Guest post: Not so much what people think they think as how we collectively act

Originally a comment by AJ Milne on Hey, 13% is practically half.

Having been on the technical side of high tech nearly two decades now, and in some fairly large organizations (you’ve heard of a few of them, certainly), I have to say I find these numbers pretty unsurprising from what I’ve observed.

As to why: I’m no expert, but I think you’ve read it in the news. Suffice to say the environment just isn’t real welcoming for a wide host of reasons, mostly more covert now, as the laws have made overt stuff actionable at HR. Some of my male colleagues especially tend to get their backs up a bit hearing this, but anyone who knows the sociology knows the larger story well enough. And it’s rarely so much about any single person’s attitudes as the collective weight of a lot of things, and not so much what people think they think as how we collectively act.

The sort of odd part about that: looking around at the people I work with immediately, they’re mostly pretty politically progressive. Tends to be the direction in the profession, and if you came out of rural Canada into the urban milieu to take your degree, you’ve had your eyes opened a bit to how far there is to go. I can’t imagine many of them going on about a woman’s place being in the kitchen or the like, and despite being more on the technical side of things and a bit behind on the social sciences, most of them probably wouldn’t be strong subscribers to poorly substantiated ladybrains-are-bad-at-this-stuff notions (though this would, I suspect, come out far more than cruder expressions of sexism)… And yet here we are. Momentum, in part: it gets to be a bit of a locker room atmosphere to some degree just as a matter of who’s present, I could go on. And then the larger industry is so generally hostile, women run an obstacle course to get to the higher ends of the profession especially.

It bugs you, now and then. The company I’m with right now does do some things, maybe more than token, these leadership seminars emphasized for and by women, and I get to thinking sometimes if we didn’t have at least that, how could anyone imagining themselves at all progressive even stay in the profession? I wouldn’t accept an invitation to a whites-only country club, and yet I work for what’s very nearly a men-only one. If you didn’t think now and then this isn’t right, just when do you think at all? It bugs you, and I wonder sometimes if that’s some of what’s behind the misogynist raving on the net: technical people sticking their fingers in their ears, shouting as loudly as they can it’s really the meritocracy they want to believe it is, trying not to notice just what an express lane they’ve been given, even as resentment swirls around them.


  1. Malachite says

    Very true. I observe that the guy who nearly ended up responsible for my being forced out of my first tech job, through continued gendered microaggressions, was the most voluble about being politically progressive. (Fortunately he left before it was too late.)

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