Oh, women in tech.
It’s certainly a subject that makes people uncomfortable. It makes other women in tech uncomfortable, techy men go on the defensive, and people who aren’t even in tech go squirmy.
Why? Well because it’s all angry feminist talk, isn’t it?
Feminists! They’re angry, they’re ranty, they make you think about things! And they fight. For their right to party. (Oh, and for equal pay and all that.) And some feminists even like to fight with each other.
Feminist infighting is nothing new, and it should come as no shock that there’s a bit of feminist-style infighting going on in the tech industry.
You’ll be quick to point out that this happens in every industry, feminist, tech or otherwise, and I am, of course, aware of this. However, let’s just talk about tech today. That’s a big enough problem in itself.
When we talk about this “women in tech” problem to other techy men, it doesn’t always go so well. We argue. We fight. We write very long angry blog posts about it. All of this is good, even though we’re fighting, because at least people are talking about it, right?
However, when women start talking about why we need more women in tech, things get sort of… awkward.
There are some women who don’t think that we need more women in tech because, hey, they’ve never been treated differently because of their gender. And if more women wanted to be in tech, then they would be.
There are other women who think the polar opposite, and say the reason there aren’t more women in the tech industry is because of a depressing cocktail that consists of:
The lack of education and awareness that you can do things in tech other than code.
The unhelpful sexist attitude of the CEOs and “big men” in the tech industry.
Add a dash of sexual harassment and an array of baby-pink, sparkly gadgets and you have the infuriating combination of reasons why most of us believe the male to female ratio in tech is ridiculously unbalanced.
But I also have another little ingredient to add to the recipe of female-tech-doom: petty, ridiculous cattiness amongst other women in tech.
No one likes to talk about this because we’re all guilty of it. And no one likes to bring to light the fact that maybe, just maybe women are also responsible for why there are so few of us in this industry.
In fact, when I brought this up on Twitter, I was told the concept of women in tech being their own worst enemy was a “disempowering statement”.
Disempowering, or reflective?
I’m not saying women are 100% to blame. I’m simply asking why women shouldn’t take a little bit of responsibility in this matter.
Have each of us done all we can (within reason) to help and encourage our female peers in tech? Or are we fiercely and unnecessarily competitive? If there’s a younger women that’s asking for what tech events you go to to meet new contacts, do you tell her? Bring her along? Or at least point her in the right direction?
If we’re constantly stabbing each other in the back and behaving as if we’re in a horrible episode of The Hills with twice the amount of drama and added Twitter Gossip Fun – no wonder more women don’t want to work with us.
And those of us who acknowledge that there is a need for more women in tech – why don’t we be a little nit nicer to each other, too? Isn’t it hard enough without – in no particular order – the tech journos looking down on the bloggers, the bloggers looking down on the PR girls, the PR girls looking down on the female developers and the female developers looking down on the mobile geeks and the mobile geeks sneering at the girl gamers?
It’s bad enough in this industry without some chick judging your Geek credentials.
I’m not saying that the London female tech scene is necessarily that horrific, but I’m not that far off, am I? And yes, you can argue that men are just as gossipy as the ladies are, but men are not the minority, are they? We are. There are fewer of us.
If you’re ever stuck in a situation where you need a bit of help – whether it be searching for a contact, someone who speaks the same language as you, or just a friendly face – we all know how grateful we feel when someone smiles at us and goes, “Hey do you need help?” or “You look just as lost as I am, let’s stick together.”
Being a woman standing in a sea of men at a tech conference can feel like that.
So why so often do we turn our backs and walk the other way? Why do we refuse the connection? Is it really that scary? Are we so competitive and eager to smash the glass ceiling that you can’t even give a fellow geek gal a, “Hi, how are you?”
We don’t need to pretend that there’s some merry little sisterhood and that we all need to be BFF and share a bottle of rosé after being friendly to another woman at an event.
You don’t need to be like, “Oh hey! Another set of ovaries in the room, let’s talk about boys and Animal Crossing!”
But a general sense of common courtesy would be nice. Female cattiness is a problem in all industries, this we know. But particularly in this male dominated industry where a woman in a bikini on the cover of T3 is more familiar than woman on the cover of Wired is – can’t we just get over ourselves?
Retract your claws, hand her your Moo card, and maybe even 5 minutes of your life.
At the very least, you may just get another follower on Twitter.