Sexism in the Tech Community

 Posted by on 18 August 2014 at 10:00 am  Business, Ethics, Feminism, Technology
Aug 182014

This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like”. Wow, ugly is the right word. In addition to the lech who scheduled a business meeting and turned it into an attempt to get into sexual lean-in, there’s the story of the woman who struggled to be taken seriously as a coder:

When you’re a single mother, says Sheri Atwood, founder of SupportPay, it’s even tougher to be taken seriously. The child of a divorce and coming out of a divorce herself, Atwood built SupportPay, an online platform to help divorced parents manage and share child support. But almost as soon as she began pitching investors in 2011, she faced a barrage of doubt as to whether she could handle a company and kids at the same time.

Atwood says that while their concern is legitimate, it’s also a bit backward. She believes it’s because she’s a single mother—not despite it—that she’s a safe bet for investors. “I’m not doing this as a side project. I don’t have a spouse supporting me. I’m putting everything on the line, and I’m responsible for a child,” she says. “I’m going to do everything possible to make that work.”

But being a single mother wasn’t Atwood’s only problem. She’s also a coder. With all the recent efforts from Google, Square, and other organizations to get young girls interested in coding, it’s hard to imagine Atwood’s ability to code was a drawback when she was trying to get funded. And yet, she says, when she told her investors she had built SupportPay herself, they repeatedly doubted her. “No one believed me,” Atwood says.

Once, an associate at a venture capital firm even gave Atwood a bit of advice after turning her down for funding. “Hire a young guy in a hoodie,” he said. “I laughed,” Atwood remembers. “Then I said: ‘That’s a great point, but the reason why there’s no solution on the market today is because this isn’t a 21-year-old-kid-in-a-hoodie problem.’”

Luckily for Atwood, after about nine months of getting questioned on everything from her ability to run a business as a single mom to her blonde hair—one investor claimed brunettes are taken more seriously—Atwood landed $1.1 million in funding from several top angel investors, including Draper Associates, Broadway Angels, and Marc Benioff. “They got it,” she says. “They saw that my being a woman and my age was an asset.”

There’s good news in the article too, no doubt. But here’s the way forward:

Minshew says it’s been “heartening” to see men in the tech community listen to women’s stories and begin to talk about the problem themselves. That, she says, may be the first step toward real change. “Years ago, you could say really horrible, racist things, and people who didn’t agree would stay quiet because that was the time we were in. Now, we’re in a time where someone says something horribly racist, and other people say: ‘Shit, I can’t believe you just said that,’” Minshew explains. “My hope is we’re moving toward a world in which if one partner at a VC firm knows another partner is behaving inappropriately with female entrepreneurs, it’ll be the same sort of shock and outrage. It’ll be unacceptable.

People, that’s up to you!

The Head Covering Movement

 Posted by on 6 December 2013 at 10:00 am  Christianity, Feminism, Religion
Dec 062013

When I first read the whole Bible a few years ago, I wondered when all those Bible-focused Christians would rediscover the very clear command that women cover their heads in church in 1 Corinthians 11:

I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head–it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone is disposed to be contentious–we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

And… it’s happened, as you can see for yourself at the web site of The Head Covering Movement. (The site looks of recent origin, and the domain was only registered earlier this year.) Of course, feminism is to blame:

The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church…? – R.C. Sproul

On a bright note, I’d much prefer that Christians resume the biblical practice of covering or not covering their heads during church than that they resume the practice of stoning people like rebellious sons, suspected witches, and blasphemers!

To Be a Millstone

 Posted by on 26 May 2008 at 6:55 am  Feminism
May 262008

Rebecca Walker describes the damage of growing up as the daughter of famous feminist Alice Walker:

My mother’s feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn’t even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her.

I love my mother very much, but I haven’t seen her or spoken to her since I became pregnant. She has never seen my son — her only grandchild. My crime? Daring to question her ideology.

By that, she means that she voluntarily became a mother. Happily, Ms. Walker seems to have made a very good life for herself, despite her unenviable upbringing.

Campus Rape Culture?

 Posted by on 13 March 2008 at 8:08 am  Feminism
Mar 132008

Heather MacDonald has an excellent article in The City Journal entitled “The Campus Rape Myth.” It’s a detailed look at the supposedly widespread phenomena of campus rape.

While I’m pretty familiar with the absurd statistics that feminists use to support their claims that rape on campus by acquaintances is commonplace, I didn’t realize the obvious implication: that campuses waste oodles of money in the attempt to offer support for mostly non-existent campus rape victims. In other words, the phones of campus rape crisis lines are mostly silent.

While I was disappointed by MacDonald’s final suggestion that postponing sex until marriage might be the proper alternative to indiscriminate sex, her general point in the article — that women must take responsibility for their sex lives, including the compromising positions in which they often place themselves — is completely right.

In fact, the article made me think that the topic might be worth teaching in my Intro Ethics course, particularly since the course covers various philosophers’ views of sex, friendship, and pleasure. I’d definitely like to connect some of those older views with a modern debate about student life!

Politics of Beauty

 Posted by on 20 March 2002 at 12:24 pm  Feminism, Media, Politics
Mar 202002

The patriarchy seems to be oppressing itself by focusing on beauty in politicians. Fancy that.

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