Follow-up to When we are Needed

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The discussion following my posting of When We are Needed last week split into two different directions: one focused on the discussion of women, competition, and need; one focused more on the tech job market in this country and the factors that are driving both men and women out of the field. The two are related, but the problems with the tech industry really go beyond lack of diversity. In fact, the tech industry in this country is in trouble, and it has little to do with big companies not being able to find ‘good’ people. However, I want to get into this in a separate post.

(There was also a third thread, primarily between me and Seth about whether there is any true value to the Slashdot effect, which would also be a good separate article.)

Returning to the issue of women and need and competition, comments attached to the post were exceptionally good and I am appreciative of those who took the time to respond. I don’t want to pull a comment in out of context so I won’t quote any here; I recommend that you read them for yourself. The author of the book I quoted in the post, Emily Yellin, added commentary and posted a link to a relevant article well worth a read. I want to, in particular, thank Dave Rogers for his very astute comments and associated posts on culture and human nature and their impact on this issue, as well as Yule Heibel for her commentary, especially as it regards to her tenure at MIT. I also appreciate Ravi taking the time to write several comments, though I don’t agree with his assessment that quality can compensate for the shortcomings of cultural bias. For more detail, see Dave’s comment here.

Sour Duck wrote a very thoughtful post noting some of the uneasy ambivalence I felt in the writing. In reference to my statement that women have rarely competed with men, she writes, A good point, but this seems to blame women a bit too much. The problem with the act of competing is that it’s a gendered and public endeavor.

It does, and goes back to the statement made, Do we want women to compete more, or do we want men to compete less?

I don’t think this is an either/or. Or lets say that I don’t believe that women can continue relying purely on ‘positive’ contributions to make an impact in western society as a whole, much less technology. I read recently about the little ten year old girl from Pakistan who was the youngest person to get a Microsoft developer certification. When Microsoft flew her out to Seattle for Bill Gates to personally congratulate her, one of the first things she noticed was the lack of women at Microsoft, and one of the first questions she asked Gates was, where are the women?

This young woman is showing us the way: yes, we need to make significant positive achievements–but we also have to rock the boat. We need both.

Jay Rosen is going to Blogher and wrote on it. Good on you, Jay. Sour Duck is also going, and like her, Jay also mentioned the earlier quote on competition, which gives me hope that this will spark some very interesting conversation at BlogHer.

I have been taken to task for not being supportive of this conference. I don’t think my support or lack of it is important; what is important is to acknowledge that the issue of visibility for women goes beyond the narrow confines of weblogging. We don’t need technology, we don’t need links, we need respect. And frankly, I think we can contribute positively until the end of time+1, and we’ll still be having these same discussions. Time to rock the boat. Or to use the analogy I introduced in the essay, time to turn the turtle on its back.

Returning to Sour Duck’s post, she also printed my essay out and it came to 35 pages! My that blows short posts all to heck and gone, doesn’t it? But I have already started editing the work, cutting out some of the rambly bits, and adding additional references, in order to send around to some publications. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and history is waiting.

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