Not All Moms: Stop Tech-Shaming Women

“How can we dumb this down? I need to be able to explain this to my mom.”
“So simple, your grandma could use it!”

If you’ve hung around tech spaces, you’ve probably heard something similar lately, but it may have snuck under your radar. Talk to the speakers, and they’ll be quick to tell you how much they love their moms, maybe they’ll even tell you just how smart and capable all the women in their lives have been. Or maybe their mom does genuinely have issues using a smartphone, hey they’re just being honest.

Grandma Finds The Internet Meme

Now, there is certainly value in ridding your meetings of acronym soup, and simplifying your user interface, but why do people insist on insulting mothers and grandmothers in the process? Would that comment have gotten as much of a laugh at the meeting if they’d referred to “your technologically-adept Dad”?


Our words matter. Setting aside the issue of ageism in technology, which could be another whole blog post, it’s unacceptable to still be saying this in companies that average 26% women in computing (and far less when you look at more technical roles), where women are forced out of the workforce mid-career at staggering rates, and where maternity leave is still taking a huge toll on women’s careers. Though rarely ill-intended, the reality of the gender ratio in our companies, means these comments have to stop.

Even outside of our offices, these comments are contributing to the culture that teaches girls to undermine their intelligence and avoid studying STEM. Implicit Bias studies have shown that even in 2015 we unconsciously associate men with science and women with liberal arts, and it certainly isn’t changing anytime soon.

So, before you make that quick comment in a meeting next week, consider what you really mean:

  1. Advocating for a simpler sign-in process? Awesome! No need to bring the competence of women into the decision, the idea sounds great on its own.
  2. Crafting customer personas for your brand new product? Great, that will be instrumental in helping you prioritize your user stories. Make sure you’re thinking of more than just characters from Mad Men.
  3. Ready to market your product? Wonderful! Share your work to the world without a misogynistic twist that will alienate a large portion of your customer base.

Hear any of these issues at work next week? Speak up! Cultural transformation happens from within, you have the power to change the attitude of your team. One conversation at a time.

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