Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's It Like to Be a Woman in the Tech Industry?


"What is it like to be a woman in the tech industry?"

Once or twice a year, I'm asked some variation of that question.

There are two inherent problems with the question.

1. I have only ever been a woman.
I have no point of comparison. What some people are really trying to ask is, "Have you ever been treated improperly because you are female?" and there's an inherent problem with that question, too. While some discrimination is on the surface and obvious, a whole lot of it is invisible. For example, if I don't know my colleagues' salaries, male and female alike, how do I know if I'm being underpaid because of my sex? If I'm not promoted, how do I know I was passed up on a promotion because I'm female? It's very hard to tell. When it's not hard to tell, people need to speak up, of course, and that doesn't just mean women. Men need to speak up, too.

2. I am not in the tech industry.
This point is extremely important because people get it wrong all the time. I am a writer. I write about technology. When I have to list my job industry, I choose "media" or "press." I cover the tech industry, yes, but I am not a part of it. If I were a  part of it, I would have a much harder time doing my job because a huge part of my job is to observe the tech industry impartially.

Why Aren't You Asking Men?
Women need to speak out when they know they are discriminated against. yes. But we also need to be asking men questions related to the gender imbalance in the tech industry as well as other industries and sectors that are male-dominated.

If men are in the position of power, what are they doing to change the gender imbalance?

I've rarely heard men asked about the issue. More people should be asking executives and hiring managers: How many women are on your board of directors? What are you doing to increase the number of job applications from women? Are you training women for managerial and executive-level positions, and if not, why not? If you don't ask men, they won't know it's their responsibility to do something different.

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