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The Gendering of Technology Work

When women do it, it’s community management. When men do it, it’s technical evangelism.

The Gendering of Technology Work

When women do it, it’s community management.

When men do it, it’s technical evangelism.

With women it is nurturing and mothering; with men it is a glorious mission, rooted in the unassailable masculinity of technical ability. He is a traveler, a hustler, a business-man, an opener of markets. She is serving the beer, doing the social work.

Making sure everyone is taken care of.

When women do it, it’s marketing. When men do it, it’s growth hacking. The masculine re-branding of marketing work as a technical skill — “hacking”, the implication of a more analytical or mathematical focus — is disingenuous, ahistorical. Marketing has always involved analytical and mathematical skills, and in technology, it has always required technical literacy and competency.

Yet the emergence of the “growth hacker” is deeply indicative of a industry desperate to maintain gender inequalities even as women make significant inroads into some of its career paths.

When women do it, it’s marketing. It is always marketing. But men get a million sub-variants of marketing that they can lead — business development, partnerships, strategy, revenue, funnel.

When women do it, it’s administration. A matter of paperwork and service, following orders, carrying out the business’ hum and tedium. It’s accounting, bookkeeping. When men do it, it’s operations — the invention and optimization of business processes, the very design of the company.

When men organize conferences they become community heroes and icons, publicly lauded (or lauding themselves) for their personal sacrifice, dedication to the cause, exalted position as a king among geeks.

Women conference organizers are invisible.

In the gender politics of Silicon Valley, technical ability is the very currency of masculinity. (For more on this, make sure to read Katherine Losse’s excellent book The Boy Kings).

To maintain the hegemony of men in the industry, all advancement of women in any sector must be emasculated, its technical aspects erased, its gender-normative functions emphasized: the soft skills, the nurturing and mothering functions, the secretarial aspects.

The work of men, however similar in task, role and function, must be engendered separate, elevated, more technical, more strategic and analytical.

Sadly, while women equal and sometimes even outnumber men in areas like marketing, the head of the department is almost always a white man.

The refusal of the industry to allow its highest positions to go to women even in practices where they equal or outnumber men is deeply concerning and a matter of much urgency for feminists and activists in the field.