Tech’s Meritocracy Problem: Perception doesn’t match reality

November 17, 2014 at 8:28 am 2 comments

The blog post linked below was inspired by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella’s gaffe at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, but connects to an important theme in the story of the lack of diversity in computing.  Many in computing think that the tech industry is a meritocracy, where the most capable get the most credit and best pay.  It underlies the entrepreneur’s belief that the successful entrepreneur gets there because of his or her hard work alone.  But it’s clearly not true — a lesson that I first learned from Caroline Simard.

Meritocracy is a myth. And our belief in it is holding back the tech industry from getting better.The intent to be meritocratic is not a myth, but we know what road is paved with good intentions. In practice, merit and impact in software engineering are impossible to measure objectively. And so we fall back on subjective evaluation of merit. And when we are measuring subjectively, we are prone to cognitive error stemming from stereotypes and other unconscious beliefs. We have unimpeachable research that when you ask any of us, male or female, to evaluate the work of women mathematicians, engineers, and scientists, we evaluate identical work to be less meritorious than a man’s.

via Tech’s Meritocracy Problem — Medium.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Miranda Parker  |  November 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    This ties really well into this article on technical interviews: “If anything, similar to the idea of “meritocracy”, technical interviews might simply be a way to hide some of the tech industry’s most insidious biases under the guise of objectivity.” Merit and objectivity are an issue from start to finish of a job in the tech industry.

  • 2. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  November 19, 2014 at 11:28 am

    The problem with the “move fast and break things” motto of many entrepreneurs–especially those in tech–is that it ignores the reality that white males are generally granted a lot more forgiveness when breaking things goes awry. Those who succeed often ignore the fact that there risks were considerably lower because they were subsidized by privilege.


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