Women In Technology
Recently there has been a lot of talk about women in the technology industry. Between the titstare app at TechCrunch Disrupt, the allegations -and then rebuttal- against Paul Graham of Y Combinator, and the periodic articles about how to 'Really Hire (and retain) More Women in Tech' everyone seems to be talking about women in technology. More specifically, there seems to be an outcry against discrimination. While the smaller representation of females in tech -or business in general- is no new topic, this recent string of conversations worries me and here is why.
Bringing about awareness of discrimination against a group is a good thing in the beginning. It helps to get talented candidates identified for their skills -rather than group identity- and admitted into high powered jobs they deserve. It also helps to encourage those that would excel in the field to learn and pursue a career in the area. With this comes an influx of talented candidates that go forth to become valuable contributors to their team/job/organization/industry. Unfortunately, since members of the discriminated group had previously been discouraged from pursuing careers in this area, the list of viable, talented individuals is much smaller than required to 'even the playing field.' This type of change takes time therefore patience is needed.
Unfortunately, patience does not come in spades and all of these awareness talks get organizations worried that they will be at the dangerous end of an argument against discrimination. Since the list of talented people starts to dwindle, standards are lowered. Suddenly people that don't really fit the list of requirements are admitted/given jobs when in all actuality they shouldn't have been. While the opportunity is great for them, eventually they are not able to perform and that failure isn't reflected on them but instead on the group they represent. Rather than saying "Sally just couldn't cut it in the IT Forensics Department" you hear "And this is why women shouldn't be allowed to do forensics." This is a problem. This over compensation -in reaction to discrimination- actually serves to hurt the cause because it devalues to efforts and skills of those that truly are talented in the area.
Today we are not at a point of awareness. Instead we need patience. Again, the idea that women are under represented in technology is no new topic BUT that is changing. I know many women all across the industry that are not only valuable contributors but deeply respected. As Paul Graham pointed out, more and more women are being identified as a pivotal role in tech startups. We need to be patient. We need to continue to encourage and support those that are talented and wait for the industry to balance out itself. By writing articles and making arguments that scare individuals, organization, incubators, VC's, and industry leaders into over compensating we are going to hurt the cause rather than facilitate equality.