Sunday, October 2, 2016

How To Be Successful In Tech: Don't Be Female?

As an employee in the tech industry and graduate from UC Santa Barbara, I'm embarrassed that a professor at UCSB managed to publish this heap of garbage:  Why Women in Tech Might Consider Just Using Their Initials Online.

John Greathouse, an investment insider and professor at UCSB's Technology Management Program writes that "women in today’s tech world should create an online presence that obscures their gender... to access opportunities that might otherwise be closed to them."

Basically, he says that women should trick people into thinking they're male in order to get their foot in the door. I know this works, sadly, and I have done this. But just because it works doesn't mean it's a solution.

Greathouse completely discounts any responsibility of investors and leaders in the tech industry for the sexist biases he readily acknowledges:
"I happen to believe that this bias is at least somewhat the result of unconscious factors. But whatever the reason – and however unfair it may be – I would suggest that if you are a woman raising capital, you might consider not including photos of your team in your pitch deck."
Backlash to the article was immediate and Greathouse has already publicly apologized.

I will say that I understand Greathouse had good intentions. At the very least, admitting the industry is inherently sexist is a good start. Yet a lot more needs to happen and tech leaders need to step-up. Change has to start from the top-down.

Inherent sexism isn't a problem that only women need to overcome, it's a problem men in the industry need to overcome. 

Instead of advice columns aimed at women starting out in tech, telling them how to be confident yet likable or hide their gender completely, how about advice columns aimed at tech leaders, telling them how to lead by example, how they themselves can promote diversity and foster an environment that's welcoming and inclusive to women and people of color.

I refuse to believe my gender is a burden.  If my colleagues and managers believe it is, what hope do I have for success?

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