Women In Technology: Is Separate Really The Best Way To Get Equal?

When I first read the headline of this article in Read Write Web, I couldn’t help myself. I groaned. After all, how many articles do we really need telling us how hard it is for woman to rise to the top of the tech industry? Or bemoaning the boys’ club that most of our offices, conferences and events tend to turn into?

Part of me feels like all this discussion of women’s inequality in technology only serves to further highlight the differences between the genders, rather than helping to proactively bridge those gaps.

Then again, I like to complain about the joys of working in an office full of dudes (and I do mean dudes) as much as the next girl. And, I help manage an organization called Girls in Tech. (For the record, I hate the name.) But, I do love the fact that the organization empowers, educates and engages women in technology – not to mention the fact that it encourages us to support each other personally and professionally. And yeah, a lot of the need for that support comes from the fact that many of us don’t get that kind of network of nurturing women in our mostly male-dominated offices. (side note: it’s not that I don’t love the dudes in my office. it’s just that they’re well…all dudes).

So maybe I’m not really one to judge. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still be conflicted. As much as I feel that dialogue and discourse are the best way to change things, I also feel like sometimes too much talking can get in the way of actually taking action. As a proud techtrepneur, who also just so happens to be a proud female, am I better off trying to fight gender inequality by proving I can keep up with the boys’ club? Or, should I shelve my Star Wars references (they’re usually a stretch anyway) and be proudly, loudly female.

After all, I’ve never been big into the bra burning thing. But I do consider myself a pretty staunch feminist. I’m just not sure what the best approach is when it comes to furthering female equality in the tech world. Do we make a big deal out of all those big gaps, or do we keep on keeping on, and hope that the quality of our work speaks for itself? Gloria Steinem never really tackled the whole tech topic.

Either way, I’m still not sure of the answer, and I’ve been grappling with this issue pretty much since I start working in web development. What I am sure of is that the statistic that the RWW article ended on was pretty darn inspiring either way. So, I figured I’d copy them and end on that note too…

“Women have been proven to build companies that are more capital-efficient than those founded by men, and they use less capital to achieve the same or higher revenue performance in early-stage years,” she says. “Women don’t fail as often as men: in fact, women-led high-tech start-ups generate higher revenues per dollar of invested capital and have lower failure rates than those led by men.”

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5 thoughts on “Women In Technology: Is Separate Really The Best Way To Get Equal?

  1. Pingback: How do I tell if my fish is a boy or girl?

  2. Great post Mollie! Not sure if you also read the NY Times article “Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley” http://nyti.ms/aIebld.

    When I was a part of (dare I say the organization’s name) I was all about including men. Why? Because it’s about celebrating women and understanding the female perspective in tech and we can’t do that if we are not including men. “Women tend to network with women, and men tend to network with men,” says Sharon Vosmek, C.E.O. Astia (from the NY Times article). When I posted this on my Twitter, I said that this is part of the problem. I believe a lot of these women-focused organizations are creating a further divide rather than creating more equality.

    One of the best events I have ever attended was WomenBuild. It was part of the Microsoft Developers conference back in April of ’09. Both men and women were a part of this event. Using Lego, everyone created a Lego sculpture that symbolized issues they were having with their career, work/life balance, etc. It was so rewarding! Women got to hear from other women and from men, and men got to hear from other men and women. That’s what it’s about! It doesn’t mean we have to have co-ed events, but men should be welcome to attend. It’s not as though any tech event that was male-centric ever said “women not allowed”.

  3. I completely understand where you are coming from Mollie. You don’t want to silo women and men in tech but at the same time, we have some very real problems with the lack of women and people of color in tech serving as experts to the media, panelists, boards of tech companies – hell even senior management, getting only between 3% to 9% of VC money, etc. I think we need to have open and frank discussions about these issues, accountability, and take action to fix them. The action component needs to happen on two fronts. Women in tech need to be more proactive in promoting themselves and expertise, their startups, etc. AND leaders in the industry need to recognize the lack of diversity and work with the community to proactively help address them.

  4. Hi Mollie,

    This is my first visit to your blog. Nice one! I really believe women are better executives and that is what I see in my work with high-tech startups in Quebec city, Canada.

    I would really like to have the link to the article you quote at the end of this post.

    Isabelle.

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