…then the one I’m about to talk about would be some guy going “I’m not sexist, but those women sure are difficult to work with aren’t they?”
Tim Chevalier asked me to document my calling out of sexism. I was already semi-planning to, but to be honest I was probably going to put it off due to the afore-mentioned crushing feeling of awkwardness. I’ll try not to do that, so this is my first account. It actually happened before the publishing of the last post and the difficulty I felt doing this was somewhat the spur for said post.
I’m going to establish an anonymity policy here though: Anything I mention is going to be at most as public as its source. Something in public on the internet I’m happy to link to and name and shame, something that happens over private email I may reproduce but I’m absolutely not going to name. This isn’t an ideal policy from a combating sexism point of view, but I think it hits a nice “Not being a complete asshole about it” middle ground. I may revise this policy later, but until I explicitly say otherwise this is what I’m going to do.
A developer acquaintance recently sent a link around to me and a few others. It was If Programming Languages Were Women. On writing this, I am very pleased to note that uTest have published a nice apology. So, well done on that. Thanks.
So uTest have handled this well in the end, but this is about the person who sent me the article. This was my response to them, written very much with the assumption that he probably just hadn’t really thought things through and trying to explain why it was a problem:
Yeah, sorry, this is a call out.
This sort of article isn’t really ok. It’s not that it’s wildly
offensive or anything – it’s not really (even if the first three women
described respectively have “serious issues”, are “seriously fugly”
and used to be “slow and a bit ditzy”. Nice).
The problem is that there is a widespread culture of “Just us guys” in
the software world. This isn’t surprising given the gender
distribution, but it in turn makes that gender distribution worse – if
you’re a woman in the industry you are constantly being given
reminders that you’re different, not really part of the core group,
and ultimately that can drive you away.
Imagine you’re a female developer and you read this article. What do
you think reading it? Do you think “Ha ha. You’re right! Programming
languages are totally like women”. Or do you think “Oh, right, thanks.
I forgot for a second there that I’m not really one of the normal
developers, I’m just a woman who happens to also write some code.
Appreciate the reminder”.
Female software developers are far more likely to drop out of the
industry than male ones, and things like this are a large part of why:
When you’re constantly being reminded you’re not actually part of the
group, it’s not terribly surprising you decide to leave the group.
There’s a big gender problem in the software world. Let’s not make it
worse than it is.
(What I am describing here is Othering, or maybe the experience of a Grunch. I thought it would probably be unhelpful to use or explain those words, as being confronted with jargon from an unfamiliar discipline when being told they’re wrong can sometimes make people defensive. I have no idea if this was the right call).
His response was less than ideal:
Agreed, wholeheartedly. Sorry if this didn’t enhance your day as intended.
More girls in our industry would be terrific. However my experience has not been the greatest on that front. I had a coworker that cried when she fell on the wrong side of a dispute over design; that behaviour gets old very quickly and is very unprofessional. Can’t imagine a guy using that particular tactic — with the exception of Steve Jobs perhaps.
Nevertheless, I have subsequently interviewed and offered positions based on talent to female job applicants and without prejudice.
I thought the comedy value and creative merit of the article was worth sharing. I wouldn’t blog this personally. but saying that, I don’t broadcast any of my random thoughts and observations.
I… really didn’t know how to respond to this, so in the end I left it at a single link:
I mean, I’ve worked with some remarkably difficult people in the past. Most of them have been men. Am I to conclude that men sure are difficult to work with, aren’t they?