Debug 34: Sexism in tech

Debug 34: Sexism in tech

Debug is Mobile Nations developer podcast. This week, however, we're doing something different. We're bringing together a panel of developers and designers, CEOs and senior editors, of women in the tech industry to talk about how women are treated and mistreated in the tech industry. Join Serenity Caldwell of Macworld/TechHive, Jessie Char of Pacific Helm, Georgia Dow of ZEN & TECH, and Brianna Wu of Giant Spacekat as share their experiences and insight on sexism in the tech industry, from coworkers to clients to conventions to culture and beyond.

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Debug 34: Sexism in tech


Yeah, the last thing I expected after reading all of the comments was that I would now be craving a sandwhich.  Off to make myself a turkey hoagie.

Don't remove... Lets see what everyone has in their mind ... If they have wrong assumptions .. Others will correct it for them :D

the moderation is over-aggressive. there are only a couple of trolls out there and plenty of people who will tackle them. sexism in tech is a serious issue (sexism in general is), so let's have that discussion.

You never post sensitive subjects on such forums.. Other than this, I only know that I want more porn in my games and tech.

dude! have you forgotten about me? you didn't tell me if you'd read all the creepy stalker-y things written on noted racist Pam Geller's webpage....the things written by a a guy that is totally not you, but still has the same username and says the same repellent things about Islam. do you want me to post the link to your comments the comments by guy with the exact same username that totally isn't you?

just let me know. i have the link pasted onto a sticky.

Hey lets not get totally agressive for no reason.  As the editor-in-cheif, you're better than that.  He was just saying that from a very specialized news source, this article is out of place.  We came for WPC for windows phone news.  If we wanted to diversify, we would go to the Verge.  I appreciate all the articles you write but that was a very agressive stance towards your readers.  

People always demands more content, and then when it's something different they complain. Almost as bad as YouTube comments.

I don't think you understand. We want more WP content. That's why people are complaining. Reread my comment before you get offended.

My point was that we can even get you guys to do wpcentral podcast. Its been a while since there was one, yet you advertise these other podcast. There has been a ton of news, but no podcast. Very disappointing.

I have been in the position of hiring for many years now and have always struggled to try to hire women for developer positions that pay 6 figures. There just doesn't seem to be any out there applying for jobs. Especially for U.S. citizens.

i think the moderation is heavy handed, but this site can censor you all they want. it's their house; and they can kick you out.

Not censorship, just removing clearly inflammatory comments. There's room here for debate, but telling women to make you a ham sandwich is not one of those.

i can't believe these comments are being this heavily moderated. let trolls like pds2208 have their say. there are more than enough people who disagree with this tripe who will make reasoned arguments.

No no... It's just that people are not used to listen to harsher words... Just try to tone down your anger a bit :)

no, your opposing view just happens to be in the wrong century.

that and you have no idea what feminism is. you just think you know.

do you think women (or any person) deserves an experience in their workplace that is free from verbal harassment? Does that right extend to Jews, Muslims, Christians, Whites, Asians, Athiests, and other groups?

That's because you are not understanding the argument. I believe in equality and despise sexism, from both sides, including sexism from feminists. Feminists do not believe in equality, they demand special treatment and completely ignore, deride even, men's issues. You can believe in equality without believing in feminism. They are not mutually inclusive.

basically you have an issue with "Feminism" as it exists in your mind. you're talking about the beliefs of a certain small number of individuals and extrapolating that to the larger philosophy. you're doing it wrong.

a small group of Randians might call themselves Capitalists, but that doesn't mean they get to define Capitalism for everyone else. like if a racist walks around saying "I'm American" that doesn't mean That American's are racist.

i'm sorry you've had bad luck with mean people who call themselves feminists. maybe it's because they were mean, not because they were feminists.

I think it's your view that's stuck in the 20th century. I've watched this movement in the workplace for the last thirty years. The special treatment creates a lot of double standards and resentment. It's also created a lush environment for litigation. The tech sector hadn't really dealt with it with so few women. Other industries are far far down the road. Special treatment creates way more problems than it solves. Equality is a better solution. Along with equality comes the maturity to take a joke.

Is that supposed to prove something? Is someone here advocating for the right to insult their coworkers?

As it stands, the difference between harassment and acceptable behavior is in the mind of the recipient. If the woman doesn't like it you're meat for HR. If she likes it, everything's cool. You're literally required to be psychic before you open your mouth. The real world difference is, if she thinks your hot you can say whatever you want. If you're a fat ugly slob, don't open your mouth.

"The real world difference is, if she thinks your hot you can say whatever you want. If you're a fat ugly slob, don't open your mouth."

wow. talk about projection!

you said that people need to take a joke. i said, try these "funny" sexist jokes out and see how it goes.  the jokes that were moderated had to do with telling women to make sandwiches. pretty benign compared to the jokes on that 'humor' site. but still, it's sexist.

Projection? No, it's thirty years of observation. I've seen guys brought up on sexual harassment because they told a woman she was wearing a pretty dress. Seen it repeatedly happen for similar minor compliments. Also seen discrimination filed when crap work which didn't make the standards was turned down.
But no, get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich isn't a joke, it's an insult.

I think the frivolous accusations and lawsuits are pretty ridiculous. It is definitely not what was intended. Too often people use it punitively when they are in a less powerful position to punish bosses and coworkers who they think have offended them. We have a situation right now where a coworker was put on long term disability because of a degenerative brain disease that had made it impossible for her to perform her job. Even after the ADA lawyers explained the situation to her she is planning to sue her boss, who was not involved in the termination, for racism and ageism. It's like you can't be nice (complimenting a person on their appearance) or efficient (critiquing work performance) of a person in a minority status without the threat or fear of litigation.

Indeed. So called positive discrimination is still discrimination. There is no possible positive outcome.

The number of women in all fields will increase. it's not because of discrimination. it's numbers. men will have to pull their own weight now, it's not just enough to rely on the old boy's network. I realize youre UK, but I assume numbers are similar.

Women are 50.8 percent of the U.S. population.

  • They earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, and 60 percent of all master’s degrees.
  • They earn 47 percent of all law degrees, and 48 percent of all medical degrees.
  • They earn more than 44 percent of master’s degrees in business and management, including 37 percent of MBAs.
  • They are 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, and 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce.

Same here more or less.

So why is there no concern about boys at school and university? The other way around and there is much wringing of hands and something would have to be done. But no, lets get rid of men in industries they still dominate in. Far more important isn't it?

There is no old boys network. At least in the real world.

I appreciate the fact that the figures in usa are very impressive, but my point is: is it really necessary to look at such figures ? I mean women are normal humans, why try to show their importance by saying that they earn 60% of the degrees, when they are supposed to be given due respect as such ? I'm not against the figures, i just wish the world wasn't the kind where you have to have numbers and stats to show your importance.

The numbers will increase but most likely will never reach parity. Yes, we're human. Not all humans are the same. Men and women are different. They prefer different movies. They prefer different sitcoms. They prefer different clothing. They spend money differently. And what a shocker, they prefer different professions.
The majority of food service is female. The majority of sanitation is male. I don't see anyone complaining about the disparity in low wage jobs. Because, it's common sense.
A low representation doesn't mean bias or discrimination. The last fifty years as shown what professions they are interested in and which they are not.

Yet if there is not at least 50/50 representation it has to be due to sexism. Only in male dominated industries of course.

Haven't heard any feminists complaining that only 10% of nurses are male or that there are now more female doctors than men and so on.

Low earnings are a significant problem for both male and female workers. Yet overall more than twice as many women (5.52 million) than men (2.3 million) work in occupations with median earnings for full-time work below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four. 

Read this, specifically page 2. even in food service, women get paid less than their male counterparts. and a lot of jobs and gender participation breakdown is the result of generations of self-selection.

Of course they get paid less in the averages. It's been repeatedly shown why that's the case and it has nothing to do with discrimination.
And since when did working McDonald's constitute a viable career? I keep hearing tho lately, adults are taking traditional teenage jobs and complaining they can't make a living.
There's also the obvious question... Why does a woman working poverty level jobs have four kids?

"I keep hearing tho lately, adults are taking traditional teenage jobs and complaining they can't make a living."

that's because there aren't enough jobs!

"There's also the obvious question... Why does a woman working poverty level jobs have four kids?"

i don't get what youre asking. are you asking "why would a women take a job to support her children?"?

Just sayin...I think food service as a whole is still a male dominated industry. Far more applicants for cook positions are men than woman. Most culinary schools are 2-1 (men to women) some are even 3-1.

Yeah, although hostess and waitresses are mostly women, the folks in the back making the food and washing the dishes are usually men. When you think of chefs, you're usually thinking of a guy in a funny hat. Furthermore, attractiveness makes a big difference when it comes to tips but I'm sure that has nothing to do with sexism...

Although your statement is based in fact the argument you advocate ignores the origins. Why do women prefer food service or men automotive mechanic or engineer? The issue is that when we are growing up, we are bombarded by expectations of not only what you can do based on your academic skills but also what you should do based on your gender. Why go into business management if you are going to have to take a year or two off to raise kids? Why be an engineer if it is already dominated by men who will prefer the ideas of other men over yours? Just because it is true now doesn't mean that it is good or just or that it should always be that way. Furthermore, audit studies where researchers send fake applications to employers with identical skills and qualifications but different gender or race show that there are disparities in how some employers evaluate applicants based on as little as a persons' name.

You will reevaluate your opinion after you have kids and see how they lock onto gender roles at a very early age with no interference from "Society".

Children certainly make up their minds about adhereing to gender roles very early and can be very adamant about it but from the earliest stages of learning children pick up on gender role expectations. The grandpa that insists his 1yr old grandson's hair is properly short and the mom that that is harsher to the boy that cries than the girl are all manifestations of Society. The problem is that when children are old enough to make decisions for themselves, gender roles become barriers. For example, boys' and girls' mathematical aptitiude scores are about at parity until they reach middle school when social expectations are at their peak. The girl who asks her teacher for help picking classes and is told to take home economics or band instead of algebra because she would like them more (since she's a girl), that's one place where gender norms start creating the gender discrepancies in occupations.

They're the most violently reactive. There are a few other groups I'd place higher as more intolerant.

"Feminists" don't all fall into the same archetype. The common perception of feminist is the militant Women's rights advocate (see Betty Friedan and Valerie Solanas). That's a Second Wave Feminist. Susan B. Anthony (1st wave) advocated for voting rights and many modern (aka 3rd wave) advocate for Men's rights (i.e., gender equality in parental courts). There are many feminists and not all are truly egalitarian and, unfortunately, if you are egalitarian you usually get pegged a "feminist" even though I know I'd never call myself one

I haven't had the chance to watch the video yet but hypersexualizing women in virtual worlds is a real problem. This is particularly salient for me because I'm playing Lightning Returns: FFXIII. The developers really went out of their way to dress the sole protagonist in the skimpiest clothes and even increased her bust size just for this game. I didn't know about all this before I bought it. It was just the newest FF so although you can expect some characters to be hypersexualized, I didn't expect the established series protagonist to be so transformed. This is problematic because it makes my wife very uncomfortable and I think most women who don't fit the "perfect" woman image would recognize the issue and some, if not most, would empathize. I mean, if I play a video game, I want plot and character development. If I wanted scantily clad (or less) women, I'd be looking elsewhere. I feel like the tech industry takes the easy way out by sexing up personas and avatars to attract men with disposable income.

You forgot "barefoot and pregnant" lol Seriously though, it is sad to think some people actually still believe that's a woman's place or that women have "their place"

jeez, you guys are really hung up on the labels. as if being called a feminist makes you less of a man. you dont like the hypersexualization of women in media and want to see it toned down because it has unhealthy consequences (for you, your wife, kids). that sounds like something that a real feminist would agree with.

Well, actually, feminism and "being a man" are mutually exclusive if you identify feminists even as egalitarian (which I don't think most are). Labels have power and symbols have meaning and recognizing those is a fundamental necessity for any discourse. All egalitarians share similar ideas as feminists when it comes to ideas about Women's rights and the inequities they face. So if being egalitarian and advocating for less unrealistic, hypersexualized female images makes me a feminist in your mind, that's fine with me.

i'm glad we agree. but i've never met a 'militant feminist'. they only appear on tv shows specifically designed to create a lot of shouting. my women friends would probably all consider themselves egalitarian and most of them would also consider themselves feminists.

Yeah, it's the loud ones that make the most noise. Unfortunately, that also means they perpetuate the stereotype among the less-informed. Growing up in the rural south with overtly racist and sexist grandparents tends to shade your perspective. My parents still don't understand why I have more than a bachelors degree. But being on college campuses I've run into more than my fair share of militant feminists. I took a semester in the Masters of Social Work program and that was probably the worst. Looking back you could say I was probably asking for it but I had high hopes of egalitarianism. I guess having hope often means giving into naivety.

Nope, but I eat there occasionally. The Italian BMT is good but it's not always on the $5 menu. I'm not really sure how this relates to anything on this board though.

How not to lash out in verbal poison, attempt to silence (mods take note,) and marginalize people with differing opinions... People need to learn that as well.

step out from your cloak of anonymity. unlock your twitter account. let us know where you work; i can't imagine stalking Pam Geller's instagram account with "oooh your so beautiful. like an angel" is a full time job. neither is watching Russia Today newscasts on youtube.

too bad about those lakers. im sure kobe is off to see his mystery doctor and get his special treatment *cough* HGH *cough*

5 minute google search of your user name =/= stalking

you should know there is a guy with your user name creeping out over a virulant racist over on Pam Geller's blog. serious creepy calling a total stranger beautiful and sexy and talking about wearing a dress for her. really creepy stuff. easy to find. just type your username in google and go to the 2nd or 3rd link. it's all over the internet. good thing it's not you, because that would be totally embarassing and creepy.


and that's totally a good thing because if it were a guy with the exact same user name posting things about how he wanted to wear a blue dress for a terrible racist, it would be totally embarassing. you should probably change your username just to avoid the confusion with the tkdmacgeek that posts here would be really sad and embarassing. i hope you read the link. it's crazy stuff by a guy with your exact same screen name AND repellent views about Muslims. it would be a totally crazy coincidence that two guys who are both intolerant and prejudiced jerks also share the exact same username for multiple accounts.

crazy, right? i mean, how many sexist bigots can be out there who also use the username tkdmacgeek?!!???!?

but come, admit it, don't you agree with Pam Geller's views on Islam? And she is hot and smart, or at least the guy whose username is the exact same as yours says so. wouldn't you be at least a little curious in putting on a blue dress on for her? After all, that's what the guy with the exact same username as you would do! And since you share the same abhorrant views on Islam, maybe you'd be into wearing a dress for a racist talking head.

Seriously though, all this podcast is going to be about is how hard done to they are and how terrible men are. And of course the people making these claims are nearly always vastly privileged. 

You want to know what sexism is? It's been conscripted into the army because you are male, it's getting a harsher sentence for the same crime as a women, it's been denied access to your children. And so, on and so on.

Given all the injustices in the world, why would I be interested in listening to a bunch of privileged women complaining because someone said something they didn't like and/or took the wrong way or some other petty thing?

"all this podcast is going to be about "

So you haven't listened to it, you find it to be 'rubbish' and yet you're the one posting the most on it here. That says a lot. At least listen to it instead of a knee-jerk reaction to the headline.

You sound like a ranting loon here, not someone trying to have a serious discussion.

I'm not going to listen to it. I've heard far too much of this nonsense in the past and it's always the same.

And less with the insults, okay?

Wow. I mostly respect you Rubino. But you are acting like a petulant child. Just because this is your turf doesn't mean you can insult your readers.

I'm not sure what this podcast will be about but I bet it will be interesting. I don't know much about the gender ratios for employees at tech firms or their pay (in)equality. As newer companies I'd assume a more balanced distribution than in other industries but it seems to me to be an area men would likely gravitate toward. Although discrimination in the workplace, tech or otherwise, does not seem relevant to the windows phone OS, inequalities in tech firms can have detrimental effects on the development paths of products within the industry. We should strive for more diversity in the tech industry--if not for equality's sake--for the sake of products, features, and devices that appeal to larger audiences and improve the user experience. I doubt the male-dominated tech firm would come up with Kid's Corner--they'd just say kids shouldn't be using adults' cell phones.

Now, these feminists have infested wpcentral too. Bunch of hypocrites who hate men and encourage positive discrimination eventhough they have already lobbied most of the laws in their favour in both the professional world and the private world like family courts and less punishment than men for same crime in criminal courts too. Infact we should be wary of hiring proud feminists who are very much likely to file a frivolous lawsuit on you or your organisation.

The only comment I have on the podcast is that yes, there are creepy guys in the world, who post gross crap online b/c they think they'll be part of the cool crowd then.  I don't think that its fair to define all of us that way. 


I would also mention though, that none of the moderators brought up how 'cute' they looked in that outfit today, or how cute their hair was today...that was done by the all female if you would like to have a serious conversation about the gap in male/female techies...I'm 100% there (I'm a Dad of a daughter)...but its difficult to break a stereotype, if you propagate it...that part of the conversation bothered me.


I think the nutjob card gets played on the guy side too...Daniel has his own personal dude stalker here...that guy always claiming Daniel's out to ruin Sprint (incoherent youtube boy).  I agree its different from say Georgia's experiences, but we're not all creeping out on every glint of skin either.


Its a good start...I'm sure Georgia (and other female techies) get pummeled with gross comments.

One of the reasons I love tech and tech culture is it is a meritocracy.  If you have the best ideas and implementation your vision will win the day.  Anybody can have a dream, open a text editor, and make it happen.  I enjoy the hell out of these lame Social Justice Warriors saying b-but put more gurl heros in games and the like.  Open your own text editor, put your own capital at risk, and make it happen.  If you do it better than the rest, you'll win.  That is more work than caterwauling on tumblr though.

This is especially true with so many people being able to make it big with apps and games on mobile platforms and with indie games. One big problem though is that developers often believe, correctly or incorrectly idk, that people are more likely to buy a game when I plays on stereotypes or fanservice. Unfortunately meritocracy in publishing is not entirely about making the best product but also about giving people what they want. For all the developers out there, most of us are not chauvinistic so as jjb4430 suggests, make the best product and you'll be in good shape even if you don't cater to the guys that want big jiggly boobs.

Mighty presumtious to say they are doing it wrong.  These "chauvinistic" games are the ones stacking sales not the tumblr tier whiners.  Make a fun game with the political agenda you wish, if it is a good game (or more broadly product) it will win the day.  Starting with an agenda and building a game around it doesn't work... Thankfully.

My apologies. I didn't intend to imply they were doing it "wrong." As you point out, they are making a killing off these games and I definietley agree that going onto tumblr and whining about those games winning out doesn't get us anywhere. All I intended to say was that good tech will stand on it's own and doesn't require boob physics. Even though objectifying women might boost sales, I think we would be better off as a culture resisting the temptation for that extra revenue.  

Sexism is a non-issue. If Saudi Arabia can get by with what the West calls “sexism” than the West can learn some lessons from Saudi Arabia on how a country runs perfectly fine with “sexism” in place. (And WPCentral could also learn some lessons from Saudi Arabia too.)

Sexism, sexism, sexism. The reality is that sexism is not a issue. There's nothing wrong with not having women in tech because I don't see why we need women in tech.