There seems to be a lot of discussion on the Internet about women in technology. More specifically the troubles they have with. The Girls in IT–Infographic and Report from NCWIT I wrote about talks about the shortage of women and girls in information technology. A couple of recent articles give some clues about why that shortage of girls in the field may be.
- How to Be a ‘Woman Programmer’ is an article in the New York Times by a woman software developer recounting some of the sexist and down right anti-women experiences she’s experienced. I find this sort of thing aggravating. Not the post but the behavior it reports.
- This is not my web is a response to Audrey Watters’ decision to turn off comments at her blog Hack Education. Like many women writing on the Internet Audrey gets a lot of very sexist and even threatening comments.
Women I know in industry say that things are better then they once were but that there is still a lot of sexism in information technology roles. It drives me crazy.
I hear/read men saying that women are just not good at computing but that is opposite of my experience. I remember back in the middle ages when I was a college student the women had a curfew and had to be back in their dorms by 11 PM. Men had no restriction and often pulled all-nighters to get code done. In spite of spending less (often a lot less) time on projects the women in my classes never seemed to miss deadlines. Not a sign of “less ability” to me.
I’ve worked with professional developers for many years and the women I worked with all managed to be just as good or better than the men. AND they had a life outside of work which is more than some of the so-called “rock star” male developers didn’t seem to have time for. That’s not data but I have seen some data that strongly suggests that men often over estimate their abilities and women often under estimate their abilities.
So what brings on the aggressive sexism we all too often see, especially on the Internet? I don’t know for sure but I wonder if some of it is fear. Are some men intimidated by the way women work? Are they afraid that people will expect them to change the way they work and ask them to work smart rather than hard and long? At some level do some of these men realize that they don’t compare well to women? Not that they’d admit it to others of course. That would be a bit much for them.
What ever the problem is with these guys the rest of us need to speak out about the issue. We need to avoid laughing as the “jokes”, tolerating the snide comments, and reject actions that make women uncomfortable or unwanted. We don’t need to tell women to “toughen up” or “let it slide.” We need to tell other men to grow up.