Watching the #1reasonwhy hashtag on Twitter, all about reasons why there aren’t more female game developers. Both depressing and inspiring. And also watching the Code4Lib community discuss an anti-harassment policy, which is inspiring, full stop. (Good people. Glad I spend time around them.)
Which means I’m thinking even more than usual about these issues today. This in particular: I feel like every time discussions about gender diversity in tech come up, someone (invariably white, male, young or young-ish) says something along the lines of, why can’t they just do what I did? Take the steps I took to get into the industry or community. (Instead of whining about it. Instead of needing things to be handed to them. Instead of…something.)
Well. Here are some things that I, as a woman increasingly-in-tech, do, that I do not think men in tech do:
- Be the only person of their gender on a project, or in a room.
- Run across continual reminders that the category of “geek” implicitly doesn’t include themselves. Any joke or reference that takes for granted it’s really hard for geeks to get girlfriends? Is one that assumes I (and gay men) aren’t geeks, and moreover everybody assumes as much.
- Be nervous about the prospect of going to tech conferences, because of the possibility that a large fraction of the people of their gender represented will be there solely for their sexuality, not their competence (booth babes, naked women on presentation slides), and the corresponding possibility that people will assume they don’t have competence to contribute.
- Note that other-gendered (straight) techies get eye candy at events and in games and so forth as a matter of course, but their own gender rarely does, and it’s not as if said gender does not also appreciate eye candy, thankyouverymuch.
- Hang back from going to conferences or working on projects or joining IRC channels or what-have-you because they don’t know until they’ve tried it if this is going to be one of the cultures that’s intolerable to people of their gender. Spend the first hours or days or months they venture into a new venue waiting for the trolls to jump out from under the bridge.
- Be concerned that, if they advocate for people of their gender to get opportunities, others will assume that those people are there only to check off a checkbox and are less capable than other-gender candidates. Be concerned that the candidates themselves will wonder if this is true. Assume that some people look at them and believe they don’t have technical skills because of their gender — and the more public and successful they are in their advocacy, the more often this will happen.
- Assume that blogging about tech issues means they’re eventually going to get troglodyte harassment at best, and ultimately rape threats or death threats or both. Devote actual neurons to planning for how they’ll do the IP logging and which friends they’ll ask to moderate comments. Assume that the IP logging will be meaningless because law enforcement won’t care, but plan for it anyway.
So why can’t I just RTFM and submit a pull request and show up and start talking? Because I can’t. Because there is no path open to me that starts outside of tech and ends up in it and does not route through all this other stuff. Mind you, I have RTFMed (occasionally I’ve written TFM) and submitted pull requests and shown up and talked, but I have never just done that and I cannot just do that.
I would love to just do that.