Women in IT — natural distribution vs positive discrimination
This year there were many scandals related to the men’s attitude to the women in IT that I heard of:
- In March, Drupal Association withdrew Larry Garfield’s leading role in the Drupal project because of his non-standard BDSM practice with male-dom/female-sub bias. You can read his own explanation and the Drupal Association statement.
- In June, investors of the Uber demanded a company founder and a CEO, Travis Kalanick resign as a chief executive officer because of the sexual harassment. Read this article for more information.
- Also in June, board member of Uber, David Bonderman, resigned from this company after making a sexist comment.
- In August, Google fired James Damore because of his note, where he wanted to prove that women are not biologically suited for the leadership in IT roles and was criticizing Google for “positive” discrimination.
I think it is a global tendency and we will see more and more thing like that happening in the future. I see two significant issues here:
- Growing number of people with sexists ideas.
- People fired for expressing their opinion.
In many cases, people of 1 and 2 categories are on the opposite poles. You will see why later.
Sexism in IT
Though, this is a tough topic to talk about, because:
- There are many different opinions on that.
- Women’s role varies in different cultures.
- Women have always been in IT.
- IT is very young compared to other industries.
Before we start, let’s answer a simple question. Was it a problematic topic in the past? Well… 100 years ago there was no any IT at all.
Around 70 years ago a woman, Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, invented first English like computer language and the first compiler. She was also working on IBM’s Harvard Mark computer. At that time IT community was tiny. Also at that time, people didn’t care much about gender issues as they care now.
Even 20 years ago, IT was quite young, and there were significantly fewer people working in it. Also, there was a huge deficit of programmers so it was not a big problem for a woman to find a job in IT. Now IT is a top industry with zillions of dollars involved in it, so every publicly traded IT company will worry about its reputation regarding racial and sexual diversity.
Google vs James Damore
From the first point of view James’ note look very rational and evidence-based. However, it is 90% bullshit, and this is why:
- He bound social status to a leadership role, which is not true because a leader is not a boss. See this image explaining why.
- He figured out somehow that a stress tolerance and a focus on things rather than people is a key factor of having a career in IT.
- Basically, he suggests for women to stay away from coding and career growth opportunities.
In my personal experience, women who work in IT are usually well organized and good leaders because of their easy-going nature. I don’t see why either woman or man should be better at coding. The difference may only come from the cultural background where one may think that “boys are bad in cooking, but girls are bad drivers” — these ideas are all wrong, we should get rid of such garbage.
On the other sides 10% of James’ note makes sense because he explains discrimination, which is taking place in Google, which implies that if you were an aged non-white vegan lesbian socialist, you have a bigger chance to get a job in Google than a regular hockey fun. This is known as a positive discrimination to achieve a better diversity in the company. Also, the fact that James was fired after publishing his note makes me think stronger, that the positive discrimination is actually taking place in Google. Fortunately he is not in jail. Take a look at his interview on CNBC where he explains this issue. It makes me believe that he was fired for criticizing the company.
Although I support Google’s core values I don’t support methods that they use to achieve them, so I think that was not a right decision to fire James.
Drupal Association vs Larry Garfield
What I initially heard is that Larry was blackmailed and hence withdrawn from Drupal Association because of his BDSM practice which included mail dominance over women. One of the community leaders stated that he even “brought his slaves” to the Drupal conferences. It appeared that one of the “slaves” was autistic and shared a house with Larry. It looked like their relationships continued to be in the BDSM style at the conference. Well… I saw lesbians in the Drupal community, and some of them look and behave like boys at the Drupal conferences, though I am ok with it.
I am not a BDSM partitioner and find master-slave relationships ridiculous, but I don’t understand why personal sexual preference and a world view should affect a membership in the professional organization. In fact, Larry did not violate any Code of Conduct of the Drupal Association but still was thrown away.
Also, Larry did not want to impose his sexual preference to the rest of the Drupal community. He was black mailed instead. I don’t think Drupal Association made a right choice “firing” him.
I think investors did a right thing to fire Travis, period.
We have core human values we share as world citizens. We also have new values that we want to achieve. They may seem to be very liberal and innovative for many people. If we want to reach these values, we should use liberal ways too. Dialogue and compromises were the basis of American democracy. We should appreciate our core principles and respect each other.