Every week, we are subjected to stroppy Gawker posts and soporific op-eds in national newspapers about how a woman in the technology industry who was fired for poor performance was secretly a high-achieving go-getter brought down by entrenched sexism and patriarchal oppression.
And every week we’re told that the reason more women aren’t working in technology is a combination of sexism, outdated social attitudes and stereotypes, historical prejudices and too few educational support programmes for women.
We’re told that women find it more difficult to get jobs and that when they do get jobs they’re subjected to hostile workplaces, sexism and bullying and that they’re paid less than their male counterparts for the same work.
We’re invited to believe, contrary to the evidence all around us, that the highly-progressive, socially-conscious and liberal-minded technology industry is in fact one of the most retrograde and oppressive places for women to work.
But here’s the dirty secret about the shrill and insatiable “women in tech” movement: none of that is true. And ordinary women innately sense that this is so, which is why — despite frenetic, wall-to-wall media coverage and endless plugs from politicians and celebrities, the women in tech movement is losing the sympathy of ordinary people and why, by some measures, the number of women going into tech is actually going down.
Encouraging women to take leadership and technical roles in technology, the Internet and gaming, if they want them, is a noble goal. But any plan designed to increase the number of women in a given STEM field is doomed to failure unless businesses tell themselves the truth about their supposed “women problem.”
1. The Women Who Want To Work In Tech Already Do
No woman has missed the news that technology is the industry to end all industries and that, as Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen puts it, software is eating the world. It has been twenty years since “tech is where the money is.”
And the idea that women are not exposed to technology at a young age is hokum: women love operating, owning, buying, and using technology. They just don’t, on the whole, seem to want to build it. But that’s almost certainly not because “stereotypes” are holding them back, which is fashionable nonsense.
2. Most Women Aren’t Interested In Tech, And They Never Will Be
By and large, women simply don’t want to build spaceships or code iPhone apps and there is absolutely nothing that the media, educational establishment, universities or campaigners can do about it.
Here’s something you probably don’t know: in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, the gender split in science courses at university can be as high as 50-50. But, when you look at more equal, enlightened societies such as Norway and Sweden, the number of women doing STEM subjects plummets and goes down every year relative to admissions.
The challenge for businesses isn’t how to get more women into technology. That’s impossible. It’s how to get a disproportionate slice of an ever-diminishing pie, by making their offerings as attractive as possible to prospective female employees. (That may include childcare and more flexible working hours.)
As societies get more equal and women have access to the full range of career options and every support mechanism the state and gender activists can devise, their choices actually narrow. It’s not about education, or sinister patriarchal forces, or the stereotypes we give young girls. So what else is going on?
3. Women’s Brains Aren’t As Well Suited To Programming As Men’s
IQ doesn’t quite measure a “totality of intelligence,” but it is a very good measure of the game-like and analytical skills needed to become a proficient computer programmer or chess grandmaster. Women tend to cluster towards the mean on the IQ scale, whereas men are more likely to be totally brilliant or utter knuckledraggers. (That explains why there’s no female Mozart but also why men fill our prisons. It isn’t, as you’ve probably been told, primarily to do with race or class.)
Code doesn’t care about “structural oppression”: only whether your logic is correct. Although it horrifies feminist campaigners to say so, there’s evidence that biological determinism, and not lingering prejudice, is the best explanation for the differences in male and female performance.
4. There Is No Evidence That ‘Diversity’ Improves Company Performance
Seriously: I am calling for someone to do a large-scale study of the diversity efforts of companies who have fallen for this nonsense so that someone, somewhere can show me citable evidence that this does anything for a company other than provide good PR.
Maybe there are some serious figures out there. I’m sure someone with blue armpit hair is brandishing them as we speak. But until a serious, nationwide study emerges that has gone through the (look away now, feminists) peer review process, this fundamental assumption of the women in tech movement remains questionable at best.
Sorry to be blunt. But a company’s obligations are to its shareholders, not Jezebel bloggers’ feelings. So it’s worth finding out what difference a woman’s presence in the workplace actually makes.
5. Feminist Campaigners Lie About The Numbers And Reclassify ‘Science’ To Make Things Look Worse Than They Are
There are highly technical subjects totally dominated by women: veterinary science, for example. But you’ll never hear about the preponderance of women in such fields, because it suits feminist campaigners to fixate on the few disciplines women don’t succeed in, such as astrophysics, philosophy and mathematics, in an attempt to prove entrenched sexism.
One thing you’ll never hear is calls for more boys in subjects dominated by girls — nor agitated complaints about the dearth of heterosexual men on fragrance counters. Or the number of women driving oil trucks and hanging off skyscrapers cleaning 55th story windows. You get the point: the complaints only ever cut one way.
6. There’s Vanishingly Little Sexism In The Tech Industry
You’re not going to like this, but the technology industry isn’t sexist. At least, no more than anywhere else in society and a damn sight less than the law, finance and politics.
“But Milo,” I hear you say. “Your hair is amazing. Also, I’ve noticed a lot of articles by women complaining about their treatment in the industry. Doesn’t that mean there’s a problem?”
In a word: no. Good marketing doesn’t mean there’s an underlying problem and there will always be a strong contingent of malcontents, particularly if you hand women a victimhood script that tells them every hardship they’ve ever faced in life is the result of sexism, rather than their own choices or shortcomings.
7. Identifying As A ‘Woman In Tech’ Is The Kiss Of Death For Your Career
That’s not because employers don’t believe women should have equal access, but because it tells them certain things about your personality. Namely, that you’re likely to be trouble. They worry, with some justification, about bogus sexual harassment claims, which are rampant.
If there’s a problem in the tech workplace it might be that women can bring frivolous gender discrimination lawsuits against their old firms, costing companies in some cases over $100,000 in lawyers’ fees to dismiss, at little or no cost to the woman, who was fired for perfectly acceptable reasons.
Just such a lawsuit is currently playing itself out in the London startup world with a spurious claim costing a young company tens of thousands of pounds to defend. I hope to be able to report on it soon.
The truth is, men working in the testosterone-rich tech world are desperate to have more women around them, not just because it looks good but because they want to be around the fairer sex. That’s why…
8. Women Already Have A Massive Advantage When Applying For Tech Jobs
Companies are desperate to hire women. So much so that women have a 2-to-1 advantage when applying for academic jobs in STEM fields. According to a 2015 Cornell study, they’re rated higher and seen as more hireable than identically qualified men by employers. All else being equal, employers go for women just because they’re women. This is textbook gender bias and a huge advantage to any female job applicant.
Say the researchers: “Anti-female bias in academic hiring has ended and now is a good time for young women to seek science jobs… The only sexism [women] face in the hiring process is bias in their favor.” In other words, if you’re a woman applying for jobs in tech and you’re not getting hired, it is almost certainly nothing to do with your gender.
9. Arbitrary Quotas Are Discriminatory And Sexist
Quotas are unfair to everyone. There’s an old meme about “white privilege” that shows a white homeless man having a bad time and a… I can’t remember, paraplegic Armenian lesbian, it doesn’t matter, on the other side. The point being: you can’t know a person’s story by looking at their skin or sex organs.
Everyone agrees with this principle until they encounter a heterosexual white man, at which point he is automatically assumed to be somehow unworthy of the same treatment as others — when in actual fact it’s women who have the advantages these days.
Just as women gaze upon my arresting visage and bewitching eyes and presume I must be after them (sorry babe, nope), so too do they think it’s OK to judge a man by his cover. It isn’t.
10. The Vast Majority Of Women In Tech Work In Marketing And PR, And That’s Totally Fine
If as a chick you do land a job in tech, it’s unlikely to be a brave new world of Python. But while women seem to have a tough time selling themselves to their bosses, men have a tough time selling themselves to… well, anyone.
Women have the upper hand in marketing, public relations, social media and all sort of other jobs that involve understanding, empathy and communication.
Why not leverage your ability to recognise when men communicate poorly with customers, and make a pile of dosh while you do it, rather than complain that your sloppy code didn’t land you the CTO’s job?
11. Being A Woman In Tech Is A Competitive Advantage
Winning in business is about finding your strengths and leveraging them, and attacking the weaknesses of your competitors. So I don’t quite understand this trend of high-achieving women pretending that low-achieving women are working to the same standards.
It’s simply not in the former’s best interests for her to allow a bunch of mediocre girls who “want it all” to ride on her coat-tails. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s not a male-female thing, just a winner-loser thing.
Anyway, as a woman, you’re more likely to get early press for your startup irrespective of its merits in any of the hundreds of women in tech supplements in the press every year. You’re more likely to be noticed in meetings and pitches. And you can, if you put the obstreperousness to one side and use your feminine wiles, play Queen Bee and have the men around you eating out of your hand.
More women in the industry is just competition for you.
12. Stroppiness And Self-Pity Will Not Get You Hired
The number one complaint men have about women they work with is the old “feelings over facts” problem. Stop looking for other people to blame for the results of your own life choices, hunker down and get on with it.
Sitting on Twitter complaining isn’t empowerment. It’s called grievance-mongering and it’s for losers.
What’s more, there’s even anecdotal evidence to suggest that the shrillness and aggression of women in tech campaigners, together with the fact that they don’t tell the truth, is actually putting women off getting involved, because they perceive tech to be an industry fraught with ugly gender divisions.
13. You Can’t Have It All
Pick raising a family or making CEO. You can’t do both, unless you’re as rich as Marissa Mayer and can afford a retinue of childcare staff. Even then, your attention will be divided.
You can compromise, and see your kids just enough while being reasonably professionally successful, but the history of business teaches us a clear lesson: those who succeed are laser-focused on one thing they do well, to the exclusion of everything else.
Fact is, successful people of either gender tend not to to have very balanced lives. That hits women hardest for obvious reasons. But it’s how the world works. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
That’s why I always say women working in tech jobs could learn a thing or two from the lesbians in tech movement, which seems to have a more ruthless focus on job performance, skills and science, leaving the whining to hormonal heterosexual colleagues.
14. The Number One Reason Women Don’t Work In Tech Is: Other Women
Most women are not highly competitive. The ones who are terrify the timid sorts, aren’t looking for a sisterhood and, like their male counterparts, compete for power, resources, and prestige.
While women who got by with their looks will often embrace feminism when they lose those advantages and have to survive on merit, the women who have been talented all along don’t have time for your nonsense, and are going to tell you so. And you are going to be triggered.
Women who can in tech don’t need to get by on their gender, and they are often the first people to push social climbers and weak performers out so they don’t have to be judged by them. (That’s why women have a reputation for backstabbing at work: it’s the hard asses kicking out the dead wood.)
So while they may sign your feminist e-petition or read your Tumblr post for a quiet life or for their own professional advantage, just watch what happens when you’re competing for a promotion. You’ll learn that sisterhood ends where Christmas bonuses begin.
In short? Other broads don’t have your back. Leave the coalition-building to politicians and focus on your own career, because the only people showing up to women in tech meetups and pounding the hashtag are losers, burn-outs and the terminally mediocre.