Has there been any improvement for women in tech?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Despite the current conversations about diversity in tech, it is interesting to go back and read someone like Shelley Powers, who wrote a lot about the issue 10 years ago. I’m left with the impression that things are still getting worse.

She complains that merely talking about gender and tech gets her dismissed as a niche writer:

I don’t believe I’ve commented on anything related to ‘feminism’ or bias against women in his weblog. I may have noted the hostility of some of his readers to women, but that’s something I would note with anyone. Frankly, I would expect any of you to do the same.

Yes, I’ll repeat that: I would expect any of you to do the same. If you disregard such as typical and not worth the hassle, then, frankly, I haven’t a clue why you’re reading this weblog.

To reduce what I described in “Respect” to a ‘spat between two people who know each other’ does me a grave injustice. No, it does women in weblogging a grave injustice.

If we can’t write on these issues without someone saying that our views on other topics are based on the gender of the participants, then we women have been grossly marginalized. We’re effectively shut up from making any comments about the obvious belittlement of women, either because we’re supposed to be afraid of turning off our readers (“Oh god, she’s on that again”), or because we’ll be compartmentalized into a person who …who hates men or a person who …writes only about women–or something else along these line; supposedly, then, only capable of having one narrow view of the world.

This effectively cuts us off from other discussions, which only adds to the growing problem of visibility for women. Can we not see how insidious this behavior can be? And how frustrating it is for those of us who have spent years pointing out such behavior?

Then she asked, Where are the Jobs? Where are the Opportunities?

A better way of looking at this is, where are the jobs? Where are the opportunities? Where are the companies that genuinely want to hire more women in technology because they want to diversify their workplace? Where are the editors or conference givers who want to provide a richer experience by ensuring a balanced offering?

What we need is to start building a list of companies who are actively recruiting women techs. The same for conferences and books. Then we can publish these, with requirements, location, and other information, and let the women who are interested come to you–because you sure as hell are not coming to us any time we build yet another list.

If you think diversity is important, and you’re hiring, let me know and I’ll publish your job. I’ll put these into a separate category so that women can search on jobs, and close the job post when the position or positions are filled.

She makes a great, though sad, point about the retreat women have suffered over the last 30 years:

When jobs are plentiful, diversification within the job pool is not seen as a threat. In fact, diversification can be seen as a way of extending one’s power over a larger base of people. Book companies see more people buying books, conference organizers hope for more butts in seats, industries have less stressed and healthier, happier workers. However, when jobs are threatened, any change in the status quo will be seen as a risk–even those in an industry populated by people who consider themselves free of bias.

It is a natural inclination to want to pull in, like the turtle into its shell, when threatened. Except in the tech industry, this ‘pulling in’ materializes as a resistence to difference. Though we in tech pride ourselves on our embrace of new technology, exposure to different cultures in our travel, and even liberal politics, we can be very conservative, socially. We tend, when stressed as a group, to bond with those who we see as providing a protective shell around us. By this I mean those who are most familiar, and who can help us, and we can help in turn. In other words: white male geeks bond with other white male geeks.