Thursday 17 January 2008

I hear you but what you are saying adds nothing

Recent posts have brought the antagonists out of the woodwork. I have chosen not to publish a couple of comments - one in particular demanded that I prove not having women in IT was a problem before talking about it.

I am not sure it is worth the argument but I would like to say that my posts are aimed at an audience of females with the intention to arm them with some of the knowledge I have gained by spending a decade in the IT industry. There is an assumption that my posts address an issue with women in IT, which is based again on the way I've been treated and have seen women treated in IT. In particular, the challenge of the female developer.

My career has consistently seen my role on a team or in an organisation include supporting other female developers. This has encouraged me to share anything I can with other geek girls.

It would be interesting to see if those opposing the gender balance in IT would be willing to replace the word "women" with "blacks" or "gays" and see if they felt there was an argument against other minorities being included in this industry because they don't have what it takes based on nature.

I am happy to discuss this with anyone who is willing to comment on my blog without the vale and protection of anonymity.

Also, are all comments valid? Should they all be published even if they add nothing to the thread?


Unknown said...

"one in particular demanded that I prove not having women in IT was a problem before talking about it."

What a jerk...

It's not about ratios. It's about how individuals are treated. The undeniable fact is that most men treat most women differently, even if they have the exact same skills. Sometimes that difference is good, but usually that difference is bad. This is unacceptable.

One can reasonably hypothesize that if treatment were equal, the ratio would take care of itself.

I think the core personality trait of social conservatives who reject progressivism is defensiveness. "I'm not doing anything wrong. Prove it! How dare you criticize me?" I'll paraphrase Al Franken: Conservatives love America the way 5-year-olds love their mommy - anyone who criticizes mommy is bad. Liberals love America the way adults do - they take the good with the bad, and are disappointed when the one that they love doesn't live up to their potential.

No one needs to justify their perspective. It's their perspective! It's up to the rest of us to look at that different perspective and have enough maturity to look objectively at the situation and see if the criticism applies.

I have to disagree with your assertion that IT is a meritocracy, though. We don't exactly have high EQs, nor are we steeped in social science or liberal arts. The resulting insensitivity leads to the notion of mathematical objectivity masking the deep-seated discomfort that individuals experience when their world-view is challenged.

Damana Madden said...

You make interesting points. I think for some people it is hard to see things through the eyes of others and because they don't understand, they don't believe.

A little more empathy in our industry would help a lot.

As for it being a meritocracy, I feel it is. I guess I'll never know what it would feel like being a guy with the same skills. For now, it evens things out.

Dave Cameron said...

I recently argued that women in IT is an interesting question, but blacks/whites/yellows/reds/browns/pink-triangles/black-triangles is not. Social dynamics change more in mixed gender groups compared to single gender groups than groups mixed on the other dimensions. And, that effect is within cultures, whereas the effects of race or sexual orientation are probably really cultural effects.

The goal needs to be equality as in equal opportunity and safety, and not equality as in substitutivity or gender-blindness. This also means, to me, that a 1:1 ratio is not a goal. I would hope that anyone who is interested in IT feels comfortable getting involved. If this leads to a 1:1 ratio, fantastic! If it doesn't, there shouldn't be an effort based purely on numbers. The more I work with women though, the more clear it is that even the first condition hasn't been reached yet.

Damana Madden said...


Empowering one group takes nothing from another group. A lot of women do not rate themselves as being good enough for a lot of cool techie companies so they don't even try. I know, that's what I'm like. I talk to a lot of women in IT who simply think they aren't good enough even when they are awesome.

If companies go out seeking women then can have this conversation and bring in more women in to their companies and keep them in the industry.

Women are often treated as second class citizens. Showing them they are as important as anyone else just changes their view and empowers them.

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