The Problem with Teaching Women
“Shake their hands firmly.” The camp director instructed the newly anointed summer counselors. “Girls need to know how to shake hands without the floppy fish grip.”
The takeaway was that as camp counselors we could help improve women’s place in businesses by teaching the girls at camp how to shake hands like the men in boardrooms.
At the time, I agreed. I even squeezed harder and shook more firmly than before. I finished the summer without thinking about handshakes again unless I came across a particularly weak one.
The rhetoric stuck with me though. Why should how a person shakes hands impact their success in particular fields? And why is the bar and definition of a good handshake determined by how its done by men?
Opinions about judging a person based on one brief interaction aside, defining success in terms defined by those who are in power predicates that power.
Women, as one example, shouldn’t be taught to shake hands firmly like their male colleagues. Instead, the community could shift to accept the differences and embrace the alternative experiences and perspectives of others.
What are we missing out on by insisting on the conformation of groups to one standard?
This trend toward hegemony of culture has been explored with globalization. It’s implications on tech, on the evolution of code, and the accessibility of the field hasn’t been vetted.
What limitations are we imposing on ourselves by teaching women to code within the confines of the existing structure, rather than creating coding languages?
Of course, this isn’t limited to the role of females. What are we missing by insisting on conformity around the world? What innovations are being lost because we must form to the mold even as we try to think outside of the box?