Published on October 23rd, 2012 | by CHRIS0
The Paradox of Women in Tech: Part 3
First, I’m going to look at conventional solutions to getting women into tech, followed by what companies can do, then what male programmers can do, and, lastly, how women in tech can cope.
What are widely accepted solutions?
Throwing Money at the Problem
Many companies and universities use money to draw women into tech jobs and majors. Sponsorship helps the rare women that actively seek out tech careers, although it does not directly change workplace attitudes. Companies pay male programmers to work as pieces of functioning teams, but team dynamics can often be gender-biased. Negative stereotypes about women within male-dominated spaces are a major barrier to attracting female talent as a whole.
Offering Flexible Hours
Many companies should and do keep flexible hour policies, as the policies help women in tech–as well as men–strike a healthy work-family balance. Getting flexible hours is a big concern in female-dominated industries too. Although many employers want their programmers to work extra hours, flexibility in tech jobs is pretty common.
Companies’s conventional solutions don’t address the problem at the root.
To improve workplaces, companies can do the following.
Create Diversity-Oriented Interview Questions
At the bare minimum, companies and universities should incorporate diversity-geared questions into the interviewing process. Companies need to think about whether the men they’re hiring can respectfully conduct themselves in a diverse workplace. Developing empathy and ethics–not just the squeamishly named “sensitivity training”–should be an integral part of making a living.
Internally Promote Women
Technical women are likely to be belittled, dismissed, or feared for entering male-patrolled territory. Putting up with extra bullshit does not equal extra pay; in most cases, it results in making less than men. Receiving recognition and monetary reward for one’s talent is justifiably empowering.
But promoting women is not just important for women. Multiple studies show that companies with women on their corporate boards receive higher returns on equity and invested capital, in addition to lowering chances of business failure. The general lack of women in tech roles makes diversifying promotion difficult, but it is advisable and desirable.
Here’s what male programmers and colleagues can do.
When a Woman Opens Up About the Bullshit She’s Dealing With, Don’t Dismiss Her
When subtle sexism gradually deteriorates a woman’s energy and she opens up, don’t tell her to “lighten up.” You may mean well, but it is common for women and people of colour to be met with a lack of support when they voice injustices. Since tech is a competitive industry, men in higher positions of power than you are more anxious to protect their privilege and to insulate offending programmers that engineer profitable products.
This macho-nerd industry can shape developers into a variety of personalities; make sure to steer clear of identifying with trolls that are solely driven by personal gratification and not by strong values. Besides, listening and offering support to ailing team members doesn’t weaken your game; it makes you a better team member and more desirable employee.
Don’t Passively Tolerate Negative Behaviour From Peers
Perhaps you have a few coworkers whose faux-pas cause you to internally face-palm on a daily basis, although your tolerance reads as complicity rather than backing away from a horror scene. Respectful and humorous intervention is the best medicine for the most socially dense developers. You, of all people, are not a fool, so don’t suffer them.
Now, for the ladies in tech: here are a few things that might help.
Try to Hang Out with Progressively-Minded Programmers
White men currently dominate tech workplaces, disappointing those of us who want diversity. You should at the very least get to work with progressively-minded men. To many feminist men and women, working in the corporate sphere is not particularly attractive. However, there’s no golden promise that non-corporate start-ups are not boys’s clubs as well. But by making connections at pub nights and hopefully getting to work alongside friends that see you as a whole and talented human being, you may side-step the most insidious forms of sexism.
Attend Women-Led Tech Events
In Toronto, Ladies Learning Code is a well-known stomping ground for women that are beginning in tech. There are also other organizations that seek to sustain women at various stages in their careers. In Toronto, you have a few options to expand your network and commence mentorship. By having honest conversations about work with other women, you can better identify problematic situations and circulate, or receive, job offers.
Tweet @ Other Tech Ladies
Positive action is necessary to set back years of sexism, policing, and privilege in a field where there shouldn’t be any. But then there’s grass-roots enthusiasm (also known as you and your opinions), which can be a lot of fun. Our generation has chosen Twitter as one of its venues for expression.
Follow interesting hackers. Have conversations about code. Link to articles about tech industry leaders. Spread awareness about women designing cool apps. The possibilities are endless.