Friday, March 8, 2013

Do not take affirmative action towards women in technology

I’ve never seen myself as a major feminist. I support a lot of feminist views, but I don’t feel the need to participate in demonstrations for women's rights. In fact, one of my main “feminist” concerns is the lack of female developers, and I think that says a lot about how lucky I think we, the women, are in Norway.

A lot of people are working very hard in order to attract more women to technology related jobs, and I applaud these people. Your work is very important, unfortunately this blog post is not about you. This blog post is about thoughts and ideas that rise for the same purpose, but might give the opposite result. In other words, this blog post is a plead against well-meant measures which in the end might make women step back from technology.

Do not take affirmative action

(Before I begin my plead, I would like to point out that this is strictly my point of view, other women in the business might not agree with me.)

There was a discussion recently on the lack of female speakers at conferences, and one of the suggestions was to take affirmative action to increase the numbers. For example, if there are 100 timeslots available at the conference, 25 of these should be reserved women to ensure that 25% of the speakers are female. Would this result in the number of female speakers at the conference increasing? Absolutely! But what would probably happen over time? If women were accepted as speakers just because of their sex, we risk the quality of the conference. I’m not saying that women are inferior to men as public speakers or as technology specialists, I believe the same thing would happen if we were to say that 25% of all speakers should be redheads. Or 25% of all speakers should be shorter than 175 cm.

The action is well-meant, but the result might be catastrophic. If I was interested in submitting a talk to a conference, and I found out that 25% of the timeslots were reserved for women, I would probably not submit my talk after all. The wish of all women in the business is to be accepted because we deserve it as individuals, not because we deserve it as a group. I would never accept a job if I got it “just because I’m female”. I would never speak at a conference if my talk was accepted “just because I’m female”. I want to earn my place through blood, sweat and tears, in the same way a man does.

Happy international women's day!


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