Monday, May 03, 2010

Female Computer Scientist to Women: Stop Making Excuses, Step It Up, Get On With It and Go For It

NY Times -- "Women now outnumber men at elite colleges, law schools, medical schools and in the overall work force. Yet a stark imbalance of the sexes persists in the high-tech world, where change typically happens at breakneck speed."

Eileen Burbidge, BS in Engineering Computer Science degree from the University of Illinois, and an early-stage tech angel/investor and advisor
responds in the first of a three-part series:

"There have been recent calls to give more women a chance within tech; there are calls [presumably to men] to take women more seriously and to work harder at recruiting and attracting women into tech in order to overcome systemic bias in the “system”. I take issue with these approaches and perspectives firstly because I find them patronizing and secondly because I think the call to action is directed at the wrong place.

On the first point, I don’t want someone to cut me some slack or “give me a chance” just because I’m a woman. I don’t want a hand-out, I don’t want to be patronized. I want to be recognized and respected because of what I’m capable of doing and achieving. If someone wants me on their team strictly because I’m a woman, then there’s probably something amiss in that intention. So don’t patronize me, please. It works both ways — It’s not pleasant (or wise) if someone shuts a door on me strictly because I’m a woman, but I also don’t want the door opened only because I am.

On the second point, I don’t think we should just ask men for more opportunities. I think instead we need to get more women to step it up and if they are seeking opportunities in tech (and not getting them), I think they should speak up or look harder. Within tech, I don’t think we need to give more women a chance; I think we need to tell more women to go for it — if they want it.

Stop making excuses and get on with it. All the men I know are looking out for women to join their teams. But if you’re not good enough, you might just not be good enough. Stop using the woman thing as a crutch and work on what needs to be done in order to break-through. I want to change the call to action from asking men to give us a chance to asking women to step it up and make sure you’re making it known if you want to be in tech/business — and will be successful in it."

13 Comments:

At 5/03/2010 11:20 PM, Anonymous ardyanovich said...

I wish there were some numbers in that article. It seemed like a purely emotional response. Are women discriminated against or not? Surely there is some data out there she could have pulled up.

 
At 5/04/2010 5:05 AM, Blogger randian said...

Are women discriminated against or not?

Not if you call having higher average pay than their male peers, starting from their first jobs out of college, "discrimination".

 
At 5/04/2010 6:07 AM, Anonymous gih said...

And that's her talent that rule the science world.

 
At 5/04/2010 7:52 AM, Anonymous CompEng said...

Seems like a principled response as much as an emotional one. I think the key is in the part where she says her male counterparts are perfectly happy to welcome a woman as a co-worker. I've never seen evidence counter to that myself in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science.

 
At 5/04/2010 8:08 AM, Blogger Kraut said...

randian,

As is typical in this argument, you are quoting one specific fact without presenting the whole story. Has this starting salary been corrected for degree type, job type, industry type, etc.?

 
At 5/04/2010 8:27 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

my mother was a mainframe programmer in the 60's and 70's and was virtually the only woman in the field.

i can tell you that she would applaud this article and even take it a step further to say that hiring women preferentially creates/enhances prejudice by making it look like it's easier for them to be there.

 
At 5/04/2010 8:42 AM, Blogger Michael said...

I work in a high tech workplace that seems to be without racial, gender, religious, or national origin prejudice. This seems to be the positive end of the modern world. At the same time, I am old enough to have seen second hand real prejudice (as a white male working in the U.S. I didn't get any first hand that I noticed). "Post-feminist" is right, because Mark was right, 1) thesis, 2) antithesis, 3) synthesis. The thesis was prejudice against women, the antithesis was 70s feminism, we are well into synthesis now. Yay us!

 
At 5/04/2010 1:25 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

ardanyovich

>"Are women discriminated against or not? Surely there is some data out there she could have pulled up."

CompEng

>"I think the key is in the part where she says her male counterparts are perfectly happy to welcome a woman as a co-worker."

I found this article that seems to relate to your comments. Although this isn't new, I think the number quoted is still fairly close.

 
At 5/04/2010 3:27 PM, Blogger randian said...

As is typical in this argument, you are quoting one specific fact without presenting the whole story

How does making more money constitute evidence of discrimination?

 
At 5/04/2010 3:59 PM, Anonymous CompEng said...

Cute. Thanks, for the link Ron. There is some truth to that, but I think that what generally keeps women out of "tech" and also the hard sciences is the social culture or lack thereof. Women that are happy to sit alone at a desk with a problem to chew on for hours on end do well. But I could see a situation like can make someone feel pretty isolated, especially they don't like being around more men than women.

 
At 5/04/2010 4:22 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"...but I think that what generally keeps women out of "tech" and also the hard sciences is the social culture or lack thereof."

You mean women aren't generally "geeky" enough?

 
At 5/05/2010 8:34 AM, Anonymous CompEng said...

... and the geeky ones are often geeky in a different way.

 
At 5/05/2010 11:56 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"... and the geeky ones are often geeky in a different way."

I suppose you mean that their unemployment rate is often greater than 0.

 

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