There has been a lot going around the net in the last few weeks about sexism in the tech world. These issues are not new, nor are they limited to tech. I am shocked, disgusted, sad, and disappointed that these things happen. We are all supposed to be better than this. At the same time, people always seems to find a way to demonstrate the worst traits of our species.
Everyone talks about getting more women into technology and STEM as a whole. We, as in the men, need to work harder to make them more welcome. That isn’t just getting them in the door, it is making sure that once they come through they are treated as equals and not as a token female or “one of the boys”.
Be Part of the Solution
Rule of thumb, if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. So the question is, what can men do to be part of the solution? Shanley Kane wrote a great post on What Can Men Do. I highly recommend reading it.
I want to share a few thoughts on the topic.
- Spread awareness: I am followed by a lot of people on twitter and very few of my tweets about sexism get shared. When I say few, I mean almost zero. It is up to everyone to raise awareness. Educate yourself and others.
- Watch and call out: This is the easiest, but will likely catch unintentional sexist actions. “I didn’t mean it that way,” may be an honest answer, but it isn’t a valid defense. Only through work can default behaviors be changed.
- You aren’t perfect: You aren’t faultless. I’m not faultless. Don’t assume you aren’t doing anything wrong. Everyone has learned behaviors that they are unaware of having. Pay attention to your own actions.
- Take accusations seriously: If an accusation is made, listen and act. These things don’t “just happen”. No matter the excuses offered, proper protocol must be always be followed.
When I put together the guidelines for the Alfresco business track sessions, I did not include one on diversity of speakers. Not simply adding it to the selection criteria, but a plan for the active recruitment of woman to speak. I should have put that in there and I didn’t.
That was only last month. I acknowledge that I have to work harder at being part of the solution. Realizing that all men have to work harder to eradicate sexism is a first step.
Bullying Never Ends
To put this into a context that most men in technology can understand, this is bullying. Sexism is men bullying women. We have been doing it for decades in technology. That is part of the reason why this thing upsets me so much. I was a victim of bullying growing-up.
I am not trying to equate the experiences. I can only imagine what a woman goes through. I just want to give a taste of what the impact is to someone’s life.
- Given enough abuse, you shutdown parts of your life that lead to vulnerable situations. You don’t want to do it, but it feels safer. Things that used to give you joy now seem like traps. Slowly your world contracts.
- Everyone is to blame. This is the thing that few people can understand. You don’t just blame the abuser, you blame everyone who watched or was aware of what happened and did nothing.
- Trust becomes rare. You want to trust that person you just met, but you cannot because so many people just like him have turned on you in the past.
These are just some of the effects. Is this what you want happening to half of our population? To anyone? What kind of society is that?
Better World for my Daughter
I come from a family of engineers, both men and women in equal measure. I would like my daughter to enter a STEM career and enjoy it. I want her to be safe. The fact that if she entered the field now that she might not be safe upsets me greatly.
I am also upset that many women that I call friends in the industry are likely dealing with this. They don’t deserve it. They are all smart people and their opinions are as valid as any opinions out there, if not more so. When their voices are silenced because of sexism, that hurts them, the industry, and society.
It is the 21st century. This shouldn’t be happening anymore. We have to do something about sexism. Follow Shanley’s advice. Spread the word. Retweet stories about what is happening, and not only later today. If you have a platform, share it. Call other men out on their actions.
We have to stop this crap. Women should feel safe to be themselves in all aspects of society.
Note: I am going to share my platform here at the Word. If any women would like to contribute a guest post, email me at “pie at wordofpie.com”. I will take multiple submissions. I have a small platform, but happy to share what I have. Prefer posts from those in the industry but no good ideas will be turned away.
Note Part 2: Thank you to my reviewers.