I read Evil HR Lady a lot. People write to her about corporate conundrums and she answers them as best she can. I'm not a fan of HR as most people have reduced its effectiveness to nil. However, her advice is usually so in keeping with what I see in the working world it's like it could have sprang out of my head the way Athena sprang out of Zeus's skull (and you thought a c-section was rough). Until today. She writes over on BNET, women who complain about sexism are just pansy whiners and have only themselves to blame. Okay, I'm paraphrasing a little (ok a lot). She's saying, effectively, women are responsible for their own choices and that often women choose family over career and can't complain when they're discriminated against at work. When discussing one conference's failure to get more women speakers EHRL says this:
It’s not that they are discriminating against women. It’s that women are choosing not to enter into the field in the first place, and those that do choose to enter in are so busy they can’t speak at every conference.
EHRL criticizes women who complain about being discriminated against in the workplace, saying most of them made their own choices and are responsible for the outcomes. Well I haven't met any of these women. You know who complains where I work? Old white guys. They like to talk loudly about how hard they have it. How easy it is to be a woman or a minority these days. How everything out there is to help minorities or women. There's women's centers, minority organization, where's their organization for poor, discriminated against middle class christian white men? I mean what with the war on christmas and all, you just really got to feel for these guys. Positions just get handed to women and minorities, we don't even have to work for it.
The real life me is a lot less chatty and honest than I am here. The real life me nods sympathetically and doesn't point out there's still a gender wage gap. That after a mere THREE YEARS of working experience, women engineers make less than male engineers. I can't say that crap out loud. You even hint that you have it a little tough as a minority or a woman at my work they treat like you some monster that's tearing apart life as they know it.
talked about it before. And I dare not say anything. When someone higher up told me to organize and take minutes because "girls are good at that" I couldn't say anything. Because he is a superior. And correcting a superior gets you fired, male or female. When another higher up rejected a candidate for a promotion because "she is pregant and we are about to lose her soon" I could only watch helplessly. She came back to work after the baby, and will never know she wasn't considered due to her pregnancy. I waited over a year to get into a technical role, was told I needed to "be patient" and not get "so uppity" that they had to make sure I was "qualified" first. Only to watch several other men get transferred into the same position shortly after with way less education, and significantly less experience. Perhaps qualified was a euphemism for penis. However, if I ever verbalized a complaint I would be gone faster than you can say "at will state".
I know the choices we make contribute to how we are treated at work. Like when I wear the magnets on my boobs that perpetually attract my boss's eyeballs. Definitely my choice sorry. Or maybe my choice I have boobs at all. Perhaps I should lop them off if I don't want people staring at them. Or when my boss just started rearranging his balls in front of me I made the choice not to say out loud "what the f!#^& are you doing? did you really just grab your balls right in front of me? since when did that become ok office ettiquette?"
As for EHRL thinking it a trivial matter that we worry about women speaking at conferences I ask her to think again. The engineers I work with are very visual people. And when managers make a decision about whether to hire you, promote you, etc they do it almost instantaneously. They have an immediate judgment as to who you are, how good you are, and what you're all about. When they're thinking about whether to hire you or promote you they flash back to "what makes a good engineer" and inevitably start thinking about good engineers they have known. If all those good engineers are white dudes they might think you as a woman or as a minority male are not "qualified." They'll think that white guy they just interviewed "has what it takes" without even realizing it's because he matches up with all their previous experience. They're not actively trying to discriminate, probably don't even realize they're doing it. I don't wring my hands and call it illegal. Sometimes I write about it here, to blow off some steam and try to remind myself I'm not alone in this world.
Then some woman comes along and says "i'm not a feminist" or "i think women are just whining". And I think she's either completely ignorant, or is trying to fit in with the boys club. She knows men don't like "feminists" and pictures them with hairy legs and bad attitudes. Not people who stand up for a woman's right to get paid equally or that no woman deserves to be raped no matter how she's dressed or how she acts. That women should be treated as equal human citizens not second class objects. By that definition many men could probably count themselves as feminists. But a few crazy people have convinced society as a whole that "women's rights" are completely bunk and that a good woman criticizes her own kind for wanting representation.
If the women working in a tech discipline is 20% and the number of women speaking at a conference for that industry is 0% that's discrimination. It doesn't mean miraculously all the women are busy. It means the guys in charge are going by Ye Olde System of who you know and picking guys they worked with, or their friends, etc. Putting a few competent women up is a good way of proving to the naysayers that women are just as competent as men. Because if you keep excluding them from public speaking or from management a certain sector of society will continue to believe women are just not good at those things and not bother to hire or promote the women who do want to work in those industries.I've heard that bullshit before. The "we just can't get enough women" line. It's about as accurate as employers, in this economy, still not hiring because they "aren't getting qualified applicants." EHRL has never worked in a male dominated industry. Sure, maybe she worked for a company that was male dominated, but if she's in HR she never experienced the full barbarity that is being in a technical role amongst the dudes. Industry average for my field is 10%. In my classes there are about 20% females. And yet in my department, there is less than one percent female engineers. I'm sure that's not discrimination. Probably women whining. I'm sure the women in my classes are choosing to go do something else. Like raise their baby daddy's baby instead of working in an industry like mine.