February 13, 2013 2:31 pm

The Feminist Developer

Because I’ve evidently become the feminist developer on Twitter recently, I decided to turn my thoughts into a full-fledged post.

“…a bunch of hot chicks…”

I was spurred to start discssing this when, while at work, I heard the organization Women In Technology described as “a bunch of hot chicks working for agencies.”

Truly. “A bunch of hot chicks working for agencies.”

You’ll recall that I’m the only female developer in my workplace, and I don’t consider myself easily offended. This is not the first time something ridiculously sexist has been said at work (and, sadly, I’m sure it won’t be the last) but this particular instance made me really angry. There is a time and place for describing women as “hot chicks” – if you must – but that was emphatically not it, most especially because it was Women In Technology that was being described, an organization that works with women to help combat this kind of thing in the workplace.

[Our mission is to] advance women in technology from the classroom to the boardroom by providing advocacy, leadership development, networking, mentoring and technology education.

I tweeted this incident and mentioned @everydaysexism, a Twitter account that welcomes any and all reports of this nature to help everyone get a better picture for what it’s like living in a very sexist world. They’re an extremely high-volume account, but I’d recommend giving them a look – they’re doing important work. Sexism is so rampant that we often overlook it, and @everydaysexism tries to highlight the everyday instances in which sexism affects our lives. As for my tweet, @everydaysexism ended up retweeting me and I got several more retweets over the next few days – it made me feel less alone.

Spot the Woman

I’ve also been looking at a lot of websites for apps and startups and other companies, and I started noticing a disturbing trend. If the company even had any ladies on their team at all, they were often listed last, even if their qualifications superceded some of the men’s qualifications!

  • The Outbox team employs a woman as their Director of Sales, and she is dead last on the page. Their lead designer, who is also a woman, is second-to-last. The list seems to be in order of “importance” with the C-levels at the top, but I don’t see why their Director of Sales couldn’t be after the SVP of Operations and above Lead Developer.
  • At 37 Signals, they list fourteen men before they list a woman on their team. Additionally, only seven of their thirty-six listed employees are women.
  • Seesaw is passable; women working there don’t seem to be listed last, but only two out of eight employees are women. Their “posse” leans male too – only three out of twelve investors and advisors are women.
  • Envy Labs does not appear to organize their employees by gender, so well-done there. However, out of 29 employees, only four are women.
  • Other companies like Rdio, Iceber.gs, Userfox, and Plain do not list a woman amongst their team.

Are these stats meaningless? Well, yes and no. I picked these websites more or less at random based on links to various apps and development companies I’ve viewed recently – so there’s some amount of bias there. Plus, some of those companies are made up of only a few people! However, I think it’s telling that it wasn’t very hard at all to find websites with poor representation of women on their team pages.

Maybe it’s just because I last worked at a company with a really great gender ratio and as such, the gender disparity at my current job is extremely obvious to me, but I don’t think I’m seeing things where they aren’t, either.

Future Woman in Tech

Today I stumbled across the website Future Woman in Tech, which is a letter from an aunt to her eight-year-old neice who wants to be a game developer. It says so many things I think developers (male or female) need to hear.

I hope that you never have to hear a co-worker disservice a colleague by describing their physicality before their competence.

…and that’s exactly what happened in the workplace incident I outlined above.

Takeaways

I didn’t set out to write this post. It sort of wrote itself, out of irritation and outrage on behalf of what women working in male-dominated fields like technology put up with every day. I don’t need to hear that website feature described as “TOTALLY TITS!” even if my bowling name is often Tits McGee. Neither do you.

If you hear sexist remarks made in your presence, tweet them to @everydaysexism. You’ll find support there, and even if that’s not what you’re after, you’re helping highlight the obnoxious things that happen every day to women around the world.

And please, show the Future Woman in Tech website to everybody you know. I want it to come true.

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3 Comments

  • Clem says:

    I’m neither in any sort of technological field nor preparing for a career in one, but just by virtue of spending a lot of time on the internet I’ve definitely witnessed this kind of thing before. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, as well: by devaluing the work women do, it discourages them from pursuing a career in a male-dominated field (whether that decision is conscious or not). Most infuriatingly, whenever I read any sort of discussion about this, written by a woman, there’s always a sizeable chunk of comments saying that it’s not a real problem, that if we just shut up about our gender everything would be fine, that we’re creating problems where there are not, that recognition should be merit-based (as if men just happen to deserve 90% of the praise/jobs/promotions/etc by chance!), that our own experiences and thoughts about them are invalid. It’s the whole “I don’t perceive my gender to have an affect on my career, therefore it is impossible that your gender could.”

    ANYWAY. Well-said, and such an important topic!

  • Catherine says:

    ugh that first quote is disgusting. I’m a female electronic and electrical engineer. There are under ten other girls studying alongside me for this degree, in a class of nearly a hundred. It can be uncomfortable- I struggle so much feeling like I have to prove myself to all the guys on my course. Thankfully I have not encountered any actual issues so far whilst I study at uni, although I am nervous about getting a job one day. You hear a lot about how easy it is to get a job as a female engineer but I worry about finding myself in a work place where my skills will not be valued. Thank you for linking to that website. It was interesting to read and says a lot of things that definitely need to be said!

  • Rose says:

    In defence of low woman-man ratio at tech companies, this might just be because there are fewer women in the industry and so it’s easier to find men to hire.

    In a case of reverse sexism, I think I’ve actually had an EASIER time finding work due to my gender for that same reason…