All things being equal….
I remember the first time I noticed inequality. My home community was not big on integration, and having issues with racial tension, and so they called in a professional speaker to discuss racism and prejudice with us. Without me mentioning his own ethnic background, which I generally don’t consider any more than gender when talking to people, I’m sure you will guess in a few sentences. About halfway through his presentation, I began to pay attention to his speech patterns. He spoke of two types of folks, in a flowery prose: “When a sister sees a white girl in trouble, she goes to help out. When a brother….” It was my freshman year of high school, and I was a rather poor, chunky, and very shy little geek, who was too afraid to open my mouth and ask him where he found his equality when he only, despite God’s commands, considered half the population as being his brothers and sisters.
When I started college, I was the only girl in my Calculus&Mathematica section freshman year, as this was both high level math (not a girl thing) and computers before embedded graphics were possible, but my teacher was very into advancing women in STEM. She was a graduate student, with a quiet, also math graduate student, husband, and she had very strong feelings about where a woman’s place wasn’t. She did everything in her power to see me succeed, and being the only girl in a computer class, I had more study help than I could possibly ask for. I had not been raised a “princess”; I was from a poor background and still working even while attending college, so I did not expect nor welcome handouts. Already, it was apparently to me that the sexism that existed in the STEM world was strongly skewed in my favor. Had I wanted, I could have worked on my Mrs. Degree and had volunteers galore to deal with the “work” part of college.
When I took my first job in Silicon Valley, after working at smaller ISPs and University, it was before the start of the real dot.com boom. There weren’t many of us women in tech then. The first few NANOGs that I attended had me, Abha and Sue from Merit, and the two ladies from ARIN. At no point did anyone ever tell me that I wasn’t allowed at the table, or in the talks. I wasn’t trolled any more than the guys, and the only “unwanted attention” was from XYZ Network’s salesmen convinced that we just *had* to try their new routing device. Boy did we get a lot of free t-shirts tho.
And then one day, equality came to us. The company I was working for sold a government contract and started wearing the “Equal Opportunity Employer” badge on their website. Instead of being an engineer, I was now asked if I was the “token” so that they could mark a check in the diversity box. One day, I was a respected backbone engineer at a legendary company, and the next day I was quota. My boss was rather dumbfounded when I asked if there was anyway to exclude my gender from my paperwork, as I watched the world around me shift from a meritocracy to a society based on genetics instead of ability.
Over the next decade, the world has shifted. For the last while, I’ve worked on and off as a hiring manager, and there is one phrase I detest, and once told off our HR person at Yahoo for: We *NEED* to hire more women.
No, we don’t. Not in my line of work. There isn’t space for that much Ego, and if you can’t leave your house without a shower and an hour to fix your hair and makeup, you cost the company millions of dollars when your pager goes off. On your own time, you can be as frilly or as trashy as your hearts desire, but what I need is simple: Engineers. Engineers who can go from sleeping to tracing cables and swapping line cards on site in under 5 minutes (minus drive time). The color of your nail polish or the length of your hair has nothing to do with that ability. I would be happiest if every resume came to me without names or genders attached, so that I knew I was getting the best candidate for the job.
More than the Ego, however, I don’t need the drama. I don’t need the hypersensitivity. I don’t need the social justice warriors who are convinced every single criticism is an attack on a protected attribute. If you are a crap engineer, an egoist, or an idiot, you deserve to be told you are. Saying that to a female on the internet, however, or to a female who is on the internet? Oh no, you are a sexist, misogynist pig. I grew up believing that I needed to work at least as hard as everyone around me to get ahead in the world. These little girls with thousands of other SJWs following them around and attacking all comers, who were still in pampers when I was having Starcraft LAN parties on the provider network I ran 100 meters from the original battle.net servers, have grown up believing that all you need is to cry harassment and discrimination, rather than display skills and dedication.
It’s not equality to expect to be hired for your gender, instead of your skills. It’s not equality to expect to be able to tell someone off, and cry and have your friends offer threats when the sentiment is returned in kind. It’s not equality to be fired for being bad at your job and sue the company for gender discrimination because you were asked to do the exact same job as other employees of your skill level. And most especially, it’s not equality to think that because of how you were born, you can belittle other people for how they were born, and be justified because one of their ancestors may have done it to one of yours.
When a 40 year old man gets told the job involves public interface, so they gave the job to a 24 year old who is barely a high school graduate because she is photogenic with thousands of twitter followers, he gets told to grow up and quit crying, and sent disgusting pictures of all the things he deserves to have done to him because he’s an oppressor. When a 30 year old woman gets told they gave a job to a 40 year old man with more experience, a higher degree, and a more consistent work record, the same people rise up, attack the company, attack the employees of the company, and start a campaign to ruin the company because they lack diversity.
That’s not equality. That’s aggression and bullying.