It is not stopping the bleeding, barely hiding the wound

22 Mar 2015 - São Paulo

I have many female friends better intentioned than me. They’re always struggling with new ways of teaching women how to code so they can enter in the tech industry and fill the gap gender in which the tech industry drowns nowadays. My intention here is not to rip off their hopes on doing what they believe, or even to minimise their efforts. My purpose here is to justify why I am not mentoring in only-women workshops.

From my own experience, I learned almost everything that I know doing things with men. At that time there was no female programmers or web designers available to teach me. I lived in a place where we scarcely had people to talk about technology, so women interested in tech would be scarce. I had these friends. We played video games, connected to each other through that noisy connection. We were just 12yo guys. We had those big computers shaped within their almost-human plastic heads and our HQ’s and RPG games. We learned BASIC so we could do the zeros jump in the screen in lazy afternoons while drinking that horrible liquified powder gelatin.

2yo guys. We had those big computers shaped within their almost-human plastic heads and our HQ’s and RPG games. We learned BASIC so we could do the zeros jump in the screen in lazy afternoons while drinking that horrible liquified powder gelatin.

Then we grew up. Time to notice sexual life. Time to get bombarded with industry message about having girlfriends or boyfriends. Opportunity for the boys to ‘take virginity” out of the girls. Time for the girls to hide. And the misogyny showed up its face when I was not invited to share some diskettes with naked people’s pictures or when I was their target on jokes about my blonde hair. I was not in the group anymore because I was a target.

Cutting back here: that is why we can’t separate men from women in tech. All the fight for power embedded in sexual behaviour has is ignored when talking superficially about gap gender in tech. The lack of this conversation leads us to polarising men and women and forgetting about nuances in the middle. Dealing with the preached sexual behaviour in sexist cultures is the primary factor to get more women in tech.

We have to talk about sex, relationship and power at tech industry. Maybe more important than knowing how to compile a kernel is a capacity of dealing with desires and discerning between what the industry wants you to do (consume) and what you should do by yourself to have good relationships at work — towards an equal environment.

I just can’t deal with companies that support teaching code to women in separated environment and don’t teach their male employees what not to do when they have a female colleague. I cannot mentor in a tech meeting only for women because I want to see men teaching and be nice without wanting something back (mainly sex or tits pics).

It is not about coding. It’s also about sharing power.

Men have to learn that women are not “a target” just because “rock stars” ridiculous culture. They need to get used to the fact that women can be as nerd/geek as they are. A woman can code, design and manage in tech not to find a good husband but because they enjoy it. Women can date just for fun and not for having a promotion at the job or to “take someone out off the team”.

Men have to stop flaunt over themselves at lists and ignore women when they have something important to say. They have to see their faces in the mirror while being ridiculous. For that, nothing better than mixing with women, listening to what women have to say. They have to perceive women as equal and understand that is better to have a more diverse environment. Men have to learn to compliment not because of beauty but due to professional skills. All the friends that I’ve worked with were complete jerks at some point, even those who (today) I see as friends. Today I recognise that the coexistence is the best tool to fight against gender gap in the tech industry.

I had women friends that were sexists too! And they coexisted with feminist women and understood why it’s important to respect all genders. We have trans and other variations of gender that deserve to learn how to program, but I never saw a dojo for gay people in Brazil, for example. How are we going to address this kind of problem if we continue to separate by physical characteristics?

When I was invited to talk at a Cryptorave, they asked me to talk about “how to fight against sexism and racism online”- they would like to hear about tools, but everything that I told was:

  • If you want to “fight online” stay anonymous.

If you want to convince people: talk to them (yes, I know…. men can be frightening when in group). It really is about education. Sexual education. Everyone needs to acknowledge that women are free and capable to have as much power as men.

One thing: men that threat people over the Internet needs to be arrested. They need to be monitored. If they are violent, they need to be tracked. I am not shocked when I read that “women working in SET fields are 45% more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within the year.” If the motivation to let the industry when you already build a solid career in it is frustration, then I can say that it is really frustrating when a male colleague calls you bossy and treat you like a child when you’re only being professional.

It is also deeply overwhelming when you’re not involved in a great decision despite your position. Its fairly horrible when someone gets you wrong because you practice sports, because “when women practice sports it is always to stay beautiful”, right? Or because you hangout with colleagues and is catcalled by someone of the team.

I heard a story from a Capoeira teacher once. She used to say that for a woman to be a “Mestre” (the high degree in this art), this woman had to be twice as good than men, so they respect her skills. This only shows me that even in Capoeira, which comes from slavery times, man fears women sharing power with them. It shows also that this woman could train capoeira as hell and still it won’t take her to the top. Men need to show respect and share power with women, or we will take the power back.

And so, I end this post apologizing if I wrote some bullshit. I fight hard for equality and I’m sure that there won’t be no revolution if it is not for everybody (not only for white men) — and a the same time that is why I can’t attend a meeting where women stay separated from man.

ps.: em pt-br, eu realmente acho que em situações de crime é necessário separar. Juro. Também admiro iniciativas como a rodAda hacker, entre outras, mas eu desejo que as mulheres dividam o poder com os homens cada vez mais e acho que pra isso codar em separado não vai fazer tanta diferença. Codar, fazer design e gerenciar junto com os homens pode fazer diferença, assim como fez pra mim.