Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is the Tech Community Working Fine Without Women?

Mark Guzdial linked to a post about Technology’s Man Problem yesterday and highlighted one piece of it. It really got me thinking.

a commenter calling himself White_N_Nerdy wrote on Reddit, “I’m honestly trying to understand why anyone says that females are ‘needed’ in the tech industry.” He continued: “The tech community works fine without females, just like any other mostly male industry. Feminists probably just want women making more money.”

The bolded part above is my highlight and what I was thinking was the though that “The tech community works fine without females.” And my first thought was, well, no, actually the tech community is not working fine without females. Of course for me a well working community, by definition, incudes a diverse population including women. But even if you don’t include women as a requirement for a community “working fine” are we really ok? I think not.

Our software is too often non intuitive. We have too many bugs. We have too little in the way of creative ideas. We have great (for some definition of great) software for geeks and nerds and so-so software for the general population. And that is why we need more diversity.

Too much of the development community has no understanding of the term work/life balance. That’s not healthy. Too many people work too hard and not smart leading to software that is less than ideal and people who burn out.

In my first job out of college I worked for a software house that had a large percentage of women developers. They had lives. They had husbands, children and other interests beyond work. This lead them to work efficiently and smoothly. From them I learned that is not how many hours you work but how you work during those hours. We need more of that attitude.

We’ve seen all sorts of changes in other areas of work as women enter them in larger numbers. As more women entered the types of jobs involving business travel we saw wheels added to luggage. That’s not something men would have thought of on their own. Most men were too macho to say “I’m not carrying that because it is heavy.” Now we all accept wheels as being as normal as handles on luggage. What sort of changes would having more women in computing make? We’ll never know until it happens. But I suspect that men will find a lot of things how up that in hindsight they will wonder how they lived without.

Studies show that mixed gender teams tend to be more productive and more creative. With increased demands for software that solves more and more problems both productivity and creativity are desperately needed. We are not “working fine without women.” We are shortchanging ourselves and the community when we push women away. Men have to stop doing that.

1 comment:

Garth said...

As a high school teacher I do see how boys and girls program differently. The girls are more consistently methodical. The boys just want to hack away. This could have to do with maturity levels at that age but maybe not. I still like to hack away.