Sacking Andy Gray: Lessons the technology industry can learn

This week we have seen Andy Gray, Sky Sports commentator, lose his job over comments made about a female referee’s assistant and a co-worker.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of what has been said, you can watch the videos below, but what I would say is that Andy Gray is a dinosaur that is all too common in the technology industry.

Many have said that Andy Gray is being punished for comments made in private and therefore the punishment is far too severe, especially as ‘we all say things in private that we wouldn’t want the public to know’.

But it isn’t just the fact that he got caught and shouldn’t say these things in public but that it needs to be made clear that:

  1. Making such comments, especially when you are a role model in the media, shouldn’t go without punishment.
  2. That these comments are completely false. The fact that Sian Massey got the biggest decision, ironically an offside decision, spot on shows that the criticism was wrong.

So what does this have to do with the technology industry? Well, it’s the fact that
there are men like Andy Gray everywhere in industry.

Maybe they haven’t been caught, maybe they never will but the idea that women can’t do a job as well as a man is rife in the technology industry as women struggle to break glass ceilings put in place by men and also struggle to match their male colleagues wages for doing the same job.

The men that make the decisions to employ someone or to set someone’s wage have a responsibility to be fair and to judge on their ability to the job regardless of race or sex.

We know these people exist but, unlike Andy Gray, they never make their beliefs known and keep their motives hidden which in many ways is far more dangerous as we then look at the statistics and find that it is these people that dictate far more than we’d like them to.

Not making sexist comments doesn’t make you les sexist if you tend to recruit and promote men ahead of women because you can’t imagine a woman can, for example, manage a technology department and is better suited to the kitchen.

Sian Massey’s career has been affected now as she was withdrawn from the last match that she was asked to officiate and has had her life turned upside down despite doing a fantastic job.

It’s sad and I hope it won’t affect her future in the game. I also hope that the person who took the decision to give her this opportunity doesn’t hesitate the next time such an opportunity arises because football, just like technology, needs people to push the boundaries and make these decisions until they become a normal and accepted part of the industry.

Sacking Andy Gray shouldn’t just be seen as a punishment for his actions but also as an opportunity to educate people and make some strides on a very dificult problem.

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Great article Faisal. Thank you. You make some really good comparisons with the male dominated tech industry.

Its time we showed the world that sexist behaviour will not be tolerated.

Sorry, but I do not see any evidence to support your assertions here. You suggest that sexism is widespread in the tech industry, yet personally I've never seen much. In all of my previous roles where my employers have advertised for new positions, there has been very little interest from female candidates. Perhaps women themselves have little interest in the technology industry?

"Well, it's the fact that

there are men like Andy Gray everywhere in industry."

Again, evidence please?

Hi DrZhivago,

Thanks for your comment. You may have a point that women might not be as interested in technology than men but the statistics prove otherwise.

Last year BCS, e-skills UK and Intellect, with support from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), produced the 'Women in IT Scorecard' to create a sound factual basis for discussion of the gender difference in participation within the technology sector.

According to the report UK's IT workforce (those who work in the IT sector, as well as IT professionals who work in other industries) in 2008 totalled 1,213,000 people, of which 274,000 (23%) were women. This was down from 2001 when the total workforce numbered 1,253,000 and included 337,000 women (27%).

So overall the workforce has shrunk by 3.19% between 2001 and 2008, but the female proportion of the workforce has reduced by 18.69% in the same period.

The Office of National Statistics puts the pay difference between men and women (hourly rate, excluding overtime) at around 12% for 2009.

For UK IT professionals, the gap across age ranges is 13%. The largest gap is in the 40-49 age range, where the pay gap leaps to a massive 30%.

Currently the female proportion of the workforce sits at less than 18% showing that it continues to shrink despite a 22% rise in women studying technology degrees at undergraduate level.

This is on abroad level, I can go into the statistics that show despite companies being made up of a good gender balance of staff, the percentage of women decreases as you go higher up in the company.

This is not just one company but industry-wide.

Thanks Faisal - the stats do prove there large gaps, and of course not all boys go into IT / Technology either!

I guess one useful stat would be how badly (or well) does Technology fare compared to the norm.

Are we better or worse than retail or manufacturing etc?

If better than average, then we should publicise that, say "hooray for technology companies".

Then, at the same time we can say "Hey wait a minute - if we are setting the example here, we can do so much better!"

If we are average or below, then the same applies, except we should be saying that we SHOULD be setting an example.

I'd love to see a Hans Rosling chart comparing the male - female gaps across different industries and times...

Just to take up a few of your points Faisal:

“Well, it's the fact that there are men like Andy Gray everywhere in industry”.

Evidence please? You’ve made an assertion with no evidence, and this sounds more like a slander against men working in the industry to me.

“Maybe they haven't been caught”

Ok so what you’re saying here is that there is no evidence – no-one has actually been caught. This sounds somewhat of a straw man argument to me.

“We know these people exist but, unlike Andy Gray, they never make their beliefs known and keep their motives hidden…”

There will certainly be discrimination at play in all of this, but how much we do not know, I would contest that lack of involvement of women in ICT may well be attributable to other potential factors such as social/cultural issues. Further, you suggest that some men keep their motives and beliefs hidden – how do you know? Are you accusing these men of thought crimes? Again evidence please and not hearsay.

“You may have a point that women might not be as interested in technology than men but the statistics prove otherwise.”

Actually, the statistics do not prove otherwise. What the statistics do reveal is that there is a disparity in gender participation in our industry – no-one is questioning this, but they do not reveal whether discrimination is at play.

You have apparently misread the purpose of the ‘Women in IT scorecard’, it’s point was not in fact to pinpoint discrimination as a factor, it’s purpose was actually as stated ‘to provide a robust evidence base for the facts behind the trends,to demonstrate differences in the participation rates between the genders and to present an

analysis of these trends and the current situation to inform policy debate and future action by the partners and their communities’. The study does not in fact highlight the causes of the disparity and I think this is the big question that remains unanswered. As a matter of fact on this comment page you will find several useful articles that highlight the issue of flexible working and it’s impact on womens participation in IT. It might also be useful to look at the factors that do appear to positively influence participation in the industry, I know many colleagues whose first exposure to IT came through gaming and music etc and progressed from there.