breaking the cycle: post 2, working women

As you all (should) know, the tech world is incredibly dominated by men. (More specifically, by white men.) I work for a software company that employs around 13,000 people worldwide. There are about 100 people in my office; 11 are women. Of those 11, only one is actually a software developer.

I was recently a “groomsperson” in one of my best friend’s weddings. I was so happy to be a part of his wedding, even though it seemed unusual to plenty of people that I, a woman, would be standing on the groom’s side. A couple weeks before the wedding, I was out to lunch with a big group of coworkers. As people shared their weekend plans, I mentioned that I was going to a bachelor party. “No, not bachelorETTE, a bachelor party, I’m a groomsperson in my friend’s wedding.” My casual addition to the conversation was met with laughter and jokes from my male coworkers, insinuating that if I was going to a bachelor party, it could only be as a stripper.

In the moment, I laughed and didn’t think much of it, happy to just be joking around with coworkers. But looking back, I wasn’t being treated as “one of the guys” in that moment. I was being singled out for my woman-ness. To be very reductive, I was essentially called a stripper for having a male best friend. And that is not okay.

As the Washington Post article described, nine women from the tech world came together to create this manifesto of sorts. They were tired of the treatment they, and many other women, were receiving in the tech world. So they shed some light on it. My experience in the tech world has not been as extreme as the situations they describe. Overall, I like the people I work with and I feel safe there. But I’m also fairly removed from the more “technical” side of things, as a writer.

The technical world has a clear woman problem. But women in all kinds of other jobs face similar treatment everyday. I’ve listened to friends describe their misogynistic bosses, who stare at the chests of female employees and intimidate women simply because they can. Women make up about half of the professional level workforce in America. But if you check the statistics on women holding leadership positions, the disparity is shocking.

Not only are we not getting the jobs, we’re being paid less. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers are required to give men and women equal pay if their roles are substantially the same. But women are still making only “77% of their male counterparts’ earnings” according to the White House. It makes no fucking sense that I should get paid less than my male counterpart, simply because I am a woman. And yet.

I’m a fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and I think Sheryl Sandberg is a boss, even though I still haven’t read Lean In yet. I loved when this ad for GoldieBlox toys aired during the Super Bowl this year. It’s good to have these girl-specific things, but how long will this have to be the way we encourage girls to pursue and succeed at traditionally male-dominated jobs? Will we reach a point in history where girls will be encouraged enough at school, at home, by mentors and neighbors, without these extra girl-specific programs?

At the root of this conversation is a necessary paradigm shift. The tech world can work on recruitment and retention of female employees, but the bigger issue is a change in thinking, one that applies across the board to women in all types of jobs. One that says women are fully valuable human beings, with the same capabilities, passion, and possibilities as men.

Advertisements

breaking the cycle: post 1, the female body

Preface: As you will see, I started this post over a year ago, and didn’t know quite where to go with it. After the recent tragedy at UCSB and the rape and murder of two young Indian cousins, I felt the need to revisit it. My heart has been very heavy lately as I continue to hear stories of violence and injustice against women.

Initially, I just threw down a million unorganized thoughts, anxious to get words on the page. Lucky for you, I decided to pare down that mess into a few, more focused posts. Here’s the first.

——

Like most of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about violence against women, women in media, and women’s roles generally. There has been so much in the news over the past year about these topics, it’s hard to avoid thinking about. And yet, no one seems to have found a “good” solution for changing the way the world treats women, or a “good” explanation for these violent acts. Here are some of the events I’m talking about:

Malala Yousafzai Shooting

Steubenville’s Jane Doe

Ford’s Unaired Commercials

Delhi Gang Rape

I think what makes these events and this conversation the scariest is that it’s not something that is limited to one part of the world. It’s not just a small football town in Ohio, or an Arabic country, it’s all over the world. And it’s a big question to ask, “How do we break this cycle on a global level?”

People say Think Globally, Act Locally. Seems like a pretty solid belief and practice, but the issues surrounding women just being women transcend location, religion, social status, economic status, and on and on. For a paradigm shift to take place on a large scale, people have to start making changes to how they treat women in each of those respects.

The world likes to focus on the female body and sex appeal, so I’ll start there too.

I wholly believe that women were created by God to be alluring, to have appealing shapes, and just generally be attractive. So how are we supposed to move about in a world full of sexists, masochists, rapists, and still fully embrace our natural state as attractive beings? I waffle constantly between dressing out of fear for unwanted responses I may elicit and dressing out of, “Fuck you, I’m 27 and I’m wearing this because it makes me feel good.”

Elliot Rodger believed women owed him sex, and in turn, that they deserved to die for rejecting him for so long. I absolutely believe there is a mental health conversation to have regarding his actions and beliefs, but his motivations can’t be chalked up to being a depressed pathological narcissist. Because there are plenty of men with similar beliefs who continue to comment on his YouTube videos in support of his actions. Because I still get cat-called when I haven’t showered for two days and am wearing a baggy t-shirt. Because we continue to value women for their sex appeal, instead of character, business savvy, or intellect.

Forever (it seems) it has been a woman’s job to regulate a man’s sexual desires. In religious environments, that means covering yourself up. In Cosmo, that means knowing how to please your man. I say, it’s time for men to start taking some of the responsibility.

If you’re a man reading this thinking, “but I’m not a misogynist”, great, you might be right. But you must still share in the responsibility. Talk to your friends about it. Don’t let them cat-call or intimidate women, even their girlfriends. Talk to your sons about appreciating a woman’s attractiveness without demeaning her. Ask your female friends what makes them feel respected and attractive. HAVE female friends.

This is only one part of the conversation, because it’s not just wrapped up in beauty. More to come.

Further reading: