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Why Startups Should Try to Hire Women (jeanhsu.com)
62 points by christiekoehler 2182 days ago | hide | past | web | 74 comments | favorite

This didn't ever really get to the "Why?" part. It just basically says that the opposite is stupid.

My theory: humans behave differently, and generally more civilly, in environments where they (subconsciously) believe they have a chance of meeting a partner. Heck, part of the reason I went to a liberal arts school instead of a technical school was the fact that 4 years in an 80% male environment (which was the case at the specific school that was in the front-running) sounded rather drab.

What's actually unclear to me is if those social dynamics, as opposed to the, let's call them "football team" dynamics, objectively produce better results in a startup. It may be that the sort of bravado that emerges in football-team-ish environments is useful to a startup. But then to swing the hypothetical pendelum again, it might be easier to hire for a company that's more enjoyable to work at, even if the things that made it enjoyable would be a net minus in isolation. I'd posit that it is somewhat variable on the specific set of folks working there; i.e. some employees would flourish in one environment and others in its converse.

> "humans behave differently, and generally more civilly, in environments where they (subconsciously) believe they have a chance of meeting a partner."

I already have a partner. That changes the dynamics, too.

The "football team" and "singles bar" both have their own strengths and weaknesses. So does the dynamic you get when your whole team is married with kids -- some employees are going to really flourish in that environment, too.

I'm sorry, but this is a sexist point of view.

Your argument seems to be "hire women so the men have a chance of a date, they'll be much more well behaved as a result."

No, he's saying that if you have 8 guys in a room (three male founders, then 5 hires who just happened to be male), they will think it's OK to dress like shit, bathe occasionally, put up lewd posters, leave rubbish under their desks, and no-one is likely to complain. OK, the founders could try to set an example, but they won't have any moral authority if most of the team doesn't really care.

If there's at least one women there from the start, you won't get a subtly sexist or just uncouth subculture developing, because people will worry that "the girl" will complain.

Guys are sexist - they often think that women will get annoyed by bad behavior, while other guys should just suck it up. Girls are sexist too.

The alternative is to stop hiring teenagers, and hire adults instead ;)

So you can select 5 guys who are all mature and competent, or 5 competent people, at least one of whom is female. Whichever is easier.

It IS ok for them to dress like shit if they are all happy.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

I can assure you that he's not.

The biggest shock I had when I moved into an all-male work environment, being male myself, was that people farted and belched all day long and left half-empty pizza boxes lying around.

Needless to say, the gaseous emissions were temporarily suspended when a female voice was heard from down the hall.

Maybe hyperbolic, which is a little different.

Wait, why is that sexist? A proposition that mixed-gender groups behaved differently than homogeneous groups doesn't ring any alarm bells for me.

Because women should be hired for their skills. Not because they provide a good 'mix' to compliment the men on a team. To think otherwise is patronising, condescending; and as a result, sexist.

Edit: I'm genuinely shocked by the number of comments that contain a latent sexist pretext. Maybe I've been brought up in an overly liberal environment, but I find it pretty horrendous nevertheless.

That's because you're on a witch hunt. You put words in my mouth and then branded me a sexist based on that.

So, here's the thing. I actually consider myself a feminist. I've been outspoken in the past on things like believing that the gender gap in computer science and IT is primarily a consequence of social conditioning and that people should be evaluated and valued within an organization based on their qualifications and not based on their gender.

As such, I'm a bit uneasy with the premise of the article -- that work environments can and should be made more "girl friendly" (insofar as that goes beyond not tolerating overt sexism). But that premise came from the article, not from me. Personally, I'm conflicted there and could argue both sides. But, if we run with that premise, and try to answer the question in the title, I find it an impressive stretch to read sexism into saying, "I find mixed gender work environments more pleasant than single-gender environments."

So, if we have a group of people that, are broadly speaking, all the same type and we think adding someone with a different set of characteristics will lead to the group performing better as a whole...we shouldn't do that? We should instead higher the "best" individual regardless of how it impacts the group?

The goal is to get the most productivity from the team/group. Sometimes that means hiring for attitude over aptitude or ...oh yes, diversity - be it race, gender, degree, life experiences, etc.

When hiring anybody it's short-sighted to just look at their skills. If you want to build a great team you have to consider the effect the new employee will have on the existing team. Sometimes that mean passing up the person with the best raw skills and hiring based on other factors.

The whole is sometimes greater/less than the sum of its parts. The goal of a company is to maximize overall productivity, not to assemble a collection of the highest performing individuals. See Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks in 2011 NBA championship.

It may be that the sort of bravado that emerges in football-team-ish environments is useful to a startup. ... even if the things that made it enjoyable would be a net minus in isolation.

This part reads like veiled sexism to me. Sure, there are disclaimers and "I-don't-knows" and "might-be's" thrown about but in the absence of real data I don't think there are good reasons to bring this up other than to reinforce sexist stereotypes.

This is one of the problems of honest debate of politicized issues. Positing the obvious gets you labeled as a closet bigot.

Do you really consider it far fetched that there could exist a team that worked better when they were all the same gender? I'm not asking if you'd like such a team (I wouldn't), but it's fairly obvious to me with the variety of people that exist in the world that not only could such a team exist, but one almost certainly does. Have you not met a half-dozen socially awkward geeks (male or female) in your life that struggled with professional interaction with the opposite of sex?

An important mechanism of earnest debate is the ability to differentiate between ideals and observed reality. I, for instance, find dogmatic fundamentalism unsavory, but it obviously has the ability to wield both a cohesive social force and give rise to political power. It's intellectually dishonest to assume that things we don't like are unable to produce advantageous results.

The GP observed that there exists a different dynamic in mixed gender environments then speculated that whether or not a mixed gender environment is beneficial is dependent on the individuals, thus drawing no conclusion about the matter.

That you saw this as a sexist remark advocating for hiring women only reveals your own biases. You misread the comment and what you read between the lines were your own thoughts.

The post has been edited since I made my original comment, and the tone has been changed.

Nothing was removed. I added the last paragraph. (Actually a few minutes before you made your comment, but perhaps before you saw the edit.)

We're all pretty capable of being sexist.. me included. I apologise for I calling you out in such an abrupt way.

I can't help wonder how difficult it must be trying to make it in a male dominated environment as a woman. I think that it's vitally important to call out prejudiced behaviour when we see it, and that's what I was trying to do. I didn't mean to insinuate that you are a sexist person, but I did read between the lines and summise that you were inferring that women can provide social purpose in contrast to purpose based upon their skill.

The only reason a person should be hired is because that person's abilities meet or exceed the requirements for the job. To hell with conditioning, social norms and tradional office hierarchies .. if we don't question the way we think or behave - society won't evolve in a positive way.

The only reason a person should be hired is because that person's abilities meet or exceed the requirements for the job.

That's actually somewhat less clear than it would seem on the surface. It's a tenant of third wave feminism, which I generally subscribe to, and I think is approaching the correct behavior at present, but can't be considered outside of its historical context.

The reason that we have any semblance of gender parity is a consequence of more radical waves of feminism that came earlier. The women's suffrage movement in the United States being a prime example of such. When ending a regime of officially sanctioned discrimination, such as women's suffrage in the west (which only became universal in 1990, when the last canton of Switzerland allowed women to vote), or in post-apartheid regions such as the American South after the Jim Crow Laws were repealed or modern South Africa, there is utility in overcorrecting.

For example, I've typically supported affirmative action, since I believe that one of the precursors to minimizing racism in the United States (and South Africa, where a similar law exists) is the emergence of a strong black middle class. Given that in much of the country there was an effective ban on such for the majority of the nation's history, turning the dials to actively promote such seems a reasonable measure.

Similarly, in countries where there was no strong women's liberation movement (e.g. Germany, where women's suffrage was a side effect of the constitution of the Weimar Republic around the time that women were given the vote in the United States), there's still a higher level of sexism that's tolerated in a professional environment. Again, I draw the conclusion that the overcorrection of the suffragettes produced a more equitable environment that laid the groundwork for the modern third wave of feminism that is more gender-neutral than pro-women.

Since parity has still not been reached, it's reasonable to ask if liberal minded folk should come down on the side of actively bolstering women in positions of prestige or the growth of the black middle class and to what extent. I don't think there's a right answer, and smart, progressive people come down on both sides as to whether or not we're "there" yet.

>countries where there was no strong women's liberation movement (e.g. Germany)

Hahahaahaa. The German student movement of '68 would like you to apologize right about ... NOW. And it's just the easiest example of German women's liberation movements, I'm sure somebody else could give many more examples.

Relatively speaking, the 68er-Bewegung was an ineffectual fringe movement, of which only a relatively small part was women's rights, compared to the American's women's suffrage movement, which lasted for decades, spanned the full spectrum of society (i.e. not just students) and resulted in a constitutional amendment. While the 68er-Bewegung did have an effect on society (as did its counterparts in the US, namely the Vietnam War protests and related movements), they are not of comparable magnitude.

Sorry to hear that you chose your 4 years of school based on meeting someone from the opp gender. Hoped that worked out for you :)

Have to say that your theory seems shortsighted to me and does not apply to top performers of either genders, especially if you look at professional environment. I have met quite a few women who go into certain educational path to meet partners (medical school is a good example), but they are not passionate about the field and therefore, never become the top performers.

On the other hand, if you look at top performing women in startups, they are passionate about their work and are not there to find partners.

A startup should hire talent regardless of their gender... being a woman myself in the tech field, I dont want to be hired because a startup is trying to cultivate a 'enjoyable' work environment. Its about who brings the chops to the table.

That's a straw-man. I didn't say that:

• I, or anyone should go into a particular field to meet potential partners

• That the women or men whom are at the top of their field chose those fields to meet partners

• That people should be hired because of their gender irrespective of their qualifications

I said that people behave differently in environments where the subconscious flips a switch that says, "You are now in an environment where you may meet a potential partner." Which is quite different. Do you genuinely believe that universally top-performers behave identically in mixed vs. single gender environments?

The basic thesis of the article was that work cultures can be structured in such as to produce a more egalitarian environment without compromising on the quality of employees. The question asked is then why a company would want to do so. Again, my proposition is simply that given that assumption, that a more egalitarian environment is a more pleasant workplace, at least for some subset of employees which includes folks like myself.

I don't think you are propagating that others should follow the path you chose to take, but your theory does sound flawed to me. Here is a better way to put why a company should promote egalitarian work culture:

Men and women generally (not always) bring different perspectives in approaching similar problems. If you are a startup launching new products, this provides you an ability to take in different view points and collaborate to figure out the best path. Therefore, its in best advantage to have top notch women on your team, not just because it creates a 'pleasant' workplace environment, but it will help you succeed.

To answer the top-performers behavior question, I am sure there is a difference in behavior in mixed vs. single gender environment and I think the reason for that is they now have a set of individuals amongst them with different perspectives, thats it :)

Sorry to hear that you chose your 4 years of school based on meeting someone from the opp gender. Hoped that worked out for you :)

I think you don't quite understand how "top-performers" function in human society. There are numerous formal studies that show that charisma and sex appeal have much more to do with one's career prospects than their skill and education.

Not trying to say that skill doesn't matter - but social skills matter more than technical - we can bitch all we want, but thats how world works and we better adapt to the best of our abilities.

I have seen from numerous anecdotal examples how top performing men tend to advance their careers through women in the workplace - be an ass to the ladies and you won't get anywhere. "Work" the ladies - and they will make you king of the world.

Just to clarify, I never said that top-performers are driven by 'skills and education'. I said that they are driven by 'passion' for their area of work. That means they will go above and beyond to learn more, they are innovators and are willing to take risks.

And yes I agree that charisma does have a secondary role in making them a 'top performer' as you mentioned!

All said and done - it's fun to work with talented women :). Hiring women just for 'joy' factor is crap. There's one more quality - with the right input, women tend to foster team building and sharing qualities not only in themselves but in their fellow co-workers as well. In a high pressure work environment, this can work wonders.

"Heck, part of the reason..."

"Sorry to hear that you chose your 4 years of school based on meeting someone from the opp gender."

You have people skills.

edit: quotes

You are mixing my quotes with the previous commenter's

If you're bothered about equal numbers of people in Tech then just hobble men so they don't have opportunity to follow their desired occupations. Voila, equality.

>It's probably human nature to like people who are like you , but learning to work with people with different personalities, genders, and backgrounds makes for a stronger team, not a distracted one.

People who are like engineers are like engineers. Shocker.

Lets get some lawyers and fashion models in there to do the engineering just to mix things up a bit and provide a diverse environment shall we?¹

While we're at it lets make the engineers work in marketing to make sure they have a diverse environment too.


¹ - they may be good engineers but I'd really expect most good engineers to have similar behavioural traits. The number of Mathematics students with social anxiety seems to vastly out weigh the number of Art students with the same. Certain personalities correlate strongly with certain subject and abilities, I don't think we should be fighting that.

My experience is it doesn't matter much. The last startup I worked for had 4 women and 4 men (on average, over time; it varied a bit). I don't think gender was a significant issue to anyone. People were hired for their merits and treated as such.

Is that so special?

This isn't something I've said out loud often. However, if I had my own small startup, I'd be worried about hiring young women for one reason: maternity leave.

Now, this obviously depends on where you're setting up your startup. However, if I lived in a place where a long[ish] (6+months) maternity leave was the law, I'd be pretty worried about newly hired women going on maternity leave. For a large company, it isn't a big problem, but for a small cash-strapped company, losing a significant % of your workforce for an extended period of time sucks.

I've known women who went back to work, or switched to a job with better benefits, because they planned on getting pregnant. And I've known some who just happened to get pregnant shortly after getting a new job.

I strongly believe that the length of maternity leave should be proportional to the length of time at the company.

>This isn't something I've said out loud often. However, if I had my own small startup, I'd be worried about hiring young women for one reason: maternity leave.

IANAL but (in America, anyway) it's a good thing to never say out loud: it's completely illegal. You may not discriminate hiring on the basis of gender, and if any female applicant who got turned down for a job at your small startup in the future and dug up this post... well, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes.

The variable on which he's trying to discriminate for hiring is not, strictly speaking, gender. He wants to discriminate on the likelihood of an employee missing an extended amount of work time in the wake of a voluntary* personal choice. For a company to want to avoid that is quite reasonable. But of course, pregnancy correlates very highly to gender, so the execution of such a policy ends up functionally indistinguishable from actual gender discrimination.

(*we're not here to debate the fine points of when contraception measures fail.)

Which is a real shame, because then we can't have an open and honest conversation about it without fear of litigation.

Of course, there isn't a lack of countries where maternity leave isn't long, so I can always set up shop there and make the choice I want with respect to maternity leave benefits..

IANAL as well, but as far as I understand it's completely legal to say "I don't want to hire women". Yay freedom of speech. However, If I am hiring people (which I'm not and never done) and reject a woman based on the fact that she is a woman, and she can somehow prove it, then yes.. I risk being sued.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

you are wrong...even with freedom of association upheld as a key part of the first amendment, discrimination based on race, gender, age (and more) is simply not allowed.

Section 1981 of Title 42 of the United States Codes (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/1981.html) which protect people from being discriminated against has been upheld.

RTFM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech#United_States

"Laws prohibiting hate speech are unconstitutional in the United States, outside of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words."

Which means if I say "women are all stupid" I should be able to avoid getting sued because of the 1st amendment.

If, however, I decline a job position because someone is female, and she or someone else will be able to _prove it in the fucking court_, then I will be guilty of violating the law in your link.

Do you or do you not see the difference between saying "man, I'd really like to punch someone right now", "I would like to punch >you< in the head", and actually punching somebody in the head?

First is just a general statement, second is a threat, third is violence.

Again, if I say "I don't want to hire women" and then go ahead and employ a woman just because I need an employee and she's qualified, I'm fine in terms of the law. It's similar to me saying "hey, I'd really wish I could rob a bank right now" and then obediently following the law and not robbing a bank.

Please do not step on my freedom of speech in the future.

It's why I think all the maternity leaves should be paid by state and insured by state, not by company, otherwise it will cause such hidden discrimination. And I'm in favor of longer maternity leaves (at least one year) otherwise kids will not be breastfeed and it might cause health problems later. Having healthy new generation is in interest of the entire society so the society should pay for it.

This. I get that "potential mothers are unemployable" is a huge problem we can and should avoid, but this shouldn't have been an unfunded mandate with costs and risks solely burdening new mothers' current employers. That gives management a big incentive to find excuses not to hire them, and penalizes the ones who do what we assert is the right thing.

I'd like to see a right to maternity leave balanced by an obligation to return to work afterwards. It's unreasonable for a company to hold a position open only to find that the employee in question not actually want it, or want to change it significantly (e.g. from full to part-time).

What's stopping men from also taking leave to raise a kid?

I support paternity leave for this reason. It'll make businesses worry less about only women having a kid.

In general, men don't take anywhere near as much leave time as women.

Even in Sweden, where the government strongly encourages men to take paternity leave, men take only 1/3 of all leave days. (The couple gets 330 days of leave to share and the father gets 60 days only he can use.) Germany has an even lower ratio.


Paternity leave is much, much shorter.

If paternity leave were equal, ie gender equality, then there would be less of an issue for small companies hiring people in a certain age window, they'd get screwed either way.

Personally I think the idea of men and women being equal is pure idiocy. I can't give birth or breast feed children for a start. But if you want equality you can't do it by halves.

So, not "equal" then?

Breast feeding naturally goes on for at least a year. Yes milk can be expressed but this is detrimental to the bond between mother and child. I guess if you want equality you don't want that special bond. Yes women can work in some places with their children present to feed them, but this is hardly commonly allowed.

FWIW from 6 months of age my Wife and I shared domestic duties, daytime child care and work equally. We run our own business and take it in turns leading with the business and leading with the household. We share the load equally but we certainly bring different aspects to both work and home roles.

What does giving birth and breast feeding have to do with anything? After the first few weeks both parents are equally capable of looking after the child.

breast feeding goes on a lot longer than "the first few weeks".

I'm a stay-at-home dad. I'm pretty good at it. But there are things my wife can do that I can't.

Breast feeding goes on for as long as you want it to go on. I'm certainly not advocating against breast feeding, if you're medically capable to do it, enjoy it, and can fit it into your schedule then by all means breast feed away, I'm even cool with you doing it public.

However using it as THE reason for mothers not going back to work and having the father stay at home is simply archaic.

You're not advocating against breast feeding, you just don't think the choice to breastfeed is a legitimate reason for the mother to be the one to stay at home? That's some double-talk there.

You shouldn't need any legitimate reason beyond "I want to" to stay at home with your kid. My point is that it is perfectly reasonable to raise a kid with out breastfeeding during the day and breastfeeding should not be used as an argument to guilt or coerce women into staying at home when they'd rather go back to work.

Breastfeeding is better for the mother and child. Choosing not to is like choosing not to give your child a decent diet. The WHO strongly advocate breastfeeding for a minimum of 12 months.

Women don't need to try to breastfeed unless they want to raise children.

If you want to be "equal to a man" then don't bear children. Simples.

Choosing not to is like choosing not to give your child a decent diet.

Every pediatric doctor I've spoken to on the subject disputes this as outdated. The only cases where this still holds true is in places where there is limited access to modern baby formula and clean water.

breastfeeding should not be used as an argument to guilt or coerce women into staying at home when they'd rather go back to work

I don't see anyone doing that. All I see is the notion that breastfeeding is a reason why, on aggregate, mothers choose to stay at home longer than fathers.

If anything, I'm reading your attitude as a way to guilt and coerce mothers into going back to work when they'd rather stay at home.

> "Breast feeding goes on for as long as you want it to go on."

Yes -- and a lot of people want it to go on for the first year or so, because it's far and away healthier than formula. Ergo, a lot of mothers take more time off work than fathers do.

Even among women who choose to go back to work, many do it only part time, because of the added time commitment of breastfeeding or pumping. This is something a stay-at-home dad simply can't replace; infant formula is a sad substitute.

In California, family leave is paid for by the state, not your company.

Uhm...so not buying the essay by Penelope Trunk. Most of my favorite startups are 10%-34% female. I think the reason they don't get into fights is because they're responsible. Also being an irresponsible founder is seriously overrated.

There's always this study, although it's one of those "early results, many possible confounding factors, few samples" cases where the results should be taken with a big pile of salt.


Women in tech are also already statistical outliers, so the probability that a random female candidate is good may be slightly higher than for a random male candidate. Tricky to study though, starting with it not being easy to objectively measure how "good" a candidate is.

The study described in the HBR article also aligns well with Scott Page's work on diverity, which describes where diverse teams outperform. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/science/08conv.html has more.

tl;dr Penelope Trunk thinks that diversity is a distraction and provides little value to startups. Jean Hsu disagrees, but is too lazy to tell us why.

Yeah, that's great and all, but the fact is, the percentage of female engineers is very low to begin with, and in today's environment where talented and available engineers is incredibly low, you simply don't have the luxury to pass on qualified applicants in the hopes that someone who meets your "diversity quota" will show up.

I look for the following when hiring:

- Aptitude: Can they do the work?

- Attitude: Are they excited about what we do and the position being offered?

- Flexibility: Are they prepared to step outside the "role" and help out in areas that we don't have fully covered?

- Creativity: Are they going to come up with innovative solutions to the various problems we'll face going forward?

- Intelligence: Can they learn new things quickly? Things have a habit of changing fast in a startup.

- Maturity: Can they behave professionally towards everyone else and keep the work environment a safe, healthy place?

If an applicant meets these criteria, we don't stop to see what "group" they belong to; we snatch them up with all speed before someone else does!

I'm sure it's not a question of qualification or skills - after all most of us aren't running down gazelle's or plowing fields.

The question is whether you see yourself primarily as a male or female or primarily as a developer or designer or engineer. I was just talking about that with my wife, who worked as an engineer in a male-dominated field and she never really thought about her gender. I've worked in mixed teams and feel the same, it's really not an issue for me.

However, when bias and prejudice enters the picture the whole balance can be quickly thrown off, even by a single person. I believe that's why in the US large companies have strict policies against discrimination. Unfortunately, these very policies often have the effect of introducing quota-related problems when teams are not allowed to hire who they really want.

So, we're not there yet, but I think things are moving in the right direction.

She essentially says that a startup that implements a recruitment process that taps a very large number of potential recruits in search of the best candidates, and that effectively evaluates candidates based on their actual qualifications for the job, will also inevitably recruit a more diverse range of people. And wouldn't those same factors inevitably lead to recruiting better people? So, at a statistically meaningful scale, there's going to be at least some correlation.

A better reason: small groups make more intelligent decisions when they have more women in them.


I agree with the author of the post in that the frequency of posts written that postulate blanket statements that are supported by anecdotal evidence of "something that happened to my friend" is way too high.

As for gender diversity, I think most founders would argue that the more diverse a team you have, the better. The 'Business Model Generation' book goes into this quite a bit and has some incredible insights into correlations between diverse teams and the creativity of their brainstorming sessions.

Men in my country at least are just generally more interested in tech. A big population of males who are interested in tech will naturally lead to a heavily weighted male populous of proficient tech people. I don't get why this is sexist it's just fact. I don't see much that needs to be fixed.

If there is discrimination in the hiring process though, yes that needs to be addressed. However that's not the angle the article is taking.

Hiring a woman because you don't have many women in the work place isn't optimal.

Company culture is gender agnostic, as a man I've worked with other men who don't share my ideas on work culture / code culture. I stopped working with those people and worked with others where we were all on the same page and when I had to work with them I put my differences aside and helped out where it made sense.

I do more of a cowboy coding style that worked really well for rapid prototyping and then the others in the group could take over and put all the niceties around the code. I liked to go for beers after work, they wanted to go home. It was fine, I had beers with my friends. No biggie. I don't need to spend every waking moment of my life with those I work with.

If a person don't share culture with people it probably has a lot to do with them and not their gender. There are 7 billion people on the planet I don't think men and women are that different that it isn't possible to find 20 people you can work with. I certainly know that if push came to shove I could work with a group of 20 women, despite whatever supposed cultural differences are said to exist.

I'm not sure why anyone would expect 40 other people to change their culture just to suit one person. Work is about getting paid, and there will always be bullshit to deal with at work, why people get paid is because there is stuff they'd rather be doing. Work is never going to be perfect.

I consider myself a (male) feminist and I encourage inclusiveness. I think women's different experience and perspective can be an asset. However, I also recognize that the culture that we live in is not yet gender-blind, and that as much as we don't like it, people's perceptions of gender impact how we interact with other people. This means that the advantages that inclusion and diversity brings to a team, will generally have a cost. If you're trying to construct an ideal team, you would be remiss to ignore the very real impact that gender issues can and will have on your team. This may mean that a female, while individually better for a position than a male counterpart, will not provide as large of a net benefit to the team as a whole. Maybe she will, maybe she won't, it depends on a lot of things, especially the team itself, but it's certainly possible: the female's femaleness is something that needs to be considered and may create problems.

I want to make this point very clear: This does not necessarily have anything to do with the female herself. This is as much, or more, about the males on the team and how they treat/act towards/interact with the females. It's mostly about the interactions between people, and how gender relationships are part of personal relationships. And it's completely unfair to the female. It's bullshit. But, it does happen, and if you're trying to build a team, it's something you have to consider because it impacts how well it will function.

I don't even have anecdotes, much less data, to back this assertion up, but I suspect that the problems of integrating women (or other minorities, for that matter) into a team lessen as their representation increases. 2 women on your team means gender-issues than 1, and 5 means less issues than 2, and so forth. But that if you're building a team incrementally, that first female is a barrier, because you get the minimal benefit and quite likely the maximal difficulty.

> the female's femaleness is something that needs to be considered and may create problems.

This is the most effective way possible to make someone feel alienated. Tell them their presence is problematic, that it's "not them, but us" and therefore there is nothing they can do about it.

You want to know the dirty secret behind the claim that female programmers make men uncomfortable? It's synthetic. It only exists because you think it exists, like some bizarre fiat currency. The moment you (all of you) stop caring, this concern goes away and you can do more productive things like write code.

edit: whoops, didn't catch this one:

> gender relationships are part of personal relationships

You are professionals. Professional computer programmers. Professionals know how to handle these kinds of things, and this is really just a case-by-case deal. Making some blanket claim that "because there is a woman on the team, there will be fights over who gets to date her" is placing some pretty weak expectations on your team. I expect my team to be professional to everyone in it. If someone can't handle that kind of situation, I may not have a place for them on my team.

I have no idea how you came to the conclusion that you're are a feminist.

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