and "racism".

> And what OP did is white knighting, i.e. a man defending a woman, because she's a woman, in order to appear virtuous.

I don't see any indication that it was done "in order to appear virtuous", which is, you correctly note, an essential feature of white knighting.


> Criticizing a woman, even calling her a bitch, is not misogyny

It might not be misogyny, but it sure says a lot about the person using such language.


> What OP described is just heckling

Nah, heckling takes volume. You don't heckle sotto voce for just your buddies to hear. You do it at the top of your lungs for everyone in the room to hear. Say what you like about heckling, it takes a certain degree of grit.


That's just dumb. It would be one thing if they were having a quiet conversation among themselves whispering back and forth and were told to stop. But clearly OP could hear them, they weren't being quiet. And allowing such behavior to go on where people can clearly hear it is the same thing as condoning it. That's besides the fact that if you're going to act like that during a talk, you shouldn't be in the room anyway because you're being a distraction to everybody else.


> allowing such behavior to go on where people can clearly hear it is the same thing as condoning it

Toleration is what allows people who have different views to work together toward common goals. You can't have civilization without it, because no two people will agree on everything. If these people were really as boorish as the OP described, the best approach would have been to let them embarrass themselves.

What's next, hushing someone who dares admit he voted for a Republican? (I can imagine the rationale now: "you're enabling war and bigotry by proxy! Public GOPism is unacceptable!")


The paradox of intolerance has been largely derided since the 1940s, and for good reason. If you do not confront and quell threats to your community, they only ever fester. They don't go away, they get worse--see GamerGate and the rest of the reactionaries happily SWATting female academics and game developers in the name of "ethics in games journalism," and how that didn't magically appear when Adam Baldwin put a name on it (but the name legitimized them and let them act openly, for a time, before everyone else caught up).

Allowing people to be sexist jerks (let's not dress it up as "boorish") doesn't just let them "embarrass" themselves, it creates an effect within a subculture that gives that activity preferential status because few people want to use their limited public credibility to counteract it--thereby over time letting sexist behavior become the expected norm of that subculture. That's not OK, and speaking up directly confronts the issue and prevents it from becoming a social norm, or becoming further entrenched because we live in a profoundly sexist society to begin with, in that subculture.


How dare you police his speech by telling him he shouldn't have said anything.


While I can certainly understand where the woman who wrote this article is coming from, I really enjoy hearing and seeing women in tech. I work in tech, albeit peripherally (EA/Admin role at the moment, just getting in the door), and 99% of the time I feel like I've wandered into a men's club. I am treated really well by my male colleagues (I'm lucky enough to work with a group of kind, talented people, though), and generally am treated well by the men I meet at meetups and the SF tech scene, but they don't see me as a threat. I'm not on GitHub responding to code reviews and changing things they've worked on. I'm not competing for their jobs. I have a feeling that the second that happened, a large percentage of the men who are now cordial to me would be less than that. I guess my point is that though I see why nobody wants to be a token female on a panel, and nobody should be coerced into giving talks they're uncomfortable or unqualified for, as a woman just stepping into the scene, it would be really great to see more women speaking out visibly in the field.


I have a feeling that the second that happened, a large percentage of the men who are now cordial to me would be less than that.

If you expect it, then that's how you'll perceive it. Even if they're just worried about the project quality. They might even be treating you with kid gloves compared to their male colleagues. But if you expect to find it, you'll find it.


The secret to diversity is not giving a shit about stupid criteria like race or gender, and shutting the hell up about it. Quiet acceptance of anyone who fits and does good work.

People talk about diversity like it's some magical talisman. It isn't. Diversity is: not being turned off by someone who doesn't possess whatever stupid criteria you think make for a good human being. That's all.


The article makes a great point that just being a woman doesn't make you a good speaker about [the sociological problems] of women in tech. Rather than have her out of her skillset, hire her to talk about databases, or other parts of her expertise, and hire academics, HR and others (of both genders, according to skill relevance) qualified to talk about social-tech challenges.


I agree

Now for the counterpoint, there are a lot of people in the marginalized group that actually do look up to people that advertise their marginalization.

Everyone that doesn't advertise that they are a "woman in tech" or a "black executive" flies completely under the radar.

There are literally groups I've been invited to where people make lists of these inspirational characters, because they want to support their businesses more than others. And the people that never said "I'm a black female software engineer that got VC funding" never show up. People assume they don't exist, when the reality is that isn't what they wanted to be known for!

Any compromises?


We're not here to make people feel better about themselves, we're here to get things done. Someone who obsesses over marginalized groups so much that they can only respect people who play the victim are exactly the sort of people I don't want to work with.


ok, except there are other perspectives you have dismissed

such as all of the competent people on the periphery of the industry that really are inspired by the women's list in forbes, or the immigrant that hasn't been exposed to the opportunities available for people like them

yes, a lot of us are annoyed by it. we are annoyed by the pitiful "lead generation rates" these kind of talks have in changing any demographic in tech. but there are people that actually are inspired by them and don't have another adequate way to filter people. People see Elizabeth Holmes and think that "the man won't let them be successful" reinforced by a history of disenfranchisement, when there are plenty less dramatic examples of success that run counter to that theory. But when those examples don't write articles about it on Linkedin and Medium, people assume they don't really exist.


I don't think the founder of Zipcar or VMWare got to their success by going to conferences and talking about "women in tech". They built stuff that people want. Period.


its not about their success, it is about other women looking for inspiration from people that may have encountered the same adversity as them, and only finding the people that talk about being women


You would be right if the narrative was "It was super hard, it was unfair, but I worked my ass off and I succeeded regardless."

But that's not the case. The narrative is "There are less women in tech. The companies should be ashamed, and they should hire more women."

There's a big difference. The former is actually inspirational because the it lets people know they can succeed despite the hard reality.


I would be inclined to agree with you if I didn't already agree with you

You are debating my counterpoint as I can see this issue from the perspectives of other people


I think it depends on the state of knowledge. The tech industry is well aware of the gender/ethnicity distribution. And quite frankly, at least companies, community groups, and profound leaders have progressively been doing something about it for the last number of years. It just takes time to make progress. Look at other industries which have poor representation of men or ethnicities and see how many inroads they've made in say, the last five years compared to tech.


Had to use throwaway here, sorry.

I attend and organise various conferences and its simple. You got to get Women. 10% minimum, more is better.

One of our own engineer (who is very mediocre but a women) got accepted to a major conference. She was told her talk is not so good, but they still want her and she should think of something.

End result? When I see a woman talking in a conference I assume she is there because of her gender, not skills.

Lose lose to all


Does anyone know if there is data somewhere that shows the male/female speaker proportion across different conferences?

Would be interesting to see how it compares across the different industries. I didn't see anything after some basic googling.


If someone approaches me to talk somewhere just because I’m a woman, they haven’t done their job of finding what my expertise is. Therefore, I am going to insta-decline.

This is a really good policy. She's 100% right.


Because I am fine writing, but feel completely awkward displaying myself in public! (I'm speaking for myself here).


Huge respect for this lady, both for the attitude and for all the interesting tech stuff that she does...


I agree with this. I am male though so my opinion might not count.


Reminds me of a response once given by Richard Feynman (I can't find the source so I apologize if I misremember it). Essentially he was to be included in a book of successful Jewish people. He declined because he considered his ethnoreligious background to be irrelevant to his accomplishments as a physicist.

To stave off the inevitable response that the experience of a white american man is irrelevant, let me leave this quote from the head of the princeton physics department: "Is Feynman Jewish? We have no definite rule against Jews but like to keep their proportion in our department reasonably small". So even in the face of systematic discrimination Feynman wanted to be known not as a Jewish scientist, but as a scientist.


If there is no gender parity, there is a problem.

No, there isn't. We don't have a "gender parity problem" in nursing, pre-k education, garbage collection, nor boilermaking. Just because it isn't 50/50 doesn't mean it's a problem.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12131077 and marked it off-topic.


I am curious what goes through the mind of a mod as he wades through these comments. Many unpleasant comments stayed in the positive. Do you see their vote totals?

BTW, I flagged a bunch. Hope that helps.


> We don't have a "gender parity problem" in nursing, pre-k education, garbage collection, nor boilermaking

Says who? I'm less familiar with the latter two sectors, but I've certainly seen considerable gender issues raised with the first two.


I would definitely say there's a gender problem in many blue collar jobs leading to a culture that negatively impact safety, productivity and the long-term well being of workers.


this is brought up every time we have one of these discussions and is inevitably ignored by the commenter


Where's my Barbie Sanitation Shift Supervisor and matching Ken Stay-At-Home Parent/Blogger dolls?


They're in your fabric and sewing machine, waiting for you to let them out.


I'm a man and I own a sewing machine! And I use it!


Have an up vote!

As a guy who does this, and is out and proud about it to his other male friends I have to say the reaction I get has been only positive. Then again I'm also the one you call to help move or fix something with a soldering iron or a power tool.

A sewing machine is a dangerous power tool and not to be approached in a casual way.

Sewing is a lot more forgiving than wood assuming your working with fabric. It is a lot less forgiving if your working with plastics or leather (holes are forever).


They'll be there if and when customers demand them.


That's pretty much my point.


> Just because it isn't 50/50 doesn't mean it's a problem.

I completely agree with that statement in isolation, however it doesn't address that there are women who feel that breaking into tech is hard, or at least problematic, and that difficulty is caused (at least somewhat) by the men failing to treat the incoming women with an appropriate amount of respect and or credibility.

So long as every woman who wants to pursue a job in tech is able to do so without reprisal from her potential co-workers, the ratio of women to men is not indicative of any problems whatsoever.


Don't we?


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