14th October 2012
Read it. And try not to laugh.
Walk into most tech companies and you’ll be greeted by the same picture – a room made up entirely of men. You can practically smell the testosterone.
The technology industry is still struggling to shake off the image of the male, pizza-guzzling, antisocial nerd – a perception that initiatives like this month’s Ada Lovelace day – which celebrates the role of women in technology – and Lady Geek’s “Little Miss Geek” campaign, are striving to change.
And, of course, pizza-guzzling (how do you ‘guzzle’ a pizza?), antisocial nerds are justly famed for their testosterone. Watch a couple episodes of CHUCK and you’ll be convinced.
Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the US economy, they hold less than 25% of jobs in the science and technology sector, according to a government report. In the UK, the problem is even worse: currently only 17% of jobs in the technology sector are held by women. Both numbers are declining year-on-year.
Conspicuous by its absence: Any explanation as to why this is a ‘problem’; it’s just assumed, in the sure and certain knowledge that anyone reading a BBC article will know, just know, that it is.
Can you say ‘political agenda’? I’m sure you can.
So long as shiny new gadgets keep flying off the shelves, what does it matter who’s making them?
A good question. Let’s see whether it gets answered. My money is on No.
It’s all very well appealing to a tech chief exec’s sense of social injustice – but the bottom line is that they are running a business.
Gee, there’s that pesky political agenda again — the definition of ‘social injustice’, and how it differs from just plain ol’ ‘injustice’, is left as an exercise for the reader (no pun intended).
What do they care about gender diversity, really?
Indeed, why ought anyone to care about ‘gender diversity’ (i.e. Jobs For The Girls)? Again, one of those Politically Correct Good Things That All Right Thinking People Want Without Knowing Why.
We ultimately need to appeal to the thing that matters most: their wallets.
Feel free to wonder about who the ‘we’ is in that sentence. Hint: It’s probably not you, unless you get your news from MSNBC.
That’s why every chief executive should be made aware of the following stat: tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment.
Repeat after me the magic phrase: ‘Correlation does not imply causation’. I guess they don’t teach logic in Gender Studies 101.
The reasons are obvious.
Are they really? Really?
Diversity is important in any industry, but is especially relevant when it comes to technology.
Why? No discussion, just assertion. After all, we’re preaching to the choir here. It seems plausible that diversity of products is important, and perhaps diversity of approaches, but I know of no peer-reviewed studies that hook this up uniquely with two X chromosomes.
Tech is the way that world talks to each other. People have never emailed, liked, commented, called, messaged and tweeted more than we are doing right now. And guess what? Half of all those people are women.
And guess what? They seem to be using the current male-created tools just fine. (Men, just to use one example, don’t typically spend a lot of time posting cat videos on YouTube. Yet there they are.) So how are women uniquely qualified to create products for women to use? Is there a secret handshake or IP address or something?
It’s not that we believe women are better or more effective than men – they just simply provide a different point of view, something that is vital when bringing a new product to market.
And that’s why marketing tends to be dominated by females — certainly the marketing departments of every company I’ve ever worked for seem to be run that way. Why do we especially need women writing code in order to create products that appeal to women? ‘Sharon, would you buy this program?’ ‘Hell, no.’ ‘What would you buy?’ ‘Something that makes it easier to put cute videos of my cat on YouTube.’ ‘Okay, boys, there’s our product spec. Let’s get to it.’
What special skillset do women as women bring to the creation of these products? The answer is not provided.
Well, we could do this sort of barrel-fish-shooting all day, but my fingers are getting tired.
(Oh, you might want to look for any mention of the author’s technical credentials. All I see is a celebration of her ability to get her opinions into print — not exactly the sort of person I’d hire to do a web site or a search algorithm. Perhaps the smell of testosterone gave her the vapors.)