Closing the Gender Gap From the Bottom Up
Women in Tech, Donglegate, and Revolution
I have wanted to write about the issue of "women in tech" for a long time, and now donglegate has elevated the matter to a level I can no longer ignore. It's like a train wreck from which you can't look away, but the underlying tension speaks to a broader conflict in the tech community. While I find Amanda Blum's excellent post on the matter pretty authoritative, I don't want to focus on Adria Richards' behavior, but instead talk about the background issue of sexism and gender parity in the technology community that informed her behavior.
So, first off: are women and minorities underprivileged in the technology sector? Of course; they are underprivileged in almost every sector of society. Biases, hostile environments, outdated socially constructed roles, bigotry and outright discrimination are pervasive in our community, as they are in most communities. And it doesn't just suck for our community because it's manifestly unjust, but also because it hurts us and our work.
We technologists can write all the code, build all the gadgets, run all the software we want--but if people can't use it, if it doesn't actually solve their problems, if it doesn't speak to their diverse experiences, then it's useless. As women become an ever larger user base, we require their perspective as first-class citizens in the creation of software, hardware, and other high tech products that have become so important. We need to listen to them, sure, but they should also be part of our community as creators themselves, possessing the same skills and ability to pursue their vision in concert with, or independent of, male technologists.