How to convince women to come back in IT

These proposals will surprise you!

A few details before we start:
– to avoid making a post too long, I tried to identify general ideas (but I can extend, put anecdotes, examples, links to studies in commentary. If you really want them, just ask) 
– the problem is not just men. Men and women have prejudices about “women in IT”. Women also engage in discriminatory behaviour against their own gender;
– I do not want to affirm that what I say can be applied to discrimination based on race, religion, sexuality, age. How would I know?It doesn’t concern me.

At the origin of IT, there are women….

I’ll let you watch this conf by Claire L. Evans, who traces the history of the Internet and reminds us of something that few people know or remember: IT was essentially a female field.

If you are too lazy to watch the video, here is a passage from Mike Monteiro’s “Ruined by design” where he quotes Claire L. Evans:

Extract from “Ruined by Design” by Mike Monteiro
Extract from “Ruined by Design” by Mike Monteiro

I’m not going to tell you the story of “how it got there”. But we could start by asking ourselves two questions: “Today, what is stopping women from coming back to work in this field?” and “What can we do to make it change?”

What is still a problem?

What prevents women from working in the IT field?

The same thing that discourages those who worked there from staying: the behaviour of their colleagues and bosses. Let us look at the excuses that legitimize awful behaviour.

The excuse of gender: a woman in your group does not disapprove of sexist comments. So you’re thinking that she approves. And so all women are okay with the sexist statements made.
First, just because you don’t say a word doesn’t mean you consent (it’s like sex: if you don’t say anything, it doesn’t mean yes; if it’s not yes, it’s rape). Women who are in minority in a work environment will not risk increasing aggression against them by saying out loud that they are uncomfortable with incessant remarks and serious jokes. We know too well that this encourages some people to be even more awkward. So we keep quiet.
Second, even if a woman finds your sexist jokes funny, it doesn’t constitute a generality. We are not all the same. If a woman endorses, it only concerns her opinion, her feelings, not those of others. It’s the same for men. And that’s why it’s important for both men and women not to encourage sexist jokes. You’re not convinced? Uncle Taika has a message for you about racism. It’s the same with sexism.

The excuse for empathy: when you try to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, you just imagine, you don’t know and most of the time you’re wrong. Stop trying to put yourself in our shoes; if in doubt, ask us. When you are told that something is bothering us, stop arguing or trying to understand why. Already accept the fact that you make us uncomfortable. That should already be enough to legitimize your stopping.
There is nothing more stupid than legitimizing a sexist attitude by “frankly, I wouldn’t mind if I were you”.
Oh yes, there is the guarantor “I who am [insert here the name of another discriminated population], I perfectly accept the world in which we live. You have to get used to it.” No, I’m not! Just because you accept to be criticized, assaulted, judged, discriminated doesn’t mean I have to accept to suffer too!

The excuse of humour: “It makes me laugh, so it’s funny. If you don’t find it funny, you’re the problem, not me.” When you laugh at the expense of others, it’s not fun for everyone. It means that at some point, someone can suffer from this humour. Like the school stalkers who insult the same person over and over again “just for fun”, who hit him “just for fun”, who humiliate “just for fun”, who order him to kill himself “just for fun”,…
Fortunately, there is a form of humour that can make everyone laugh: it is when you laugh with people, not at people. And it’s even more fun because we don’t hurt anyone and everyone can enjoy it.

The excuse of tolerance and freedom of expression: it should be possible to tolerate all types of speech under the guise of freedom of expression. Except that in some cases, the freedom of expression of some considerably reduces that of others. You don’t understand how? Okay.
Imagine a room with 10 people, among them, there’s a woman. This woman, if she has the misfortune of being with 9 sexist people, will have to suffer, under the guise of tolerance and freedom of expression, hurtful words against her gender. Then be surprised that she doesn’t dare say what she really thinks and wants to run away. 
(I actually shared this post on reddit and 3 hours later, I was downvoted, called a stupid bitch, a cunt and that I was the problem. Of course, I deleted it on reddit. Maybe it proved my point, maybe not but I can’t stand to be insulted. Yes, I’m weak.)

What to do to change things:

First of all, read again what is written above and react accordingly.
– Do not make an example a generality. 
– Don’t talk for us, don’t think for us.
– Stop acting as if you are more legitimate than your colleagues.
– Stop making us feel guilty to legitimize your shitty behaviour.

Then…

Hire women

You want to show that women have a place in IT? So hire women, stop talking, do something!
In my training centre, I am a trainer. 
Every day, I make sure that all my trainees feel comfortable in their workplace. Every day I ensure that I respect the rules of zero tolerance against discrimination. Even a “shut up” is not tolerated. Even for fun. I think it is my duty as a responsible person to make everyone feel good. I think it is my duty as a woman to show that it is possible to be respected, to work in a healthy environment, to work in joy and good humour even if we are surrounded by a majority of men.
Every day, I show that I am just as competent as my colleagues. Every day, I remain vigilant about the attitude of my superiors, colleagues, interns or other building residents towards others. I do not tolerate discriminatory remarks or jokes, and I speak my mind when I hear some. But why can I say it, why do I feel confident enough to say it? Because I know how important it is for others to feel supported. As a trainer, I have an authoritative role, I can afford to establish and enforce rules. Because I also know that my superiors are neither misogynistic nor ignorant, and that if I need them, they will support me. (This was not always the case)

Support us.

Establish a working environment with zero tolerance for discrimination. Promote it, talk about it, be proud of it. (my female trainees told me that if they joined it’s because we communicate a lot about inclusion during our recruitment campaigns) You will have plenty of time to tell your sexist, racist, homophobic, paedophile jokes in your spare time. When you are in a professional environment, behave in a professional manner.
Also try to ensure that the environment is neutral. No pornography, no naked women, no jokes on the walls or on laptops. Again, we’re not at the local bar, we’re among professionals.

But support is also about listening when someone needs to talk about an unpleasant situation. Support also means making arrangements when a colleague or trainee says “this person is harassing me”. Support is not about hiding the person who complains about the harasser to “fix the problem”. We must show that we can face these horrible situations because we will be supported and listened to and that we must face them because it must not happen again, because we cannot, that we must not support them.

Show respect and listen.

It’s something basic to apply with everyone. When you listen and show respect (you don’t cut off the floor and especially NOT because “but I think what you were going to say was off topic” or “wasn’t interesting” or “we don’t have time”), something incredible happens: people feel valued (and not diminished). When people feel valued, they have self-confidence. When they have self-confidence, they dare to talk. When they talk, often it’s because they have great ideas. You have no idea how many silent people are frustrated at not being able to talk about their ideas, how many say that if they felt supported, they could have proposed solutions that would avoid or solve problems. If we are silent, it is because you have made it clear to us that our word, our opinion, our ideas, are worthless. Do you want it to change? Restore communication. Convince us that you have the ability to listen.

And you, do you have any ideas to share?

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