There are some very cool, interesting and intelligent women working in the technology sector.
They're as good if not better than their male counterparts at what they do. I shouldn't even need to say that - it's 2012 - not 1912!
I was raised by my mother. She was (and still is) stubborn, opinionated, intelligent, hardworking and someone I have the utmost respect for. She raised me practically single-handed at a time when being a "single mother" in Ireland wasn't as "acceptable" as it is now. I owe a lot to her (and if she's reading this I hope she doesn't cringe too much!). A lot of what I learnt from my mother wasn't really obvious to me nor did I really appreciate it until quite recently - at least not consciously anyway. She brought me up to treat women in a particular way and also to believe that anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it ie. you shouldn't sell yourself short or restrict your ambition. She taught me to accept people for what they were and not to treat people differently based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any of those things that some people just love to be odd about. (Admittedly I don't think she quite got round to encouraging acceptance of stupidity, but I guess this is what this post is about .. )
Unfortunately there's still some very odd and quite archaic, if not almost "caveman like" attitudes from some men in the tech sector. The emphasis is on "some", as I personally hope we're all not doing this.. if we are then we probably deserve to be horsewhipped.
As a guy it's kind of hard to see this unless someone points it out to you. Fortunately some of my female friends have done just that.
I go to quite a few tech events around the world. My friends and acquaintances come from a very broad range of professions and interests. Some people I'd never have met if I wasn't working in the industry I work in. Some of them I now count as close friends, while others have nothing in common with me beyond the industry we work in. Quite a few of them are women and I was personally quite shocked and disturbed when I learnt about some of the behaviour that some people engage in with respect to women.
Stories I've heard over the past few weeks have involved quite shocking behaviour. I'm not sure if it's that some male delegates at tech conferences think they can "get away" with just about anything when they're "at an event", but if they act like this all the time I'd have to wonder about the future of the human race.
What am I talking about?
I guess I need to spell it out ..
Treating women like objects and making them feel uncomfortable because they "dared" to attend a tech industry event. A woman shouldn't need a chaperone when she's at a tech event, but some men are obviously behaving in such a manner that you'd almost think the contrary.
And don't get me wrong - a lot of the women I know in the tech industry are formidable - but just because they can stand up for themselves and deal with objectionable behaviour does not make it any less acceptable.
A couple of friends posted link to a couple of articles the other day that were really worrying, though they weren't about the tech sector they definitely struck a chord with several of my female friends. Unfortunately a lot of the people reading and commenting on the posts seem to focus on the bits they want to ie. they ignore what I'd consider most disturbing - the misogyny and sexism.
Of course there are plenty of stupid people - just look at some of the statements from US politicians in relation to rape in the last while. The comparison between extremists can be both amusing, enlightening and disturbing at the same time.
I don't have any answers. I have a lot of questions.
It's 2012. I can't speak for all men - and I probably wouldn't even want to try - but we have got to get away from the "caveman" attitude.
Any community, be it social or work related, benefits from a healthy and respectful attitude towards all its members.
A female friend, who shall remain nameless (unless they out themselves), posted something on Facebook that I thought was incredibly apt and well put:
women are being subtly and not so subtly ostracized every day, everywhere. no anger here, just stating the facts. the same way that racism is still alive and well despite constant positive changes, so is sexism/misogyny. obviously, all men are not to blame, and there's something to be said about women who, actively or passively, perpetuate this kind of discrimination. but that's another story.
I'm not a woman. I cannot empathise, in the true meaning of the word, with their experiences - I can but try to understand it. And it disturbs me.
We need to stop it.
That doesn't mean going "all PC" - I don't think anyone really wants that. But there's a big difference between treating people with mutual respect and acting like a caveman. Put it another way, if you treated my younger sister the way some of my female friends have been treated I'd probably knock you out cold. Just saying!