Hidden barriers to women in tech — even clothes make a difference

Working for one of the best-funded startups in Los Angeles’ “Silicon Beach,” Chelsea decided to perform a social experiment with her work clothes.

She usually wore the same standard tech uniform as her male coworkers — jeans and a t-shirt — but felt she wasn’t getting treated with the same respect. Techie that she is, she conducted research — by switching to a more “professional-sexy” look.

“I changed my clothes for two weeks, and the response I got was incredible: My ‘work was improving. You’re doing a great job,’” Chelsea recently told TheWrap. “I should note for those two weeks I basically did nothing. I not only just changed my clothing, I probably decreased my work by, like, 60 percent.”

via Sexism on Silicon Beach: How One Woman’s Sexier Work Clothes Exposed Tech-Bro Bias

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Thoughts on learning from bad behavior

Today I was witness to a conversation online (after someone posted the video where the mom yanks the kids out from behind the dad who is broadcasting from his home office) where Party A said something like “it just bugs me that people have to go and ruin the fun by getting upset and saying it was racist when some people thought she was the nanny.”
Party B explained (quite well, I thought) that the video is funny *and* the comments from people who automatically assumed “nanny” are problematic *and* it might be a good thing to consider listening when people raise issues like this rather than brushing it off as a joke, or whatever.
Person C (someone who often gets under my skin, I admit), posted that “reasonable people can tolerate problematic speech.”
Person D chimed in with “yeah, especially when they probably didn’t mean it as an insult.”

 

URGH.

When people raise issues like this, maybe consider just listening and trying to understand instead of just brushing it off or saying “it was just supposed to be funny.”

My response:
I think this is where the “reasonable” humans part comes in.  I don’t think that a lot of racist (or sexist or homophobic or (…) speech is *intended* to be insulting or hurtful (or illegal, for that matter).
But *intent* and *outcome* are different.  I guarantee you, I’ve never *meant* to get into any fender bender that I’ve gotten into.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not responsible for the outcome of those fender benders (or wrecks), as I clearly am.  Can you imagine how this would turn out:
Nice person who I’ve just rear-ended:  “Um. You read-ended me!”
Me:  “Yeah, but I didn’t mean to, so you shouldn’t be upset.”
Nice person: “Well I am upset!”
Me:  “Well, it doesn’t *look* like your car is damaged, so let’s just go on our separate ways, ok?”
Nice person: “I know it doesn’t *look* like my car is damaged, but I felt the impact and I suspect there is damage, so I need to get your insurance info.”
Me: “*I* can’t see any damage, so there isn’t any damage, so I am not going to do that.”
And just like it’s reasonable to expect adults to take responsibility for the outcomes of their behavior, it’s also reasonable to expect adults to want to learn when they are causing harm — even if *they don’t see it* — so that they can avoid doing so in the future.
And, yes, one could argue that everyone should simply beef up their bumpers and expect to be hit every now and again and to not take everything so personally all the time…
…but do you really want to be the person who makes everyone else feel like they are in danger?
Think about that. As easy as it is to write off all of this concern as “political correctness,” the outcome of your behavior when you treat issues around (racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia [or]) as something that is *their problem* (because they’re weak, or take things the wrong way, or because you didn’t mean it that way, or because you were just repeating something someone else said, or because you thought it was funny [or]) rather than your mistake to be corrected and learned from, that’s exactly what you are doing.
You are making all those other folks feel like you can’t be trusted. That you don’t have their best interests at heart. That you would intentionally hurt them, even after having been told “hey – this hurts. Please stop.”
If you’re ok with that, then carry on.

My thoughts on NC HB2

Really short version:

It’s the saddest, most pitiful piece of scared-because-progress-is-coming piece of embarrassing legislature that I think I’ve seen passed in NC in my lifetime, and I’m ashamed that the NC government passed it.

You remember the old advertising jingle “I like calling North Carolina home”?  I used to fully believe that, but this bill makes it awfully hard.

Longer version:

None of the arguments *for* the bill make any sense to me.  

Women need to be protected from transwomen (born as men, but identify as women) in bathrooms

This one is just redonk.  If anything, the evidence suggests that transgender individuals are the *subject* of sexual violence far more often than is the norm, not the perpretrators (see http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html).

I’ve also seen the argument that women shouldn’t have to see “men’s genitals” in their restrooms.  This has to have been an argument made by a man, because women know that we have stalls, we shut the doors to those stalls, and we don’t pee in the sinks!

Women need to be protected from straight men who will pretend to be transgendered and crossdress in order to go into the Women’s room and attack women

I don’t see bathrooms as becoming the “go to” place for predators, no matter what law is in place, for a couple reasons:

  1. In women’s rooms, you’re talking about a stall situation… if the stall door is locked (which you have to do to make the door stay shut), then it’s locked, meaning a predator is going to have a hard time…predating (?).
  2.  If you’re positing a random “he grabs her at the sink” scenario… why the bathroom?  Seems like that would be an extremely risky venue for a predator:
    • there’s only one way out; and
    • there’s no lock to keep more people from coming in, so
    • almost anywhere else he could go, it would be easier to randomly grab someone.
  3. For a man to use a women’s room under the Charlotte ordinance (as written) he would have to “identify as being a woman.” I am imagining that in most women’s rooms, that would mean that we’re going to be looking for some attempt at “girl-dom”: some sense of femininity (whether it’s clothes or bearing or makeup or ….).

I am *guessing* (no research to back this up), that being *manly* is important to sexual predators, as sexual predation is all about _power_ at it’s root (and the sort of people who do this don’t think women are powerful).

So, I would posit that the likelihood of a gender normative man who is a sexual predator *choosing* to play a transgender person so he can slip into a women’s room to commit a crime, when there are about a million other ways to do it that wouldn’t require that… are pretty slim.

Cities shouldn’t be able to pass this sort of law  

If you’re going to claim that the law was passed because the State is the only “correct” place for this legislation to live…why?  It seems completely random to me to say that the Federal Government is too big and City governments are too small — based on what?

And the result is really silly, as it means that a city cannot, for example, recognize that, for example, its cost of living is higher (and taxes are higher) and raise the minimum wage accordingly. Boo.

Having transgender individuals in the restroom of their choosing will make people uncomfortable.  

Ok, I fibbed.  This one does make *sense*,  in that I understand that this will probably make some people uncomfortable — I am just ok with the idea that there will always be people who are uncomfortable with changes that bring society towards a more inclusive ideal.  Whether it’s women getting the vote, blacks being released from slavery, the right of black and white people to marry, or saying that “separate but equal” was not OK, there have been people every step of the way who have been *uncomfortable* with the decision.

And that’s ok.  Being in situations that make us uncomfortable is how we grow.

 

On blaming the victim…

Let’s say you read the following article in the paper:

Yesterday Sulyane Smith was driving home from work on
Hwy 64, when a drunk driver crossed the median and 
slammed into her car.  The police have been able to 
determine that she was on no illegal substances, doing
the speed limit, and driving in the far right lane.  
Ms. Smith, age 26, was huge Earth, Wind & Fire 
fan and was listening to "September" when the oncoming
vehicle hit her.  Doctors at the local hospital say 
that she will likely be paralyzed for life.

I’m guessing your responses would range somewhere from:

“Oh God, that’s terrible!”

to

“I hate drunk drivers! Is the guy who hit her still alive?”

Which are all, I think, really reasonable responses and indicate that you’re a compassionate person and you think young Sulyane was the victim of an *awful*, terrible, crime.

I’m guessing that no one…not a single one of you…would say:

“Had she taken a defensive driving course?”

“Didn’t she swerve to avoid him”

“If she hadn’t been listening to music this wouldn’t have happened!”

or

“Didn’t she see him coming?”

Because we don’t tend to blame the people who are hit by drunk drivers for not being *better drivers* or not being able to anticipate and avoid the situation.

Yet, that’s exactly what we do to rape victims.

11990393_1633760873560619_7278251565956441803_nSo when this graphic started making the rounds on Facebook (and I reposted it because I think blaming the victim for being raped is rediculous) it provoked some interesting discussions amongst my friends.

One friend said that she too does not believe the victim is ever at fault, but said “there are things you can do to lower your risk of being raped.”  She continued by asking: “What would you tell your daughter?”

As in, wouldn’t you tell your daughter that wearing short skirts or walking around alone at night is more likely to put you in danger of being raped.

Ugh.  I mean, yeah. I would, if I had one.  Just like I don’t walk through dark, abandoned parking lots in a late at night by myself if I can avoid it.

And yet, I still Very Much Agree with the graphic.  And I realize I can mostly reconcile those two things by the word “cause,” as in “correlation does not imply causation;” however, I still have troubles with that, because as a woman, anyone making a statement about what women should or shouldn’t do to lower their risk of being raped still *feels like* it puts the impetus for not being raped on me.

And I tend to figure things out by analogy (working through similar situations and finding out where the math doesn’t work anymore), so last night as I was not sleeping while worrying through this I came up with the drunk driver analogy.

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers for

  • not having taken defensive driving class
  • not being better drivers (and being able to swerve to avoid being hit)
  • listening to the radio or
  • not seeing the driver coming

…even though there’s a decent chance they could have avoided being hit if any (or all) of those things were true.

Think about the last time you took extreme measures while driving to avoid someone who did something bat-shit-crazy and nearly hit you.

That person could have been drunk.  And if they had been drunk and they had hit you, No One Would Ever say that “You could have avoided this, if only…”

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers.

And that’s the difference.  Because we never blame drunk drivers, it’s totally cool to say “Hey, defensive driving class is a thing you should do — you can never tell what kind of drunken idiots will be on the road.”

But saying “Hey, dressing conservatively and not drinking are things you should do, because you never can tell what kind of vicious rapists are out there,” is not.

I *know* this isn’t a black-and-white situation.  It’s shades of grey, like everything else.   But the kind of thinking that tells women to not wear skimpy clothing (so men don’t want to rape them) leads straight to women being clothed head-to-toe with no skin showing at all.

(BTW, I would *love* to see statistics that correlate % of women who are raped with % of their body covered by fabric.  I am guessing that if you look back through history and across cultures, you’d find that there’s no correlation at all between amount of skin and incidence of rape.  I don’t have the metrics to back up or refute this, but please holler if you do.)

We got the beat! (or I got it, anyway)

…Adrian and I like unusual musical time signatures.  I was *delighted* (which, thankfully, happens pretty easily) when Jacintha and I were at Dave Matthews and I heard a song that I was *sure* was in a weird time signature.

Well, it turns out the song is called “Seven” and is in 7/8 — and here’s an article about it in Drum Magazine.

IMG_5959

Putting the “social” in Social Media

I’ve been saying for a while now that Social Media is *not* about retweeting your last press release (and, in fact, that using social media for that sort of “push” marketing turns consumers off), but instead about building connections between organizations and audiences and creating networks (of content and connections) that enthrall and enmesh the audience, thereby creating engagement.

I just read an article, Content and the New Marketing Equation, that puts it perfectly: it’s a “move away from promotional content to the delivery of useful, entertaining, or meaningful engagement and experiences through new media.”

Yes.  Why would your audience *want*  to be involved with what you’re sharing?

It all reminds me of a really interesting date I had when I was in college.  There was this guy I liked in one of my classes, so I asked him out (I’ve never been accused of being an introvert!  :-)   He made it clear he wasn’t interested in me as girlfriend material (which I thought was awfully kind of him — I hate being led on) but asked if I wanted to have dinner anyway.   Ermmmm…sure?¹

I approached dinner with some trepidation… I had no simple model for not-date-with-guy-you’ve-just-asked-out, so I was expecting awkwardness and silences aplenty.

There were none, though, as at dinner he pulled out a list of questions — really interesting, intriguing questions².  Things like whether I found infinity or zero a more daunting concept and whether I’d be a tiger or a bluebird if I had to choose one of the two.  Despite the lack of any potential forward momentum, it was a hugely successful date (by my standards), and one that I’d have repeated again (again, even knowing he didn’t like me “that way”).

That’s what good social media is:  it draws you in and engages you even if the provider (for example, a dishwashing liquid or an umbrella) wasn’t “a romantic prospect” (unlike your real life friends who you *want* to be involved with).  Creating that kind of content, though, also requires thought, resources and preparation, as well as a major shift in the way organizations think about their engagement with their audiences.

Or the way I thought a not-date would be.

¹ Of course I paid — I’d asked him out!

² No, I didn’t write down the list — I wish I had  :-)

 

Riding bikes and other “hardwire” skills

You know how “they” say that riding a bicycle is “hardwired” — that once you learn how to do it, you’ll never forget?

I came across another interesting example of that sort of muscle memory last night.  Adrian had decided that he wanted to make a lanyard, so he did what any self-respecting geek would do:  went to Amazon.com, ordered lanyard cord (aka “tactical cord”), then pulled up a webpage explaining how to make one.

I watched him struggle for 20 minutes or so before I just had to try it myself.  After begging him to just let me show him how (assuming, of course, that I could figure it out again) and being _rejected(!), I was allowed to cut my own lengths of the cord to give it a shot.  Much to my surprise, I really did remember how to do it.  The rhythm of flip over, flip over, flip over, flip over, tuck under was apparently instilled in my hands through many (so many) lanyard-making sessions at camp, and it was now just _there_ for me.

Tomorrow night I’m angling for Ojos de Dios.

 

On being “liked”…

Social Media changes all the time and in order to keep up, I subscribe to quite a few mailing lists.  Most of the time I read and move on, but every once in a while there’s something that’s so *wrong* (yes, on the internet) that I have to say something.

Today’s gem was:

“What are clicks among friends?
Alot [sic] of folks lately are out liking FB fan pages in exchange for the owner of that page liking theirs as well. Nothing wrong with that, keep in mind that most will not return the favor. I will, guaranteed!” [name deleted to protect the clueless].

My response:

“For what it’s worth, I do think there’s something wrong with that! It’s uselessly attempting to game the system and is no more reflective of a real relationship than the scores of “linkback” schemes that were all the rage in the 90’s (before Google made that a Bad Thing by penalizing the behaviour).

“Like” pages you actually “Like”. “Friend” people you know. Anything else is the digital equivalent of gushing over how much you like something you’ve never even tried at a cocktail party in order to try to win someone’s friendship, and that’s just plain tacky (IMHO, of course). “

 

I’ve seen the future…

…and I’m a little in love with it.

Adrian and I recently set up an account at Coastal Federal Credit Union (their GoGreen checking can pay up to 2% interest — w00t!) and I went there the other day to deposit a check.  Surprises abounded:

First, their teller windows (and lobby) are open until 7pm (and I think from 7am, though, to be honest, I didn’t really read that part, since I am “not a morning person” in an almost cliche way).

Second, their teller windows are staffed by virtual tellers (looked a lot like the picture to the left)!  There’s a screen and a video picture of your teller (mine was Carol).   I have no idea where she was, but from that moment forward it was rather like a traditional drive-through arrangement, except:

  • I could reach the window
  • I could understand everything she said (no fast-food-style squawky speakers)
  • When I put my check down, it was into a little slot like an ATM (I have to confess I did miss the SWOOOSH of the pneumatic tube)
  • And, of course, she was not 10 feet away (I presume.  That would have been sort of silly)

Wow.  Just plain nifty.  It would’ve been quick too, had I not spent so much time saying:  “This is soooo cool! ”

I will also confess that having watched too much sci-fi — and this week’s Dr. Who — I also had a bit of difficulty remembering that she was a real person and not just “Interface.”