Why Is There So Much Misogyny In The Tech Industry?
This article about Katia Moskvitch‘s struggle with how she is treated by the tech industry caught my attention. Having written before how my own mother faced horribly unfair treatment as a computer programmer in the 80s and 90s purely because she was a woman, this struck a nerve.
It is sad that in the 21st century where tech jobs are growing and increasing all over, there is still this kind of behavior. Men have been threatened for years when women try to do the same job as them for a number of reasons. But tech is booming and there is room all. So what is going on?
Blame the cavemen. One of the biggest obstacles is evolution. If you were to put together a timeline of women and men in the same workplace vs men being pretty much alone there, you would have a gigantic single line with a small dot at the end to indicate when men and women were working a lot of the same jobs. This is no excuse, but thousands of years of genetic memory are clearly not going to just go away in a couple decades. Subconscious emotional signals in even the most open minded men run at direct odds with trying to be more inclusive in the workplace. Add to that the issue that most men still are not good at discussing emotional issues of any kind and you have a major stumbling block for equal inclusion in the workplace.
Blame June Cleaver. Even the most career driven women find themselves wanting to have a family, which runs contrary to most corporate culture where the job is everything. Laws and practices are getting better, but the article at the beginning shows that career women who try to do family as well are frowned upon and ostracized. Many men still think (even if they won’t openly say so) that women should care for the family while men bring in money. Fortunately, with the number of stay at home dads increasing, we may just be a couple generations away from business realizing family is part of why people work instead of an enemy to the workplace. And with 60% of households in the US being dual income families, kids are not growing up with the image of Mommy working around the house with an apron all day anymore.
Blame the Old Boys’ Club. Part of the problem of the newness of women in more places in the workplace is the newness itself. That makes it harder for women to advance for two reasons. The first is they have not had generations of practice at playing the game of corporate advancement. The second is there are not many women in positions of power to help pull their peers up, and they also do not have the muscle to change the rules of this very old game to make it more female friendly. This creates a discouraging and daunting perception of work for most women, according to a recent study of workplace perception of advancement.
Blame the fight between Mars and Venus. Men and women approach almost everything differently, and that even includes the workplace. More men are becoming stay at home fathers. I did it myself for a couple of years, but mine was a very unique situation, and I am back at the workforce. And I will admit, even though it felt good to be a part of my kids lives in a way not many men do, it felt so weird not having a regular job, since I have done so even before I got out of high school. Growing up with only my mother for several years, I have no problem with women in the workforce. But even after having been there myself, I still admit to having an initial negative gut reaction when I think of stay at home dads. The programming has just not been rewired yet.
And on the other side of the coin, women who want to pursue the corporate world get a hard time from other women. Many women have even tried the corporate gig and decided to go back to family management full time. But there is a lot of negativity toward women who work by those who choose to stay at home. Since early humanity, women operated where things were very communal and division of labor was pretty equal. Men had hunt leaders and subordinate hunters, but all women gathered berries, and weaved baskets, and all the other things. Studies of current primitive tribes back this up, with many sociologists noting how if a woman tried to act bossy or above other women in any way, the group would viciously shame her to get her back into her place. That ancient idea is what drives the venom of at home moms toward working moms.
This mindset also drives women to hamper each other in the workplace. In a 2014 study on workplace bullying, even though men were greater perpetrators of bullying than women, women were bullied 68% percent by other women. And women are only 31% of those doing the bullying. Regardless of why, this clearly shows women are actually harder on each other in the workplace than men in some way.
Blame the media. There are many bright female stars in the tech industry. But who are they? A lot of noise has been made about Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos. But really only after things came tumbling down around her. The media loves tearing down a young upstart female business person when there is blood in the water. Carly Fiorina was another tech woman of power barely heard of until people were parading her perceived failures during her Presidential campaign run. These women may have made some bad business decisions, but men in the same position who make bad choices barely rate news. It is if the media (that as a group gives lip service to advancing women) suddenly loses their mind when a woman of note makes any mistake. It is as if they are subtly saying, “SEE?!? WOMEN CAN’T BE IN CHARGE!”
Blame Code Monkey. I have know a lot of people who take tech jobs. While the vast majority of them are good at what they do,very few of them are confident in themselves, especially when dealing with females in any capacity. These titans of The Matrix feel secure when they have their little virtual empire of being able to make computers or robotic equipment or some other engineering feat. Then a girl shows up. All their feelings of insecurity get transferred into feelings of their job being threatened. Clearly, this is not the case every time, but I have seen it happen personally and continue to read about it all the time.
Many companies are working to address all these concerns, some very well. But hopefully, with vigilance and intelligence, people will be able to recognize the value of a more gender equal workplace.