In case you missed it, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington wrote a pretty brazen article this weekend about why there is a lack of women in the tech industry today. Michael was prompted to write this article as a reaction to WSJ’s recent article “Addressing The Lack Of Women Leading Tech Start-Ups“. In the article, Michael presents his own conclusion to the question of why there aren’t enough women involved in technology – and that is to stop blaming men, because he argues that it’s the fault of women. “The problem isn’t that Silicon Valley is keeping women down, or not doing enough to encourage female entrepreneurs. The opposite is true. No, the problem is that not enough women want to become entrepreneurs.”
Reactions to Michael’s sentiment have been as diverse as they have been passionate. There are men commenting by saying that yes, it is indeed women’s own fault because they are too meek. There have also been some feminist responses from the likes of women who themselves are indeed tech-entrepreneurs and who of-course totally disagree with Michael’s sentiment.
I won’t discount Michael’s article as a piece of nonsense, and I’m not of the camp that believes that all the blame falls on men. That said, I think it’s unfair to say that the men in the tech industries are altogether innocent. As a “women in tech” blogger I have faced plenty of discrimination over the past couple of years. The first year or two for Chip Chick was especially brutal. Back then there were virtually no women oriented tech blogs around. Gadget blogs were a guy thing and wholly male influenced. Slowly, more and more women gadget bloggers popped up, and eventually female, and especially mommy bloggers became a marketer’s commodity. But that took a while to happen. Yet, after all of this time, it’s still not uncommon for us to encounter the odd PR guy, who when hearing that Chip Chick is a tech site for women, will respond with something along the lines of “Oh, isn’t that cute.” Furthermore, after 6 years as working as a tech blogger, I still run into male “peers” who look straight past me. This is despite the fact that we have been attending the same events and meetings side by side for years.
But don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of male blogger friends who are awesome, and have never treated myself or other female members of the Chip Chick team any differently than they do the guys. So no, I’m not one of those men haters! Growing up, my own father and grandfather were the biggest supporters of women pursuing big carreers. They both vehemently advocated that women should pursue the best education possible and follow even the most difficult of career paths -if it’s what a woman wanted of-course. “There is nothing you can’t do, if you want too” is a phrase that my dad raised me with.
Granted I’m not an engineer, nor a programmer – so I definitely cant speak for all women in tech. But my educational background is rooted in technology – specifically interactive media. And even in graduate school, where my program was somewhat male dominated, myself and the other female students often experienced subtle forms of discrimination. Mostly this came from our peers, but occasionally it came from our professors too. Still, I cant speak for the engineers, computer programmers, and many other women in the tech industry, but I do have female friends who are engineers who have told me how difficult it was and is for them to fit into the “boys club”. They all had to work extra hard to prove themselves in their work and/or educational environments because they set out to work in a tech field that is dominated by men. It seems like for every 10 men that get accepted into a new tech environment, there is one woman who needs to work 10x as harder as one of those guys do in order to prove herself. No matter which way you look at it, it’s not easy for us girls. If you’re the geeky girl type who wears your geekiness on your sleeve, guys generally tend to snicker at you and your appearance. On the other hand, if you’re an attractive woman in a tech work environment, it seems like you have to work that much harder to prove that your brains match your looks.
Yes, what Michael says about the industry being more receptive towards women than ever is mostly true, and women do need to take the prerogative to be active members, and even leaders in tech. Yet, it’s still not easy for us to be accepted into this industry because it is quietly understood that women need to prove themselves more than their male counterparts in the industry.
But regardless of being fearful of how men will treat them in the industry, and the scrutiny that they will undoubtedly experience, women do need to pursue their dream careers. It’s our own responsibility to try and overcome these odds. After all, if it weren’t for our pioneering mothers, grandmothers and aunts that grew up earlier in the 20th century, then women would not feel comfortable in so many fields today where they currently are prospering in. So for those women who feel discouraged or intimidated about pursing that dream of making their own tech startup or working in the tech industry, don’t let anyone discourage you. Not only are you doing it for yourself, but you’re also paving the way for future generations of women who will also dream about becoming an entrepreneur or leading member of the tech industry. And for those guys who turn up their noses at colleagues or classmates who happen to share the same career or classes with you, those ladies might end up being your boss down the road, or maybe even your future wife – if you’re lucky.