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First of all, calling a group of guys a sausage fest is reverse sexism. If I called a classroom full of girls a barbie play-date, or a tea party, or a "fashion" class - regardless of the real reason for their gathering, people would be outraged - and rightfully so. None of those things are true and it's disrespectful to say something like that.

Second, the guy who said "well I should have applied for that" might have said it because two people in a row standing right in front of him just said they had awesome internships at Facebook. Sure, he could have been a total prick and said it because she was a girl, but the fact that the 2 people he asked both said they interned at Facebook completely changes the context of the conversation. If he only asked the girl and responded that way, then that would be different - and that seems to be how she's thinking about it. She's not taking into account the actual context of the conversation.

Wearing colorful, comfortable dresses sounds awesome. Yeah, I like tech T-shirts, and the latter was definitely the more common form of attire at the startup I interned at this past summer, but if someone wore a dress one day, I don't think it would be unusual for that person's manager to say "you look nice today" or "your outfit looks fun."

And regarding the interview, it makes sense that you'll get "better results" by dressing like a techie. There are tons of girls who dress like techies. Wearing a T-shirt with a tech logo on it just sends the message that you love technology. It shouldn't be an important factor in an interview, but of course the way you dress sends a particular message. Wearing a dress doesn't send a negative message in any way, but a girl wearing a tech T-shirt comes across as someone who is super into tech - for the same reason a guy wearing a tech T-shirt looks more into tech than someone who wears a business suit to an interview. The T-shirt could be completely misrepresenting that person's interest in tech, but the point is it sends a particular message during an interview.

I hate to conclude on such a sour note, but the girl the article is speaking about seems to think everyone is against her. It is absolutely possible that this girl experiences discrimination in the tech industry due to her gender, but the examples she talked about simply don't demonstrate that in a definitive way.

Side note: My relative who works in HR has told me time and again, the appropriate way to say "you look nice" to a co-worker in a professional setting is to not say it. In that setting, beyond grossly inappropriate work attire (at which point all comments should go directly to HR and not the employee), there is no need to make a subjective-comment on someone's appearance, you're there to work.

(edit) grammar

Or perhaps compliment someone as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation would:

"I find your work product to be of consistently adequate quality. I also appreciate that your personal standards for hygiene and attire do not detract in any way from the efficient operation of this office."

It sounds very odd, doesn't it? The HR employee is not the gold standard for advice on how to interact with your co-workers. That person is employed to minimize potential legal liabilities to the company.

The appropriate way to say "you look nice" to a co-worker in a professional setting is to say, "you look nice". You say it in the same way that you would say it to your mother, or to anyone else for which you have both some respect and zero potential for romantic entanglement. If you can reasonably say something to your own mother, you can say it to a female co-worker.

Refusing to acknowledge someone else's positive qualities creates a completely different sort of hostile workplace, especially if that person is at all extroverted. But that sort of hostile workplace does not invite lawsuits.

That said, "good job on fixing that DR so fast" would be a far better compliment.

That's just sad. How far will political correctness go when we can't even compliment others.

"you're there to work" is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of jobs in tech. Startups are promoting this sick group dynamic where everyone is expected to become best buddies slash drinking acquaintances slash family with their coworkers, to try to hang on to talent just a little longer.

I agree with this. Nobody should be judged based on how they look. If you compliment someone and don't compliment others, it could be interpreted the wrong way. If you compliment someone and it's misinterpreted, then it could also cause issues. Just don't judge people based on superficial things.

Knowing this I am going to start wearing sweatpants and slip-ons to work. Perhaps I'll stop bathing too. I would certainly hate to have to call my company out on tumblr for judging me on superficial things.

I do see the issue with it. Perhaps nobody complimenting anyone is the lesser of 2 evils? Or maybe the trick is to keep comments about attire left up to HR. Managers and coworkers should not comment on an outfit, but HR can if a manager or coworker complains to them. Surely not bathing would get you a talking to from HR =)

What about things like "Wow that's a really cool dress! May I ask where you got it?"

Yes, generally it is better to comment on the clothes than the person. "I like your dress" is safer than "you look great."

The reason for this is that clothes are the result of decisions and choices that people make. So, complimenting a piece of clothing is sort of complimenting something a person did.

Whereas, complimenting their overall look (and especially their body) is sort of complimenting something a person is--which most people feel a lot less control over. And, it runs the risk of creating a sense that their body is itself an object to be considered and critiqued.

I generally agree with what you're saying, but what's the point of having a category called "reverse sexism"? Why not just stick with "sexism" and "not sexism"?

Simply a choice of words to contrast the article. I get what you're saying. It's sexism in both directions.

I guess it wouldn't be a discussion about sexism on HN without someone popping up to invalidate the woman's experiences.

I don't really read it as "invalidating" so much as pointing out the possibility of misattribution.

A concrete example: my car broke down. It's a Ford, that's blue, and is a two door, and is rear wheel drive. Is the right conclusion that it broke because it's a Ford and all Fords are pieces of crap?

Are there possible causes? Missed maintenance, a lemon, driving it too hard, etc. I realize that it's crazy to suggest that it broke down because it's blue or because it's a two-door because we happen to know the underlying mechanics here. But if the car was a black-box, those could potentially be causes too.

Just because a woman thinks that she's been discriminated against for being a woman doesn't make it so. That doesn't mean that her experiences are wrong, nor does it make whatever she endured somehow pleasant. And I'm sure that there's plenty of sexism out there too, I'm not trying to suggest that everything is great and there are no problems.

Sexism is an easy explanation in many cases, but that doesn't NECESSARILY mean it's the correct one. It's kind-of like the old XKCD comic: http://xkcd.com/552/

Well, duh, but the whole thing about "invalidation" is there is a subtext here: that she wouldn't know that she had been misattributing sexism to someone.

If all your friends with Fords of various colors and models had problems -- you would rightfully have cause to focus in on Ford as the problem.

Do not pretend to be objective by discounting context, or acting like everyone else is an imbecile. I'm not saying that everything everyone says has to be taken as truth. But think about the context for a moment -- like why is she writing the article in the first place? It's no small thing to put your name out there on the internet WRT to this issue.

Think about how analytically you are viewing what she wrote about her experience vs. how uncritically you might view articles from PG (especially the earlier ones unassociated with YC).

> Think about how analytically you are viewing what she wrote about her experience vs. how uncritically you might view articles from PG (especially the earlier ones unassociated with YC).

Wow, way to go! I read HN so I must be a PG cheerleader and ergo I'm definitely sexist!

PG makes some good points and some of them are a lot less tenable. I don't switch off my brain because I'm reading PG (though I do occasionally read his articles) any more than I turn it up extra high because a woman is saying critical stuff about men.

What I do try and do, though, is look at the kinds of psychological errors that people tend to make and see if that's influenced them at all. And misattribution is a big one. When a person has many attributes visible to anyone they interact with, any one of them could be the cause.

For example she complains that wearing dresses caused her grief. Should anyone be able to wear anything to any job without any consequence? If it should be OK for her to wear a dress, what about a man? If it's OK for girls to wear short-shorts can boys too? Can I ride my bike and continue to wear sweaty, smelly cycling gear and clippity-cloppity shoes instead of taking a shower and changing? Could a dude wear just a speedo? A girl a bikini? In the other direction, a suit? A three piece? A Matrix-style leather full-length leather jacket? Full on ski gear?

Yes these examples quickly go from maybe reasonable to clearly unreasonable. But just where EXACTLY should the line get drawn? It's not clear to me that there are absolute, definite answers that have narrow applicability, nevermind broad applicability.

What's appropriate for one job is terrible for another. Nurses and doctors (of both sexes in both professions) tend to wear scrubs to work, and it's appropriate. If I tried to wear scrubs to a construction site, or to a machine shop, I would rightly get told to go home. Coveralls, steel toes, and a hard hat are just right if I'm out on an oil rig but entirely inappropriate when I'm at the office and that's for a single job description! I have no less than four different kinds of clothing that I might need to wear when I go to work.

The point that I'm trying to make is that if it's possible for men to not get taken seriously (or worse sent home!) based on what they wear at the office then it's POSSIBLE though not necessarily DEFINITE that women might have the same thing happen to them AND that it's not sexism.


Please realize that there's a difference between saying "it might not be sexism" and "it's definitely not sexism" and that I'm trying to very cautiously propose the former, not the latter.

> Wow, way to go! I read HN so I must be a PG cheerleader and ergo I'm definitely sexist!

For someone who is all about psychological errors, you seem to have constructed quite a narrative. I'm not talking about cheerleading -- just the level of analysis. I'm not trying to make you into some horrible monster or anything -- that is your projection onto my criticism.

Speaking of psychological blinders: I stand by my assertion that, as long as anyone doesn't mess with your ego, you will not apply this level of analysis to what they write. It's human nature. At the risk of repeating myself, I just don't think you're reading PG's articles and thinking that what he says happened to him, didn't happen.

> Should anyone be able to wear anything to any job without any consequence?

Oh come on. Really? RTFA. You're veering away from the misattribution you original claimed as a possibility here.

I just wrote a whole comment about context, and you ignored it because it bruised your ego. Being obstinate about "drawing a line" is not a triumph of reason -- it's ignoring the world. Reductio ad absurdum relies on symmetry, of which you have none here.

She's obviously not wearing hot pants, a bikini top to work, and even if that were the case, she would be notified in an official capacity in short order (e.g. "told to go home") -- not "complimented" repeatedly in a creepy way.

There is no "murky line" because we are talking about a repeated pattern she illustrates in her article which shows it highly likely not to be misinterpretation. If she misinterpreted one of those examples (e.g. the "Facebook" example is the one I'd choose, actually), ok. But how likely is it she misinterpreted all of them, and the misinterpreted the social environment that made her pull together the examples in the first place?

> Please realize that there's a difference between saying "it might not be sexism" and "it's definitely not sexism" and that I'm trying to very cautiously propose the former, not the latter.

If I have a bug, it might be cosmic rays, a compiler bug -- or it could be my shitty code. All of these are possible. It isn't about what's possible, if you want to be analytical about it.. it's the likelihood.

So, when you say "it might be a compiler bug" when code breaks, you should know how ridiculous that sounds, even though you are technically correct[1]. There is a reason people say those kinds of things (without much more evidence) and it has a lot to do with how attached they are to their code.

[1] The Best Kind of Correct.

> At the risk of repeating myself, I just don't think you're reading PG's articles and thinking that what he says happened to him, didn't happen.

I never said that what happened to this woman didn't happen, nor did I say I didn't believe her. I fully believe that she was treated differently when she wore dresses versus stereotypical tech clothes, I believe she (to paraphrase) got skeezed on by a bunch of dudes, and I totally believe that people mistook her for a recruiter.

I believe basically all the facts that she wrote in the article and I have no problems with them. That's not what I'm arguing. Her experience is ABSOLUTELY VALID!

What I don't necessarily believe is her assertion that being treated differently because she wore a dress or a kimono is ipso facto sexism. I think it's entirely possible that guys who don't adhere to the "company tee shirt and pants" dress code get treated differently as well. There are a lot of programmers (both male and female) that use "suits" as a derogatory term for business people, often in part because they dress differently, and often because that difference in values is made apparent by their attire.

The point is if PG says "we didn't get the deal" that's a fact and there's no problem with it.

If he says "we didn't get the deal and they said it's because we weren't a big enough company" that's probably a fact and it's easy to swallow.

If he says "we didn't get the deal because we're too young and hip for those old fuddy-duddies" that's moved from the realm of fact to speculation and I would analyze that just the same.

> She's obviously not wearing hot pants, a bikini top to work, and even if that were the case, she would be notified in an official capacity in short order (e.g. "told to go home") -- not "complimented" repeatedly in a creepy way.

I totally believe that all this happened, but it's probably less sexism and more that she's young and attractive. It might be sexual harassment, but unless these guys are skeezing on every woman irrespective of her looks and age, it's not really sexism. That doesn't make it OK! It's still unacceptable behavior and I wouldn't condone it. But calling it sexism isn't really accurate either.

> It isn't about what's possible, if you want to be analytical about it.. it's the likelihood.

Agreed completely! Here's a quote:

"I noticed I got better feedback from interviewers when I “looked the part.”"

That means that people are evaluating her by what she wore (which she has a choice in) not by her biology (which she does not). To me, that's not sexism. It might be somewhere between unfortunate and criminal depending on who you ask, but again not sexist.

Ok, I think I see where we depart. To me, treating women as sex objects in the workplace is absolutely part of sexism, and that's probably her assumption too. I see how you might make a distinction, but I don't agree with it.

The idea that the harassment wouldn't happen if she were old and ugly doesn't make it not about sexism -- anymore than a guy who only patronizes a certain kind of woman (the kind he is attracted to) is not sexist because he doesn't patronize all women equally.

There is a sense which (I think) you're going for where this could be thought of as people latching onto things that are "out of the norm", rather than specifically sexism -- but that seems tautological to me. All -isms (that I can think of) are based on pre-judging based on things that are non-normative: sex, race, age, orientation -- you name it.

What is the norm that she's violating? Well, it seems (to me) to be existing as a (technical) woman in the workplace and all of the attributes that come along with that -- like a human that speaks in a higher register, or wears dresses or doesn't wear t-shirts as regularly.

This is, again, not uncommon and therefore the most likely explanation for all of the things she's encountered taken in totality. "Culture fit", which you refer to, is about prejudice -- and each time the type of prejudice may differ (between racism, sexism, & agism, let's say[1]) but it's still prejudice, not some magical other thing.

[1] suit-ism, let's not forget suit-ism. :-)[2]

[2] Sharp dressed -ism?

I wholeheartedly agree that she faced a lot of prejudice. But not all prejudice is sexism, just ask any other kind of minority! There are minority men who are on the receiving end of prejudice who will tell you that there's a lot more to it than just sexism.

> The idea that the harassment wouldn't happen if she were old and ugly doesn't make it not about sexism

Yes, yes it does.

From the dictionary:

sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

synonyms: sexual discrimination, chauvinism, gender prejudice, gender bias "your hiring practices have generated numerous complaints about sexism"

According to that definition a man who likes women and hits on some of them isn't sexist, unless he also happens to think that men are better than women.

My point is simply that sexism isn't defined as "all things that happen to a woman that she doesn't like" or else literally everything bad that happens to a woman is sexism and I think it's obvious that her alarm failing to go off isn't sexism or getting in a car accident isn't sexism.

It sounds to me like she experienced sexism, sexual harassment, ageism, dress-ism (is that the right word?) and voice-ism (???) and they're all bad. But they're not all sexism.

Oh well, we will not agree.

Again, I will say, especially to your concluding remark, this is a distinction without a difference. Because (eg.) if someone is prejudicial against a human with breasts, that does not make them simply "breast-ist" because to boil down to that level is ridiculous and entirely context-free. SImilar to everything youw rote, because all of this is occurring in a particular context.

The distinction absolutely does matter! It wouldn't matter if ONLY WOMEN dressed differently than stereotypical techies, or ONLY WOMEN had higher-than-average pitch voices, and ONLY WOMEN were young. But they're not! Both women and men might display those attributes. In order to treat people fairly, you have to treat people fairly. It wouldn't be a triumph of justice to reset men's prejudices towards women but not also towards other men.

In other words, discriminating against someone for a particular characteristic like the ones she mentioned is terrible and it shouldn't happen, regardless of the sex of the person being discriminated against.

You are free to advance an alternative hypothesis explaining her observations. If you go with her thinking "everyone is against her", like the parent comment, you should ask yourself what separates you from all the other people who have defended the status quo by dismissing women complaining of sexism.

If you look at it objectively, there simply isn't enough evidence to say that her examples were purposeful sexism. As others have said, people should be mindful of how they word things.

There are plenty of articles that do provide substantial evidence showing sexism. I just fail to see that caliber of evidence in this article. Her tone honestly gives off the vibe that she thinks everyone is against her.

I would caution you against falling into the intellectual trap of believing your interpretation to be objective, especially here. Why must sexism be purposeful? Is it not a more damning implication of the culture for non-purposeful sexism to exist?

Indeed. Lea writes a cogent article about a pervasive problem of sexism and hostility to women in education and industry and her personal experiences with it. From a thousand yards, a few of her individual examples seem that they might be a bit overblown and unfair to the other party, perhaps based on her own assumptions from being on the receiving end of so much blatant sexism. But picking them apart one by one to debunk her experience and narrative is invalidating her experience and condoning blatant sexism and hostile workplaces. It's real and it's wrong, and even those whose intentions are harmless should pay more attention to what they are saying and doing and be fucking professionals. You don't code with your dick, so there's no need to wave it around in the workplace.

I'm not sure I understand how picking apart her experiences one by one in order to be critical of a few of them is condoning blatant sexism. Why am I only allowed to accept her entire article as a whole?

The system and culture is against her, not necessarily the individuals.

I take crap at work for wearing sport coats and pants made of wool. I've given up on ties and suits unless there is a customer visit. A workplace has a culture and though you can exist at the edge of it, you'd better not go outside the lines.

Also, I compliment other men on their outfits when they look especially well put together. No HR complaints yet...

The thing is, bklhp19, we don't need your analasys to tell us whether or not there are sexism and gender issues in tech and tech education. It's a fact and we know it so all you're offering here is a dismissal of this person's concern. Is that how you like to show up in the world, challenging or dismissing people around you when they take the time to communicate their experience of known problem space?

Bad journalism deserves to be pointed out, does it not? I am not dismissing the issue, I am claiming that her points lack substantial evidence. Just because something is a touchy subject doesn't mean the writing is infallible.

It's not journalism, it is an opinion piece. Hence the tag "Commentary". It doesn't need to have the utmost journalistic integrity or writing.

It just happens that, what she experienced and how she interpreted it, resonated with a lot of people.

Does the HN community not see how dangerous this line of thinking is?

"We don't need your analysis to know that the NSA isn't misusing the data they collect on us. It's a fact and we know it."

Is this really how we want arguments to proceed?

Especially from vocal, influential people:


I understand people can have wildly outlandish beliefs, ideas, etc. But to outright dismiss discussion this way is a recipe for group-think and, ironically, discrimination.

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