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A critique of women’s tech events by a female software engineer.

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    Just pointing out some things from the article I find kind of silly:

    GHC, for example, didn’t have a code of conduct until 2014 and still doesn’t cover speaker travel – or even give speakers a complementary ticket.

    Some other conferences don’t reimburse speaker travel or attendance either–it’s just a matter of cheapness, and cheapness that hurts everyone involved regardless of sex.

    They hide behind their donations when called out on things like lack of diversity on their board.

    A company that has over $250B (and yes, B as in Billion) in cash seems to be doing something right. It is not unreasonable at all for them to say “Yeah, the current board, full of old white dudes, seems to be working out pretty well for us”. Bringing in candidates for senior and leadership positions just because you want more diversity is not always a good business decision–just ask HP or Yahoo!.

    More importantly, that complaint is distant and impotent–it takes a long time to reform senior leadership in the absence of gross failure (and sometimes not even then!), and to expect that to happen just to make people happier at a conference is probably just going to end in disappointment.

    I think we’re supposed to want to do these events, make exceptions because it’s “for the collective” but whilst I think some women still go with this obligation, more and more of us are saying no. And I think that can get framed as selfishness – but I see it as prioritisation.

    I want to see events for women succeed, but I don’t feel obligated to do any more than I do already. So they have to meet my objective criteria for any event that I speak at… and they haven’t been.

    If one’s gripe is about the treatment of a class of people, one needs to be prepared to do things for the good of that class, even if it is individually a hardship. Otherwise, one is baldy interested only in that group insofar as they can benefit from being a member. There is nothing respectable about that.

    If the author can’t be arsed to sacrifice to help out her group, then perhaps she doesn’t deserve any of the benefits people are trying to get for that group.

    Also, a curated collection of objective criteria is still subjective. “My objective criteria” is almost a contradiction in terms.

    I want these organisations to be successful – even if I am unlikely to personally donate time and money to them in this context as I believe my focus is better elsewhere.

    See previous. Author shouldn’t complain about the existence of a problem unless she intends to be part of the solution.

    Most recently I asked a question and in doing so alluded to the fact that I don’t want children. Another woman confidently stated to the room that I would change my mind.

    So, studies show that as time goes on, a population of women is more likely to have kids (~50% are childless before 30, ~30% after). So, the other conference goer’s remark is probably in good faith, and possibly even accurate. If the author ends up having children in the next five or ten years, it would be entertaining to see her reaction from this time.

    Is it the toxic line of thinking that goes “I was oppressed therefore I cannot oppress”, which is far too pervasive?

    Is the bar of oppression really set so low that somebody pointing out common wisdom that the author disagrees with constitutes oppression? How can we make meaningful progress on true oppression when the branding is becoming so diffuse?

    Regardless of why, there’s a failure of empathy that excludes. How I, a cis-het-white-woman felt when it was suggested that I don’t know my own mind when it comes to kids, is nothing to the ways that women of colour, trans women, lesbians, have felt excluded.

    Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they exclude you.

    ~

    I find this article to be exceptionally whiny, searching for affront, and, one might even say, hysterical in tone.

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      The grace hopper conference (GHC) is the largest women focused tech conference right now. Any other comparably sized conference would offer the things that the author mentions. Its not silly to criticise them for not having the same.

      It is 100% valid to ask why a company that donates large sums toward diversity efforts does not have a diverse board of directors. Additionally, you do realize that the board of non-tech companies often have women and other minorities right? And on top of that, research has shown over and over that having women on company boards helps increase profits:

      http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/29/companies-with-women-on-the-board-perform-better-report-finds

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/caroline-turner/gender-diversity-on-boards_b_7744588.html

      Blaming the failure of Yahoo on their president having a vagina is absurd. Yahoo was a failing company well before they hired Marissa Mayors, perhaps you will equally blame the previous CEO’s failures with Yahoo on their ability to piss standing up? Regardless, she did manage to double the company’s stock: https://www.yahoo.com/news/buyback-help-yahoo-stock-soared-under-mayer-165301156--finance.html

      I cannot find any merit in your assertion that women on a board of directors would cause a company to fail and there is nothing that supports this.

      I think we’re supposed to want to do these events, make exceptions >because it’s “for the collective” but whilst I think some women still go with >this obligation, more and more of us are saying no. And I think that can get >framed as selfishness – but I see it as prioritisation.

      The author is saying that she is using the same criteria for women tech events that she uses for non-women focused events, and that women tech events need to do better to match. There are only so many conferences she can speak at, and it is 100% ok for her to have criteria in choosing which ones to go to. There is a ton of pressure for women who work in tech to stretch themselves thin trying to help out women’s organizations like these, but I think it can be misplaced. Women tech events won’t get better unless we take a hard look at what they are doing now and what could be done better.

      If the author ends up having children in the next five or ten years, it would >be entertaining to see her reaction from this time.

      The author was angry because her thoughts were being dismissed and belittled, she wasn’t angry because statistics. If you say, “I don’t like fish” and someone goes, “No you don’t, you love fish, you’ll see in a few years” can you not see how that is dismissive?

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        Its not silly to criticise them for not having the same.

        Defcon has had between 12,000 and 16,000 attendees (near the same as GHC 2015), and it doesn’t reimburse speakers for travel and lodging. It does provide three tickets instead of a speaking fee if requested. So, it’s hardly unusual–even for well-known and well-attended conferences–to be missing some things. My problem is that the author’s line of grumbling looks very similar to “Well, conference <xyz> had this, we should have <xyz>, etc.” while at the same time freely acknowledging that she herself isn’t willing to do anything to help subsidize or make that happen.

        The way the criticism was worded just seemed very entitled, and I would say that regardless of the author’s situation.

        And on top of that, research has shown over and over that having women on company boards helps increase profits:

        If you look at the article referenced in your first link, the advantage is at most two percent; in the UK and India, the data suggests a difference of .85% and .58% respectively. With n=500 (S&P 500 being the dataset), it seems reasonable that the difference could be sampling noise.

        In your second link, if my reading is correct there are several other reports shown that explicitly state that there is not a meaningful correlation between diversity and performance. Again, that’s directly from your own cited evidence.

        Blaming the failure of Yahoo on their president having a vagina is absurd.

        That was not what I suggested, though I can understand how you could’ve read it that way. I meant to suggest that hiring for diversity (instead of for ability) is how they could have made a mistake.

        Your evidence that she has doubled the stock price seems to suggest, at some level, it’s working. Then again, there have been some issues with her techniques and their results.

        Also, it’s kinda a classic accounting trick to do massive layoffs to reduce expenditures while keeping revenue–one gets to post massive “I reduced costs by 300%” messages to investors and excite the market, and then quietly slip away when the company (now bereft of ~talent~ cost-centers) implodes.

        I cannot find any merit in your assertion that women on a board of directors would cause a company to fail and there is nothing that supports this.

        That was not my assertion. My assertion was (and is!) that changes to senior-level and board folks needs to be based on a criteria other than diversity. If, as in the case of Apple that I suggested, the board is doing a good job then the risk of changing people (whether for diversity or any other reason) is not easily justified.

        Women tech events won’t get better unless we take a hard look at what they are doing now and what could be done better.

        You and agree completely agree here. I just think that making those critiques in the same article as saying “I am unwilling to do any of this myself, and neither are my backchannel friends, neener neener” is counterproductive and childish.

        If you say, “I don’t like fish” and someone goes, “No you don’t, you love fish, you’ll see in a few years” can you not see how that is dismissive?

        At the risk of being gauche, a better analogy would’ve been a prepubescent kid saying “I don’t like people of the opposite gender”, and someone goes, “You might change your mind in a few years”.

        Sometimes things that are dismissive are still true and correct. Somebody who, when younger, says “I hate baths” is probably going to change and recant–or, they’ll be gross. It doesn’t make their friends or parents incorrect or bad for telling them what will (in all likelihood) become truth.

        People don’t know themselves completely, and the idea that a person is a complete and infallible expert on their selves and their desires and their thoughts needs to be taken with at least as much skepticism as anything else being piled-on these days.

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          I see where you are coming from. I don’t necessarily think people should only be able to criticise something unless they are willing to fix it themselves (in an ideal world this would be the case), sometimes they just have other priorities. It would have definitely been nice to see the author provide a more concrete solution, but perhaps she was just wanting to start a discussion. I haven’t been to many women focused tech conferences myself, but if they have a greater focus on hiring than on information sharing I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much.

          I meant to suggest that hiring for diversity (instead of for ability) is how they >could have made a mistake.

          I think its totally possible to do both. Hire a more diverse group of people who are also qualified to do the work.

          I won’t argue the merits of Mayor’s methods, I just wanted to point out that she is no worse than how a man would do, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. She is a person, not a representation of all women CEO’s in tech.

          Board members aren’t hired though, they are elected by company stakeholders and this happens at minimum every 15 months in the US. Boards change pretty regularly so I really don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a company that devotes money to diversity efforts to elect a more diverse board. Especially since there is no apparent detriment to doing so.

          Apple also has 2 women, one of them asian american, a black man and a jewish man on their board, so I would say having a diverse board is working out for them.

          http://investor.apple.com/corporate-governance.cfm

          It is one thing to think a person’s mind will change, but totally different to call them out in a room full of people at a conference. I would never feel that this is appropriate and still think it’s patronizing and dismissive.

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            I think you make a good point about Mayor–it’s certainly asking too much to say “Aha, a man would’ve categorically been a better choice here!”. Indeed, I would expect the same slash-and-burn mass firings from a male MBA, so there’s that.

            You do raise a good point on board members, and that’s a good data point about Apple. Thanks for digging up the current state of affairs–I was half-cocked in assuming the original article was referencing it correctly.

            I do think we have some fundamental disagreement on what is and is not acceptably patronizing and dismissive behavior, but I’m pretty sure that that is a matter of different core philosophies and life experience. We’ll have to agree to disagree, but I’d be happy to hash it out in PMs if you’d like.

            Thank you for a very good discussion!

            EDIT: Removed spurious ‘the’.

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            At the risk of being gauche, a better analogy would’ve been a prepubescent kid saying “I don’t like people of the opposite gender”, and someone goes, “You might change your mind in a few years”.

            I don’t see how it can possibly not be obvious that effectively calling an adult woman a child is incredibly insulting.

            Also, from your grandparent comment:

            I find this article to be exceptionally whiny, searching for affront, and, one might even say, hysterical in tone.

            This alone is enough for me to ignore everything you’re saying. If you have a point, bookending it with explicit, emphasized sexism is not the way to convey it.

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              I don’t see how it can possibly not be obvious that effectively calling an adult woman a child is incredibly insulting.

              So, that wasn’t my intent with that example. There’s very much an age component to certain biological processes and urges, and my attempt there was to draw a parallel between getting older and becoming sexually active and getting still older and wanting to have kids. I don’t have sources on academic studies about the “biological clock”, but there is some anecdata on Quora.

              Again, there are things that people will swear up and down they’ll never do, but somebody with more experience is completely reasonable in saying “Well, you say that now, but you might change your mind later”. This is the case even in absence of biological motivation.

              If you have a point, bookending it with explicit, emphasized sexism is not the way to convey it.

              Agreed. That was flat-out trolling on my part, because it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. It’s not often in modern times that one gets to insult a prospective reader using wording that truly captures the original intent and circumstance of an insult. I just couldn’t help myself. :)

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        I had a knee-jerk reaction to the title, but this is actually an interesting and thoughtful piece (which is not complaining about the existence or concept of women-only events).

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          I thought it was interesting as well. The author even says there are some non-women focused events she would rather go to over some women focused ones because they have strong codes of conduct and other things that make minority software developers feel more comfortable. I think it was a great point to make that women can be awful to each other and even women focused events need codes of conduct and conflict resolution policies.

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            Your comment as it stands is not able to be engaged with very productively. Some questions that you might want to consider as you revise or expand on it:

            • What is the definition of feminazism you are assuming a reader is familiar with?
            • What, exactly, is surprising about the production of this article? Why?
            • What in the article demonstrates a lack of critical and analytical thinking? What would have been better?
            • Why should males leave that company choose mass departure as a form of activism? What would they be activists for?
            • What exactly here would be “stating the obvious”?

            Hopefully you can use these queries to either flesh out your ideas and rhetoric, or to realize that there is a certain standard that you aren’t currently fulfilling. Thanks for posting!

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                It isn’t a sea lion post and you haven’t been downvoted due to having an unpopular opinion. @angersock was asking you to have a more productive discussion with better laid out explanations for your thoughts on the link. Throwing your hands up saying “Femnazi” does not do this, and by your own definition, there is no femnazism in the article.

                In any cause, I don’t believe you ever actually read it. It isn’t about women gaining an advantage, it is about women doing as well as the men with their tech conferences. If women focused tech conferences aren’t holding their own as something equally worth general tech conferences, then the author’s point is they should change to be able to do so.

                If you disagree with this, then do so in a way that is actually coherent? Your original post was basically the equivalent of “bitches! am I right?” shrug