The Obvious Question

I wrote this to answer a question I get pretty often. I tried for many years to side-step the conversation but I won’t be doing that anymore. In light of what’s been happening recently with Uber, I documented my current thoughts about the industry.


It’s hard to answer that question, you know? It’s been my entire career and some days I think it gets better and then other days I’m overwhelmed by how insurmountable the problem appears to be. And… there’s just so much; there are the overt things we see like in the Uber case but the more serious things that affect my day-to-day are systemic.


It’s never happened to me, no. I understand it when people can look at that and then conclude that it doesn’t exist–but I know they’re not looking all that hard–or, at all.

It’s hard to even have a serious conversation about it. Not only do you want to talk about how it affects your life, you have to teach them that it’s a problem to begin with. It’s exhausting and you can’t help but feel angry.


Yes, I do. Chimamanda Ngozi Adchie says a really great thing about this. “Gender is a grave injustice,” she says. We stifle men of their humanity by enforcing a narrow idea of masculinity and then we teach women to cater to the fragile egos left behind by the grand stifling. We should all be angry. Anger brings about change.


Sometimes you have to over-compensate and be even louder than you should have to be. No one is simply going to give you power because it’s fair. You demand it.

Different people within a group will have different ways of executing even if they have the same end goal. I think that’s okay. If anything, it further asserts that point that we’re all diverse individuals. There’s always many solutions to a problem.


I feel down because I know there are women in the industry who don’t care to discuss it. As a Designer though, I don’t understand how you cannot. There are products being designed everyday with only one perspective in mind. Not only that, entire market segments are ignored because of the male majority.

The biggest reason why I got so starry-eyed by this industry: I was taught I could affect change and I wanted a better future. The future cannot be defined by one archetype–it goes against everything I believe in.


It’s hard to say. I only know what it’s like to be me. However, seeing an incompetent man hold a higher position than me with more status and power is more common than not. It’s hard not to be bitter and remain positive on a day-to-day basis.

You hear the word, ‘merit,’ and it just doesn’t mean anything to you anymore. Some people are not promoted on merit. It would hurt less if people, male and female, didn’t hold so tightly to the ideal of meritocracy. It’s laughable to believe in a meritocracy whilst also asserting yourself the more ‘logical’ gender.

Another thing that makes this hard is that there’s simply more men. There are more so they’ll likely get promoted more. Not every woman will want the same upwards career trajectory into management or leadership, however, if we don’t promote women into leadership or push them even, it perpetuates the problem.


I feel an immense responsibility–and the weight of a burden I never wanted. Leadership can be rewarding in many ways but being in leadership as a woman adds a host of other things to the job description.

I worry a lot. I worry about how my actions reflect on the group as a whole. I worry if I’m doing enough for the girls coming into the industry. I worry about my own career and if I’m self-selecting out of opportunities. I worry if people think I’m in my position because I’m a woman.

There’s all the little things I worry about too. I worry about how aggressive I come across. I worry if I’m not being vocal enough. I worry about what I wear to a stupid talk when I’m the speaker, for fuck’s sake.

These could all be specific to who I am but, anecdotally, these are concerns shared by many other professional women I know. It’s not just your career you’re representing. It’s everyone else’s too.


I’ve had two women confess to me within the past year that they were going to leave the industry. It’s inhospitable. I can’t even blame them–in fact, I think it shows an immense amount of self-respect. Who would want to be in an industry that devalues their contribution so?

But then, I get angry again because it was our industry to begin with. Computer programming was dominated by women before it was socialized to be a male career… and that’s what really ticks me off when someone tries to tell me that men are simply more interested than women are. Life is never that simple.


The pipeline–oh my God! What a nightmare! I want equal gender ratios but women are socialized out of the industry every step of the way. It becomes harder and harder to find women to fill senior roles. They’re coming into the industry in larger numbers and dropping out somewhere in the middle.

Not only are we fighting against the industry but it’s like we’re fighting inside ourselves. It takes a toll on a woman to be told she’s second best her whole life. As early as age 4, we have studies showing that women already believe themselves to be lesser–can you believe that?

What you get is a host of women who have huge confidence issues and self-select themselves out of opportunities.


What if a good portion of your industry thinks it’s okay to use the word “feminazi” and the acronym “SJW” non-ironically? Just looking at HackerNews for five minutes makes me want to retch–what disgusting behaviour.

So, yes–I do think about leaving. They say you’re the sum of everyone you’re around everyday… do I really want to be around this? I ask myself that more than you think.

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