Tracy Chou on discrimination in tech

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

This is an interesting essay, from Tracy Chou:

To be fair, no one is being intentionally sexist or rude (okay, some people may be, but they’re a known entity). The problem is that people are inadvertently being sexist or reaffirming sexist stereotypes. The problem is in the subtle, unspoken biases conveyed in tone of voice, brief hesitations, careless exclamations.

I don’t want to cast overarching generalizations over my gender, but for the sake of argument, females in engineering tend to have less self-confidence and tend to internalize failure more. We also tend to have less background in engineering, which means we have spent, in sum, fewer hours coding, which means we’re not starting on equal footing, and this only makes the negative commentary all the more frequent and discouraging.

For me, there’s no one thing that gets me down about being a female in engineering, but it’s a complex psychological battle raging every day of my life, fed by hurtful questions and comments that just make me feel bad about myself and who I am.

Things aren’t getting better. A typical response from people who hear me complain is, But you can help change things. Stick with it, and you can show people that you’re awesome. And I really would like to believe that, because I’m being held out this beacon of hope of a finer future — but I don’t actually think things are getting better. The percentage of women in computer science is decreasing, not increasing. In talking to my mom, who started working as a software engineer 25 years ago and quit 10 years ago, I hear no indications that the situation has improved whatsoever. The same struggles she had to go through, I’m still going through.

I don’t plan to leave tech or my career as a software engineer anytime soon, but it’s incredibly demoralizing to think that I am going to keep fighting the same battles over and over and make no progress for myself or for women in general. I feel like Sisyphus pushing his huge boulder up the hill, except my task is to defend myself and to prove myself to every person I meet.

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