Women in Technology

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  I Don't Like Articles about Women in Technology
Subject:   Not a Binary Wrold
Date:   2007-09-14 06:13:19
From:   dikelmm
Does anyone remember what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. years after slavery was illegal and Frederick Douglass walked the earth? I would say he took full responsibility for his life - but he got killed for it. He and Mr. Douglass were extraordinary men. Most people cannot live such lives. Were the Jews and others killed in the Holocaust failures? These seem to be extreme examples, but not all things that happen to you are within your control. Events such a those described above lurk just below the surface of almost any society. And they lurk in ours big time. Hatred, distrust, discrimination are the stuff of eveveryday life, even if you feel you have not experienced them. It is not a binary world - with either genocide and slavery or complete harmony. There is a flux in between.

There is a difference between making excuses and not trying or, on the other hand, working hard and smart your whole life and seeing little reward. This happens to many people in this world. You do not realize how fortunate you are, even if you are working hard.

If you think you have done it alone, without family, school, and other society support, you are wrong. But it is a young, successful person's perspective. It is based on your experience. But your experience is not the only experience. You are in the elite of this world, whether you know it or not. Some of your success is due to luck, or fate, or providence or God or whatever you choose to call it.

I would be interested in the perspective of a person with superficial knowledge of social history after 20 or 30 more years of living and learning something beyond IT.

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Showing messages 1 through 5 of 5.

  • Assumptions
    2007-09-24 11:09:42  AmyHoy [View]

    I find it interesting how people have misinterpreted what I have written. I think that if I'd been able to publish the longer, original version, it would have made more sense. But we all have to work within constraints.

    What constitutes success is an important question. It seems like a number of people who read this essay of mine came away thinking that I call financial or professional success the only kind; far from it, that's much less important to me than what I've learned about life, humanity, integrity and relationships.

    You can be successful in the most adverse circumstances if your beliefs dictate that rectitude of action, compassion, and following what's right are the most important kind of success. Or bravery. Or never giving up on (or renouncing) your faith. Or never failing a friend. Or facing your personal demons, the things that make you want to hide under a rock or fall asleep and never wake up. And you can -- and often must -- tread that path alone.

    For things like professional success, you can also go it alone. But typically, you'll need help. The people you trust and whose trust you earn are an example of something within your power to change.

    You can assume that I'm too young, too naive, under-experienced, and over-privileged. You'd be wrong, but that's your choice.

    I specifically chose to add my age to this essay not to go "look at me, look how successful and young I am!" but to bring this kind of bias out into the light. I knew some people would write me off because of it, but it was a sacrifice I have been willing to make.

    Extraordinary people exist in every walk of life, in every kind of circumstance. Many of them have little or no good fortune to back them, but that's what makes them extraordinary, isn't it? I challenge the very idea that "most people cannot live such lives." Whether or not they become famous is another matter, but the ability is available to everyone.
    • Assumptions
      2007-10-11 11:11:43  dikelmm [View]

      You wrote: kvetching about women in technology is the antithesis of personal responsibility. No matter how you slice it, the arguments of something must be done; help must be given; someone must change!; or women fail because of something men do all feature the underlying assumption that someone else has power over you or insert-allegedly-marginalized-group-here. After all, a person must have power over you to grant you special treatment or quash your efforts. And that's just not right. I don't even mean that it's not morally right—it's just not accurate.

      If a person takes out a gun and shoots you, they have power over you. Maybe not moral power, but power nonetheless. If a judge sentences you, they have power over you. That is a fact. If a person thinks that women cannot do technology well and fails to consider you for a job, they have power over you. Not absolute power, not power to stop you completely, but power of some magnitude. If a person doen't like the color or shade of your skin and discriminates against you, they have power over you. And you will find such discrimination in all societies, including the African-American.

      You seem to think that such situations do not exist or are not worth thinking about anymore. You seem to think you are above such forces. But you are not. Some groups in any society have much more power than others. All history is a struggle between these groups. One Frederick Douglass does not make up for tens of millions of brutaized slave lives. Power is important. Ann Frank lived a great life, but was killed nonetheless. Do you think maybe she would have traded her fame for a few decades of living? People want to live as best they can but the playing field is not even. You have just not encountered this in a way which affects you greatly. I have a feeling that you may look back on your words in 30 years and shake your head.
      • Assumptions
        2007-10-21 20:25:19  AmyHoy [View]

        Glossing over the fact that no lady has been forced out of the industry at gunpoint or put in jail or forced to hide in an attack from Nazis because she's a woman who codes...

        Yes, a person can stand between you and a goal, whether it's a judge denying you your legal freedom or a biased individual who chooses not to hire you for some completely illegitimate reason.

        But what kind of power is that? They can't take away your ability to get something out of the situation, to regroup and take a different approach next time.

        Allow me to illustrate what I mean with regards to the sexist/racist hiring manager/interviewer/whatever. What is the end goal for the applicant who is discriminated against? That particular job, or some other measure of success?

        Absolutely somebody can stand in your way on one avenue, but there are always other avenues... I don't believe that "when one door closes, another opens," I believe that when one door closes, you still find yourself in a hallway with infinite doors whose handles can be jiggled, wiggled, turned and sometimes even forced. Unless the complete end goal of your life's attempt to work is that one particular job, there is always a way to route around such issues and succeed on your own terms.

        Successful people—for whatever value of "success" you are interested in—don't give up at the first, second, or fiftieth stumbling block they find in their way. If it's not a racist or sexist interviewer, it's an unsupportive family, a child who requires time and attention, or a medical condition that makes it hard to get in a full 8 hours of work a day. There are infinite things that cause people to struggle. And we universally laud those who struggle against those difficulties.

        Have I faced sexism? Sure. Have I worked on jobs/projects with people who wouldn't listen to me because I was "just a designer"? Absolutely. Have I had bitter people tell me I wouldn't succeed because I chose a different path than them, or dared to dream beyond what they could dream? Can't count how many times. And much worse, besides, but this is not going to turn into my own little pity party.

        Believe me, I have had my share of trouble in this life -- more than you expect from my writing and bearing, I'm sure. But I'm not crushed. I've fought to get to where I am, and here I am writing about the things that helped me turn my life around.

        I have never claimed that the playing field is even. But I do believe that what you do with the playing field is more important than where you start off.
        • Ah, Freud. Attic, not attack.
          2007-10-21 20:26:32  AmyHoy [View]

      • Assumptions
        2009-09-26 15:41:25  Mactans [View]

        "If a person thinks that women cannot do technology well and fails to consider you for a job, they have power over you. Not absolute power, not power to stop you completely, but power of some magnitude. If a person doen't like the color or shade of your skin and discriminates against you, they have power over you. And you will find such discrimination in all societies, including the African-American."

        Forgive me if I misinterpret anything you've said, but this particular quote struck me and I have to make sure I understand what you're saying and respond appropriately.
        It sounds as though you are saying that a person has power over you if they don't like you, or don't believe in you, and make it known. Of course, the job example is somewhat valid, but really it only postpones, rather than prevents you, from doing something. There's always another job, even if you have to wait a while.
        Other than that, there's really no reason that another person's negative attitude should hold you back. In fact, quite the contrary, it should motivate you to work harder and prove them wrong. Hell, sometimes that pays off even better than you expected. Say, for example, a man makes an outward claim that "women can't do A" and you, a woman, are offended. If you simply sulk and complain that the power of sexist people is holding you back then, well, all you're doing is fueling the sexist attitude. If instead you do A (whatever task Mr. Sexist Man claimed you'd never be able to do) you'll be proving him wrong and, perhaps, even changing an opinion.
        There are, of course, sexist people that are just that way and will never change. It's frustrating, naturally, but it is what it is. Then there are sexist people who are that way simply because no one has ever proven them wrong. If you do prove someone wrong who knows? Maybe you'll earn a little respect for yourself and other women.