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article imageOp-Ed: Women in tech - What women don’t want, defined

By Paul Wallis     Oct 2, 2014 in Business
Sydney - Neo feminism is a lot less rhetorical and more focused than old feminism. The general approach is “To hell with you, if you don’t do it, I’ll do it myself”. It's now a question of what women don't want, as much as what they do.
There’s an article in which goes right to the heart of the issue. Superficially, this is a commentary on lack of recognition and minimal female involvement in tech, a supposedly female-unfriendly career environment. Many of the issues ring true, and irritatingly normal, but there’s a missing element.
The writer, Anna Friedman, has tried hard to spell out the issues for readers. These issues include:
Sexism – The usual types and a few “hilarious” hashtags
Declining participation of female computer grads which has halved from 37% to 18% since 1985.
Only 3 female techs in the Fortune 500
4% of top venture capitalists are female
19% of “angel” investors are female.
56% of female grads leave the tech sector, with most citing a hostile environment or very high work pressure. Compensation is the other reason.
Non-existent meritocracy – Not actually news to anyone, but a fair point.
Obviously, there is a problem. It’s highly unlikely that the best tech minds in the world are exclusively male. This is a pretty straightforward breakdown of the current state of play in the sector.
Most guys in tech wouldn’t be surprised. The tech sector can be a very harsh, unfriendly environment for anyone. Many say, as Friedman points out, that one of the issues is that women don’t want to do the entrepreneurial things in tech, nor, apparently, stick around in an unproductive work environment. Friedman sticks to her very clearly laid out argument, developing the theme that it’s hard for women to achieve successful startups, and that venture capitalists prefer “nerds”.
This, however, is also where the argument comes unstuck in a few ways. One of the people in Friedman’s article uses “emotional IQ” as a qualifier for her skills base. Sorry, emotional IQ is meaningless. It’s a social asset, not a hard asset in tech or anywhere else. People in business don’t go looking for therapists, they hire code writers and other neurotics.
It’s not necessarily true that emotional IQ was invented as a consolation prize for those who don’t have real IQs, but try finding a job where EQ beats IQ.
I’m not going to disagree or dispute the truth of a word of Friedman’s article. I’m going to disagree with the orientation, though.
The theory that women simply don’t think the tech sector is worth doing as a career only goes so far. It quite probably really isn’t worth doing, which is much more of an indictment than “women don’t do tech” could ever be.
Why not? Does the tech sector really drop everything, get together and decide that women should be oppressed? No. It’s too busy to think much about anything. It's a rat race, for rats lost in minutiae. For the last generation, the tech sector has been churning out people who are then thrown into the workforce, to sink or swim. The early tech sector, in particular, was incredibly brutal as a career environment for everyone. It’s slightly better now, but it’s still tough.
Let’s look at a business angle - Smart, intelligent women know a bad proposition when they see one. They may dislike the people, the environment, or both, but good businesspeople don’t hang around to smell the garbage. The ugly side to the tech sector doesn’t appeal to people with a sense of personal hygiene and mental health, male or female.
Tech startups – Why would women want to get involved purely on principle? Many tech startups, in fact, fail, dismally. Good business sense says don’t throw money at losers and parasites.
Compensation – I would suggest that today’s woman doesn’t stick around when offered lousy compensation, either. It’s not a good move.
Meritocracy – What meritocracy? The meritocracy doesn’t exist, and never has. It’s a nasty little world full of ridiculous, talentless, little suits doing each other favors. This revelation is just part of a learning curve.
Sexism – Is for infants, trash and workplace peasants. You get it from 30-40-50 somethings who are trying to pretend they’re college freshmen and resentful, sexless guys who are trying, usually unsuccessfully, to prove they’re male. One look, and most women just aren’t there any more. (It’s also why so many “male” businesses look so hopelessly out of date and present so badly to civilized male colleagues who actually have female friends.)
Compensation – Neo feminists are much more realistic and far less trusting than their predecessors in this regard. Most successful women these days manage their own compensation, and do it well. The tech sector is way behind the eight ball in this regard, obviously.
The Fortune 500 is a moving target. Interestingly Fortune has an article called “Activist investors’ unintentional war on women” including this quote:
A woman could meet every one of the tests to get on the board, but now, if they don’t come out of the same or similar industry vertical, many times the activist will say, ‘She looks great, but she doesn’t have the right experience,’” says Dennis Carey, a vice chairman at executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International. “Historically, before all this activist pressure, she probably would have gotten appointed.
This is a cultural thing, and like all cultural things, it’ll get worse before it gets better. It’s a ridiculous argument, in one way – Ignoring abilities based on an arbitrary assessment of a past timeline. On that basis, Ariana Huffington wouldn’t get appointed to a PR exec job, for example, and she’s a major exponent of PR on multiple levels, particularly for her own business, but she’s just not “PR” in the conventional sense.
The article also notes that women comprise only 5% of CEOs in the Fortune 500. Does it sound rational? It can’t, because it isn’t. It’s a strange insight in to a world where superficial perceptions are valued higher than hard business sense.
This is where neo feminism is making big strides in a much more productive way. The successful woman runs her own business. She makes the decisions. She doesn’t waste time trying to convince a stupid system that it’s stupid.
What women don’t want
It would be fair to say that women don’t want a system which is stacked against them. They don’t climb every mountain of corporate ignorance they find “on principle”. They don’t, quite rightly, want to be part of a business zoo full of under achievers. They don’t want an obstacle course slowing them down or holding them back for decades.
If women are voting with their feet to get out of the tech sector, it’s a huge indictment of the sector. Code writing isn’t done on a hormonal basis. (We claim. Some of the tech crap coming on the market does act like it was done in a hissy fit by some guy who’s still trying to figure out how to use furniture and losing.)
Why would women want to be part of a manic-obsessive, turgid, and arguably very backward, culture? They obviously don’t, and they don’t like it, either. The issue isn’t about EQ, it’s about IQ. Some would say that staying out of a nasty environment shows a more active IQ than the idiots who plod mindlessly along through the crap. How much empathy do you want to have with obsessive morons, anyway?
There’s another issue - Talent. Why would anyone want to waste their high value skills? Why grind through the years in an unproductive role, when you can do a lot better? If the tech sector isn’t attracting female talent, it’s a real review of the actual state of the sector.
The neo feminists also obviously don’t want to go back to the endless failure of simply trying to change a system that doesn’t work. Old feminism hit this one and bounced off, thanks to a combination of endless repetition and male insularity. Instead, they’re going around it, or simply ignoring it, as it deserves.
What they’re doing is rewriting the script for women. “To hell with you, I’ll do it myself” turns out to be a very good move. The college-job-career cycle is changing. A lot of people are now kicking out the job element, and working for themselves – and succeeding. They’ll also win, as the old employment cycles break down.
All due respect, but I think this is the way to finally break down the glass ceiling/corridors/water coolers. As I’ve been saying for years, the ceiling is made of the same material as their jaws.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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