Friday, July 13, 2012

NetHui Part 8 - Women in I.T.

One of the things that keep coming up is Woman in I.T. This has been a particular interest of mine for years BUT we seem to constantly think that the way to support woman in IT and mitigate the potentially hostile environments is to get them all in a room together.

Just to give you a bit of context, I have, at times, been in scenarios where being male is a problem. Just as a case in point, being in that breakfast would potentially be that very same scenario.

So, what is the problem? During a conversation with someone she was talking about the idea of being an older woman with long hair. I never even imagined that this might be an issue... for anyone. And she described having met a guy who said he had nothing against long hair but was of the opinion that they should dye their hair. What an absolute load of bollocks!

So there are people out there who have absolutely no qualms about making a place hostile. I'd say that it's completely unfair to paint this as males being the problem. There are times where males are also quite uncomfortable.

So, to me, it's a culture problem. I interjected in a conversation discussing the value of the breakfast and asked, "Is this not something that could be more inclusive? Could males not also be supporting woman in I.T.?". The answer back surprised me - from a woman - "most of the woman wouldn't speak. The presence of males would inhibit discussion".

Wow! So the culture is to reject support. I remember a few months ago going into a kebab shop and a group of Islamic woman were sitting around discussing their religion in relation to Christianity (particularly from a gender platform). The bit which I found interesting, from the bits that I was overhearing, was that they were sitting there reinforcing each others ideas. They weren't attempting to get things from another point of view. They already had an idea.

So, the purpose of this post - am I off kilter? Is there something I'm missing? Can males really not be part of this dicussion?


  1. Personally I found it wonderfully refreshing to meet with other women. Also, really depressing that these issues are so widespread. I guess as a librarian I simply do not see this sort of thing as I am in a female dominated environment. However I can say that many times in online communities (gaming) I have intentionally withheld my gender in order to be able to participate in the community without constant references to ... 'gender'... I am also acutely aware of the perception of females in this society as not being 'technically minded' and so rarely contribute to the communities I belong to in the open source arena, since because I am not in the I.T industry proper, my uninformed opinions will generally just reinforce the perception.
    One of the most powerful things you can do Nevyn is to ask yourself when you hear something said that does not sit quite right, "Would that be said to a man?" If the answer is no, then saying "I don't think that's appropriate" would be enormously helpful. As you know, we all recognised that its cultural, stepping on it straight away, as one of the 'Men' as a peer, would go a long way towards stopping this sort of behaviour becoming acceptable. So you can be better then part of the discussion, you can be part of the solution ;). Was fantastic to catch up with you!

    1. Actually, there's a really good point. I was having a coffee (I probably spent around $50 on coffee over the 3 days) around a table with a couple of other people that I didn't really know. One of them said something about "picking up babes" and the other one said something about this being the wrong conference for that.

      The suggestion came up that perhaps we should organise a babe conference in which case, feeling quite uncomfortable by the conversation thus far, proceeded to joke with them. i.e. I suspect you'll find the male to female ratio to be much the same. I then found a discreet way to make an exit. Funnily enough, one of the other guys did the same. So it was 1 person with a really inappropriate sense of humour, 2 guys feeling a little uncomfortable not communicating that this is highly inappropriate.

      So the argument can be made that us 2, while uncomfortable, are possibly even worse than the person with the inappropriate behaviour due to reinforcing his behaviour.

      I really could be doing a whole lot more. I should be doing a whole lot more.

  2. Nah not even worse, and hey, chances are you'll have lots of opportunities to say something in the future, if you choose to. :P Or the time after that, or the time after that lol.

    1. You're forgetting something - the fertilizer pattern.

      Fertilizer adds nitrates to the soil and is great for helping plants grow - BUT - fertilizer is great for helping plants grow, including algae. The algae couldn't exist without nitrates but is generally a bad thing as it clogs up water ways, lowers the temperature of water (as sun can't get through) and changes the conditions of a body of water dramatically including what sort of wild life can live there.

      So by being non-confrontational, I've reinforced the guy's behaviour.

      A non-confrontational male is a good thing. They help bridge gaps and accommodate people. BUT, sexism couldn't exist without complacent people...

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Envy deleted her comment - which is irritating because I had a response all ready for it. It goes something like this:

      "Will no one think of the nitrates?"

      Unfortunately, without context, the response kind of loses meaning. Pity. It was a response with so much promise and yet left us well before its time.

      Oh - just before I leave that - have I met you Envy? I tried doing a search for Envy in New Zealand and came across a rather curious way to sell apples ( - which kind of put me in mind of old cigarette ads targetting woman (

  3. That is true, and I have been questioning my responses too and wondering if perhaps I could have said something instead of walking off. Did I also contribute to the problem?
    Ah well its hard to say, but talking here has helped me think about things and hopefully next time I will be less surprised and more prepared lol.

  4. I find when im out and faced with inappropriate gender suggestions that ive taken to arguing with that person about such a comment. It eventuates into me being labelled as 'difficult' or a 'feminist'. I never thought i was a feminist even tho i do stick up for women when they are argumentatively judged as 'stupid, bimbo or brainless' by other males or even females. (im still trying to define feminist in my own terms).

    I currently work with a strong female staff. The males i currently work with are great. We dont get sexist views from them. They do not try to overrule anything we have to say. besides, majority of the women are very vocal.

    I find i have become more sarcastic in my replies with men who use inappropriate behaviour.