As you know, women are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) fields — and many are leaving the profession in droves. Part of the problem: the alienating and clueless things said to female scientists, mathematicians and engineers by their colleagues.
Photo by Sharon Mollerus
Cate Burlington offers a list on the Toast of things said to her by her male coworkers. Some of them are plainly insulting and condescending, while others are backhanded compliments. Just a few examples (with Burlington’s annotations):
“How did you learn to do all this?!” The ancient Spider-Goddess Llorothaag came to me in a harrowing blood-soaked vision. In exchange for perpetual servitude as her handmaiden, she imparted knowledge of IP subnetting.
“No, when I complain about ‘geek girls,’ I don’t mean you. You’re a real geek.”All attend! The Arbiter is speaking. In his wisdom, he can tell who is a real geek and who is fake, and especially who is a bitch.
“Let me know when you want to do that so I can help you. No offence, but you just don’t know enough about it to try it on your own.” What could possibly be offensive about your assertion that I am incapable of implementing some of the basic skills of our profession without your supervision?
“You’re a girl, but you’re not, like, a girl-girl, y’know?” When Llorothaag returns, you will be the first sacrifice I lay upon her profane altar.
Speaking of being a “girl-girl,” Sailor Mercury writes on Medium of her experience being a programmer and presenting as feminine. Not only does she often get the “But you don’t look like a programmer!” absurd comment, people wrongly assume she’s a beginner, based on looks alone. Moreover, feedback she gets from peers is always gendered — comments rating her appearance, outfit or tone of voice rather than the content.
Gender diversity is an important topic. While these examples aren’t indicative of the way all men (and, to be fair, women tool) act in these male-dominated industries, it’s likely many people say insensitive things like these without realising it.
A good rule of thumb from Sailor Mercury:
Ask yourself, “Would I give this feedback to a masculine-presenting white cis man?”
Coding Like a Girl [Medium]