I work for a creative tech advertising agency in Shoreditch. The day I got hired I was told 'No-one here is special'. The agency cares not for gender, age, race or sexual preference- all they care about is talent. UX, Oculus Rift's, Biometric reporting and athermally photo-reduced graphene oxides, can get a bit 'wtf' but my level of understanding has nothing to do with the fact I have ovaries- it's only ever been about how good I am at my job.
The 'diversity agenda' is a particularly rife topic of conversation. Every day column inches are littered with businesses disclosing their gender ratios, reporting on their efforts to bridge the gender gap by implementing initiatives to make women feel as welcome as their male counterparts. Google is a good example of a company actively working to eradicate 'ism's' from tech, trying to create balance but not at the cost of merit.
Yes I have experienced sexism before but no, I don't think when I'm made to feel shit at work, that it is a vendetta against my sex. Too often people reach for the gender card when things don't go their way and it needs to stop. With this in mind, a website has just launched that has really wound me up. It claims:
"Without meaning to, the tech community often condescends to women or ignores them entirely...Gadgette is a new publication for women about tech, style and life. We specialise in covering tech in a way that's inclusive and useful...We also offer the best bits from the worlds of beauty, fashion, fun and feminism."
Let's pull this apart.
"Without meaning to, the tech community often condescends to women or ignores them entirely..."I totally agree. You only need to peruse the extensive timeline of incidents at Geek Feminism for an illustration of sexism in tech as far back as 1963. Just look what happened to the female speakers at Google I/O last month. It's disgusting that we live in a world where this still happens to anyone regardless of their gender. But this kind of behaviour isn't exclusive to tech; tech isn't sexist, society is. Sir Tim Hunt anyone? #FIFA16?
"Gadgette is a new publication for women about tech, style and life. We specialise in covering tech in a way that's inclusive and useful..."I'm being pedantic but how can you create something 'for women' that is 'inclusive'? By stating it's 'for women', it is therefore not for men. This is The biC pen for her all over again. Why do we need a girl version of ANYTHING? Kristen Wigg recently commented,"...people kept calling [what I do] female comedy. I was like, 'Can't we just call it a comedy? We don't say male comedy'...Funny is funny." Yeah, tech is also just tech.
And what's not 'useful' or 'inclusive' about how Wired or Quartz, for example, talk about tech? Do they not have enough pictures or flowery adjectives for you? Because bitches love a flowery adjective. Neither sex is special and by proxy that means we should be spoken to in the same manner regardless of whether it's about tech or nursing.
Now for the piece de resistance-
"We also offer the best bits from the worlds of beauty, fashion, fun and feminism."Congratulations ladies- you literally just compounded your own problem. Is that all women are interested in? If a man ever said that women are only interested in 'beauty, fashion, fun and feminism' he'd be lynched; why on earth are you stereotyping yourself into the very bracket you appear to be trying to break free from?
If the tech sector is male dominated, surely we need to create more of a female presence rather than less of one? Women can't be heard if we are on separate platforms from the people who we're trying to make listen. Let's get more female writers working for T3 or MIT Tech Review or even try and persuade Vogue to regularly discuss tech and innovation. If women feel there's a problem in those spaces, women should embrace being part of their change.
Tech needs to embrace what matters between our ears not our legs. In doing this, it will be naturally creating an environment where, when someone doesn't get a job or gets insulted or feels misunderstood, it will not be a gender issue. Because it should only be an issue of merit.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book 'Blink', discussed a 'blind-test audition' implemented by the Munich Philharmonic in 1980, as a method to solve the gender imbalance within the Orchestra. The first time they tried it, they hired their first woman. Before the advent of blind auditions in the US, female presence was less than 5%. Today it's closer to 50%. This is a system based on a meritocracy only and it's exactly what we should be aiming to emulate.
Tech needs less victims and more problem-solvers, from both sides of the gender fence.