Is the IT field more nasty than others?
The main point of the piece quoted below is important and is something I struggle with. By doing something different for women in IT than men in IT, are we ghettoizing women? Are we making them feel awkward by trying to make them feel welcome? I tend to think of what we do at Georgia Tech is being like curb cuts that try to make things better for everyone, but I see the concern.
The particular point that I’m quoting raises an empirical question for me. Is the IT field more nasty than others? The author states that getting hyper-critical comments is common “in any career in the adult workforce.” I’m not sure that’s true. Jeannette Wing has written about how CS reviews at NSF are much more negative than other disciplines. In my own experience, I’ve seen a marked difference. I’ve mostly worked in the commercial IT industry, and in academic computing. But I also earned part of my doctorate in a School of Education, and I’ve spent a good bit of time in schools. Education is not nearly as nasty and mean as IT. I would be interested in seeing some empirical studies. I suspect that there is far more nasty (e.g., swearing and name-calling) criticism in IT than in other fields. That nastiness does create a barrier for lots of people, but especially for people who notice that they’re in the under-represented group.
But tech is a highly competitive field with a high concentration of very smart, frequently socially awkward people. Some of them are going to shit on you because they think you’re not as smart as them. I promise you that they will shit on you for that regardless of your gender. Sometimes they may use your gender as ammunition because it’s the easy target, but make no mistake – they would still have made you feel badly if you were a guy, they just would have picked something else to fling at you that would cut as deeply.
Sometimes they’re not even socially awkward – they’re just assholes.
If you want to get into tech — or any career in the adult workforce, really — you have to be prepared for people like that sometimes. Tech isn’t some magical haven with a big bouncer at the door that doesn’t let any assholes in. We have them, and so does every other industry on the planet. You probably have friends or family who are assholes. They’re everywhere. Sometimes when a male higher-up than you steals your idea and presents it as their own, it’s because they’re self-serving douchebags, not because you’re female. They’d have done the same to a male co-worker, too.