Assumptions Made about Females in Tech

Starting this post I don’t exactly know how to explain how this thought process came about.  But I viewed some of the posts on r/TwoXChromosones  and some of the comments and got the gist of what was going on with the whole thing. One post in particular was about the The one female coder showcased on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

In the one of the  later episodes of Season 1 the group go to Tech Crunch Disrupt and the Canadian and the Indian guy bump into what is neither showcased as a female coder or a marketer. But on the ground floor of what is shown to be a very male dominated atmosphere. She asks both the Canadian and Indian guy at separate times if they know Java and whether they can fix a bug in their code(her Startups). Both of which oblige for different bugs at different times.

From my point of view, before the episode completed and the plot was resolved, at the time of these requests for help by the female I was watching for a sort of ruse going on. Whether it was some sort of trust gaining excercise on her part and whether she was a female femme fatale character trying to steal Pied Piper’s Codebase somehow. But nope, she wasn’t flirting to get them to do it, or promising sex or anything else. It was purely a person asking for code help. If she was a male this wouldn’t even be a thing. I had made assumptions about her character. If a character is introduced and thrown into the fore of two main characters asking for help and both of them  obliging. Said person must have alterior motives. But NO! This time it was purely on the characters. They could have said no, done nothing, and not made it sexual. The two naive nerds seduced by the femme fatale. Typical. The two naive nerds trying to exchange niceties for sexual advancement. Less typical. I’d call it the dark side of the supposed friendzoned.

As the episode develops further it transpires that the woman is purely on the social media side of her respective business and does not code. The Indian Guy was turned on by the code, and it’s complexities and nuances and thinking that it was the woman who wrote it (she gave no indication of such, except for being at a Tech Startup Conference),  when in fact it was the Canadian Guy. Boom, and in one fell swoop the sole apparent female coder of a show about Silicon Valley was sent to the sidelines as a social media marketer. Assumptions were given. Male Response to Damsels are given.

The whole fiasco within the episode can get you thinking. For one thing, if I was at a tech conference I previously and ignorantly would have made the opposite assumption that the Indian and Canadian guy made in the show. I would have assumed any woman at a tech conference was in the social media marketing side and not the code side . I had no reason to think otherwise. Until I was proven wrong so massively and quickly. Luckily assumptions can be changed and adapted. I now aim to make no assumptions about anyone. If only there were others who followed this:

At an interview I was at for a Developer Job, one of the fellow interviewees was talking about how she was at this tech careers conference style thing(you know with company stalls and things like that). She was saying that she was going around to a few of the companies, and went over to this Certain Company Booth, and was asking about things like some of the programming questions or interview questions or employment prerequisites for applying to a certain company (Let’s say it’s fairly huge and has it’s finger in everything and is not the typical company you’d think of) to which the recruiter/booth guy replied: “Well we’re mostly about programming and engineering questions”. Entirely ignoring the line of genuinely honest questioning because he perceived her to be a Business Student/Grad as opposed to a CS Grad because she was a female.

I cannot even imagine how I would react in a similar situation. I can’t imagine being put in a similar situation. I suppose that is just privilege. But she just had to politely correct the booth tech guy and managed to just grin and bear it. Somehow she didn’t flip her shit at the whole thing.

The whole story really does give the image of the Little Rascals’ He-Man Woman Haters Club and the No Gurls Allowed nature of the tech industry . To think that in your prospective entry into the world of work in Tech that you’d be so quickly brushed off as unimportant or misguided must be very disheartening. It’s almost like females in tech have to prove themselves more just for the same opportunities. Almost like they’ve to brand themselves a certain way just to avoid being brushed off.

Conversely I could wear a suit and ask the question and be answered, wear a tracksuit and be answered. No personal branding required.  It’s a cruel world we live in.

I suppose the only solution to this problem is for those in this Boyz Club to open their fucking minds. There is no simple solution to this issue. Nor can I offer anything more to solve this. But it’s worth thinking about. I hope anyone reading this can think about it. Being open is so very important to every single industry. The opinions and prejudices of any one engineer in a tech company should not be able or allowed to make someone have to explain themselves.

I don’t know how to end blog posts.  Just think about the whole thing.

Just a quick edit as I found the link, and feel it’s much more relevant and useful than anything that I say. Here is an open letter on feminism in tech: Open Letter on Feminism in Tech . In it is mentioned:

“We’re constantly asked ‘if you write any code’ when speaking about technical topics and giving technical presentations, despite just having given a talk on writing code. We’ve been harassed at these same conferences in person and online about our gender, looks, and technical expertise.”

This is sort of what I was trying to touch on abit, but I can’t formulate it properly nor have I ever experienced it to explain it properly. But, I know it happens. The tech industry is totally fucked. Things really do need to change. But, I’m not fully sure where. Responses to complaints, criticisms and an improvement in diversity would help. But there’s so much more to be done about the whole thing. But give that link a read. It’s worth it for the viewpoint.