Women (and girls) in tech


Why girls are put off studying computer science
An interesting article looking at the history of computer science.

The Real Reason Women Quit Tech (and How to Address It)
This tells a familiar story of women being sidelined and not given opportunities to take on work that would mark them out as promotion material. What marks this article as different to the others is that it gives some concrete advice on how to improve things.



Why Do Robots Always Turn Out Sexist? People Make Them.
This is a great piece explaining how the lack of diversity is meaning that we are sexualising tech that does not need sexualising,

Have you considered when and why robots are female? Certainly, the sexualized ones like the robots in films like Her and Ex Machina are presented as a romantic alternative to real-life women—perhaps even preferable. But noticeably, when a robot has a gender-neutral job like mobile assistant, it’s also female. Just think of Siri, Tay, Cortana, Alexa, and the default voice of your GPS.

Anything an engineer develops is deliberate, so it’s not random that all mobile assistants are women. The underlying “assumption” of the developers was an affirmative choice. But building that choice into our user experience now crystallizes the assumption and makes it self-fulfilling.

…This matters. We are continually building our technological world’s characteristics. Our interactions are increasingly mediated by robots, machines, and algorithms housed by companies.”

The Sexism Described in Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech—Or Don’t Enter at All
A story that only comes as a surprise if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years.

This is a great piece that really looks at the problems of the tech industry and includes this awesome analogy by software engineer Kate Heddleston:

Women in tech are the canary in the coal mine. Normally when the canary in the coal mine starts dying you know the environment is toxic and you should get the hell out. Instead, the tech industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying “Lean in, canary. Lean in!” When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn’t enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.



Two articles that highlight the sexism in tech from both creators and users:

Wired Editor Apologizes for Article Depicting All-Male Future of Hacking
The headline says it all.

“I pictured a dude this whole time”: why the internet assumes you’re a man

An essay by [Deborah Tannen, a professor linguistics], “There is No Unmarked Woman” explains how women are always marked linguistically. “Verbs are present tense (visit) unless marked for past (visited). Nouns are singular (cat) unless marked for plural (cats). And people are male (poet, actor) unless marked for female (poetess, actress)… The assumption that the unmarked form is male persists.”

On the internet, women are similarly marked. We look for stereotypical clues like kisses or emoji use to determine whether someone is a woman. Without these, the assumption is automatically that the writer is male.



Elephant in the Valley - a survey of women working in Silicon Valley about their experiences. The stats are not good.

Why the next tech revolution will be a female affair

The Woman Hired To Fix GitHub’s Troubled Culture Is Leaving, And Employees Are Worried

Bro-culture is insidious in start-up world, and it keeps women on the outer

Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd

How the tech industry wrote women out of history



Oh look, it’s Uber in the news again for sexism. This time in India,
Uber apologizes for yet another sexist moment

The car service’s latest mess came Sunday when it sent customers in Bangalore, India a note that said: “Dear Husbands, a gentle reminder - Today is Wife Appreciation Day! Order on UberEATS and let your wife take a day off from the kitchen.”

Austin City Official Refused to Meet With a Co-Worker He Thought Had a Crush on Him
Cos he’s clearly just so damn irresistible.

Women will never get equal treatment or promotion at a workplace where they’re treated as temptations lying in wait.

One PR campaign, 32 photographers, no women. Nikon has an optics problem
Nikon have a new camera. They wanted photographers to try it out for a PR campaign. They found some, only there was one problem the PR people really should have picked up on… They were all male photographers.



Making while female

The much more common way this conversation goes results in a series of tests that I am subjected to because the person opening the conversation does not actually want to talk about making things. The conversation is instead about my competence, and its threat to him, and he is responding aggressively to this perceived threat. He has seen a woman doing something that disquiets him, and he needs to do something about it. He may not know why this disquiets him, but he sees a woman exhibiting behaviors, such as buying a specialized tool for making something that would indicate this woman is a member of a “club” that he sees himself as a part of, but in his version, there are no girls in that club.



Apple’s Diversity Chief Apologizes After Being Called Out for Saying a Team of White Men Can Be ‘Diverse’
The headline says it all really.



The Tech Industry Is Clueless About People. Let’s Debug It.
I really love this interview, and will be reading the book when I can. It highlights how the lack of diversity in tech means that you end up with a whole lot of really problematic features. I’m not just talking about the racist software that identified black people as gorillas but features like facebook’s year in review feature which works on the basic algorithm of ‘lots of comments = good’ and ends up highlighting posts talking about loved ones dying. A lack of understanding of the complexities of real life are the cause of this and show how important diversity of experience (which gender, sexuality and race can all be proxies for) are so fundamental to making technology that is accessible for everyone.



Why Silicon Valley treats predators differently

In the tech industry — long a bastion of gender inequality and bro culture — if you sexually harass someone, you’re still respected. Your career can turn around. You can become an advocate for change…

The sense of entitlement that the industry collectively holds, evidenced by companies that think they’re above the law, founders who think their app is “changing the world,” and techies who have fallen for Ayn Rand’s hyper-individualistic libertarian ethos. The I’m-above-you, your rules don’t apply to me attitude is what makes Silicon Valley so seductive yet so dangerous at the same time.