Speak Up and Stand Out this International Women’s Day
The idea that women are delicate, fragile, domestic creatures has always been strange to women who don’t belong to the middle class and the rich. Poor, colored, divorced and other outcast women of all sorts know very well there is no place for mild-mannered frailty when you’re barely making ends meet, struggling for survival. Being a housewife is not an option. Working hard for several hours a day — much longer than men — is the only way to get food on the table.
In the early 20th Century, all genders suffered from the terrible working conditions brought by the Industrial Revolution. Insalubrious factories, 18-hour shifts, scraps for wages and near-slavery conditions paved the way for unions, strikes, and several welfare achievements our society has reached due to the bravery of those who were oppressed.
However, some fights are feminine, and no white man, albeit empathic, can ever truly grasp what it must be like to be prevented from owning property, speaking their mind, or voting. Amidst this hostile historical setting, March 8th was chosen as a date to bring awareness to the limitations that still exist for women in our society.
And yet, on March 8th, we know we will be given flowers, and be praised for our beauty and frailty. Every year, we get to receive compliments on how our existence makes the world prettier, softer. And every year we think to ourselves
“I’ll trade the flowers for respect any day.”
We, women in tech, feel the weight of History on our shoulders everyday, as we get to work. Although the numbers improve slightly year by year, we are still ridiculed, marginalized and disregarded for nothing except our gender. We get to hear statements like:
“women can’t code”
“I don’t trust her”
“is she having PMS?”
We are mansplained, manterrupted and suffer bropriation on a daily basis. And if you have extra minority points, like being a person of colour, in a large body, physically disabled, non gender conforming, or simply if you have children (!) — it only adds up to the blatant oppression.
However, we’d like to remind all our sisters that
WE OWN THIS SHIT.
We initiated computing as we know it today. We are master codebreakers. We designed the first programming languages. We waged wars, led humanity to the moon, and basically change the world around us everyday.
It was only recently that computer sciences became cool and started being associated with boys. To be specific, this is a 1980–90s phenomenon, associated with a strong gender stratification of the children’s toys market. It sounds extreme, I know, but it is very hard to work in tech when you were never stimulated towards STEM, and even had your interest restricted because it’s a boy’s thing.
Girls who are thus oriented will naturally evade STEM fields, and therefore be absent from the STEM workforce. This analysis serves as warning: we believe the world is always improving, and becoming more inclusive, but that’s not necessarily true. Culture is fluid, and sexism is part of culture. We must stand our ground and strive for equality, regardless of how bad it was in the past.
The challenges we face today
Women held 36% of computing jobs in 1991. It is 25% now. They earn 19% to 32% less income when compared with men who hold jobs with the same skills and responsibility requirements. They quit at a rate of 41% , while men quit at 17%.
In the end, all gender norms are impossible to perfectly conform to. All they do is cause strife, suffering and inequality.
So if the situation is dire, what can we do to change it?
What lies ahead
We, the so-called snowflakes, the SJWs, the dreaded feminists, already endure a whole parade of ugly while fighting for equality. The world is boring, I can’t even be sexist anymore! should be part of a joke, but it’s not. However, although we don’t see the fight getting easier anytime soon, we do get a lot in return by joining initiatives and making the difference in people’s lives.
Here are some ways you can contribute:
Share your knowledge
Be aware of women around you who might want to learn and develop their skills in technology. Find initiatives that help women and young girls to code and offer help.
Find mentors and develop leadership skills
The fact that our culture is gender biased and positions of power are majorly held by men beget an unbalanced, unhealthy power structure both in companies and politics. Being a leader is a tall order, but you can prepare by studying, practicing and getting help from a mentor. Men: make an effort to mentor women. Women: as you become a leader, remember that representation matters, so be ready to be a mentor yourself.
Speak up and stand out
Do not bow down to sexism. Be awesome, and if you’re not recognized for the quality of your work, arm yourself with facts and data and speak up, showing clear, rational reasons why you deserve recognition. Make your voice heard in the community by attending conferences, writing articles (for Code Like A Girl, for instance ) and giving talks.
Find a support group
Of course, prepare for backlash. Having support, whether it’s a small group of friends or a full blown internet forum on your side is not only healthy but necessary as you become a public figure fighting for equality.
On this International Women’s Day TAKE ACTION!