Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#1ReasonWhy We Will Win Out!

I recently read an article on MSNBC about a trending twitter hashtag, #1reasonwhy and felt the strong need to write an entry about it. The hashtag is a result of a Games Project Specialist at Kickstarter, Luke Crane, tweeted the question “Why are there so few lady game creators?” I think Mr. Crane posed a great question, but probably didn’t see what was going to result of it. 

Many female developers and gamers commented with the trending #1reasonwhy outlining why women feel isolated within that industry, from seemingly innocuous things such as people mistaking them for receptionists due to their desk location, to more serious allegations of sexual harassment, groping and pay discrimination. The outcry of discrimination seems crazy since we are in 2012, where there are even laws about equality in place.

On the flip side, commenters such as Dillon Paradis (quoted in the MSNBC article) posted "I look at #1ReasonWhy and I laugh at all the feminists who think they matter. If you were good in your field, you wouldn't be misrepresented." While I definitely understand where Mr. Paradis is coming from, its definitely a fantasy in my reality. It would be great to think that if you are a good employee, working hard, adding value to your organization that you would be put in a position similar to a lot of these female developers, but sadly that just isn’t the case in a lot of instances. Gross generalizations that say it always or never happens should be discounted immediately! 

I’ll give a real world example of just something that screams inequality and really does illustrate that negative perceptions, intentional or not, are still hindering many women in any career, but specifically male-dominated ones. I have a friend who is obtaining her Masters in Electrical Engineering this semester (kudos to her, because that is definitely not my thing). She has been searching for a job, has had many internships, research projects and has a good GPA, but so far has not found one. Now, she isn’t the typical stereotype that you would think of for an engineer, male or female. She is cute, blonde, involved on campus and was in a sorority. 

She tends to make it past the phone interview, but as soon as she has an actual face-to-face interview, things begin to fall apart. Her face-to-face interviews are always VERY technical in nature (the phone interviews are as well) and she makes it a point to be very prepared to speak in the technical terms and display her thorough understanding of the concepts that she would be faced with on the job. She asked me (as the resident HR friend) if that was normal, and in my experience, yes, however there is typically a behavioral component in conjunction with the technical side. She expressed that she has only ever been asked a few behavioral questions, which sounded odd to me. She had a few male and female friends apply for the same position and compared notes on what their interviews were like and was astounded! All the females were drilled technically and all the males experienced pure behavioral interviews. She even had one interviewer tell her she should go into technical sales because she is “clean.” He went on to clarify that she was well put together. 

I really feel for this friend, as a I know that she is very capable, but has to completely change her career path because people find her as an adequate sales person based on the way she looks, but not an adequate engineer. This really could be unintentional and purely based on a perception of the interviewer (optimistic, but true). The HR in me has to say DON’T DO THIS. Structure your interviews so that it never happens to overshadow people that would be a great fit even if they don’t look the part! 

Now, the ultimate question is what can you do about it? As of now, this is the reality, good, bad or otherwise and women have to deal with it. We can either be positive and progressive or we can fight tooth and nail for it. My personal opinion is being positive and progressive will result in better things. All that I am in control of is myself and my reaction to any injustice. With that being said, I will continue to work hard to prove that I am a good hire/employee. I will also seek out the places that don’t have these practices and add value to them so that they continue to be successful. I will set the example for the women that come after me. I will fight when I have to, but I will pick my battles.  I won't give up and I will win out!

"... But we were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us - if we could just win out." -Bettie Locke