Women Hating Women In Tech

March 19, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

[This is a more personal post and isn’t really about search. If that’s offensive to you, Search Engine Land is probably being relevant today. No hard feelings.]

I hate talking about gender. I hate talking about what it feels like to be “a girl” in tech or on the Web because it all feels like a bunch of crap and silly excuses. I’ve never felt hindered by my gender, never felt like I was looked down upon or treated differently. Never felt like I wasn’t put on a panel because I pee sitting down. But there are also a couple of things I’ve had working in my favor.

  1. I’m 27. I entered a workplace where ceilings were semi-shattered. I know that my mother did not.
  2. I’ve never treated myself or acted like I was inferior.
  3. I’ve never allowed others to make me feel that I was.

And the truth is, if you look around the Internet marketing industry, A LOT of women have made that same choice. They lead by example, not with their chest. And so when women choose to stereotype themselves or allow others to do it for them, it makes my blood boil. I take it as a personal insult. I wonder who the heck gave them the right to take everything that everyone ELSE has fought for and set it back. Because that chair they just threw out the window? We were using that to hold open the door.

I tweeted yesterday about something that really angered me. I told my followers that I knew it would be the biggest piece of bullshit I’d read all day. If you missed the tweet, it was in reference to a post an article written by Margaret Wente and was entitled Why Are Bloggers Male? And if you went to The Globe and Mail site expecting to read statistics about how men dominate the blogosphere and researched ideas as to why that was so, you would have come away disappointed.

Instead, Margaret did what women too often choose to do to one another – she cut them down for sport.

Margaret’s article featured nothing but a stereotyped opinion as to how blogging is really just a man’s task, similar to driving a snowmobile straight up a mountain, she says. Us, girls, just don’t have the stomach for opinions and pissing contests. Women are not interested in these sorts of things. We’re more restrained and less concerned with public displays of prowess.

Right. Now someone go get me a snowmobile. So I can pee on it.

I don’t want to list off the many reasons as to why the assertion that blogging is a “man’s job” is crap. My guess is that not even Margaret believes what she wrote yesterday. The article was intended solely for debate, comments and attention (how manly of her). My problem is that Margaret, perched in a position of authority, is not helping. She’s not helping anyone who came before her and she’s certainly not helping those that will aim to follow.

Blogger (and fellow woman) Annie Urban of PhD In Parenting puts it well:

“When influential women are ignorant to the numerous women’s voices on the Internet, when the voices of many women are dismissed as endearing, cute and girly, and when the voices of those women who are most oppressed are ignored altogether, that gender gap is perpetuated. Thank you, Margaret, for proving your own point about how hard it is to change the conversation.”

When women cut down, discount, and trivialize themselves and each other it makes it easier for others to do the same. It makes us all look stupid and we need to stop.

Ever since Rae, Rhea and I formed Outspoken Media, I get a lot of folks coming up to talk to me about how cool it is that three girls were able to form and launch a successful SEO company in a male dominated world. And though we’re not blind to what’s around us or the many times I’m called “honey” on a daily basis, I don’t think any of us have aspirations to be a successful female SEO company.

We want to be successful. Period. And we are.

I think we’re lucky in the SEO industry that women really are respected and held to the same standard as men. It’s not such an easy fight in other industries, so we need to be sure that we’re honoring that. Always.

And if we’re not, we need to stop.

That means resisting the urge to cut one another down when we can. Stop the pettiness and jabs in public (guilty as charged). Stop allowing ourselves to be used as gimmicks in ways that cheapen and diminish our skill and our talent. Stop presenting ourselves as ‘booth babes’ at events and using our sexuality as a joke. Stop writing about ourselves as being “lesser than”. Stop perpetuating the stereotype of inequality and making it easy for others to discount us. The men don’t do it. We shouldn’t be doing it either.

The Margaret Wentes of the world do not help and they’re not needed here. When you have a choice to reinforce a stereotype or to open the door a little wider, choose to open the door. Or at least opt not to close it. Maybe in time nonbloggers like Margaret Wente won’t feel the need to write about being a girl anymore.

And really, if anyone has access to a mountain and a snowmobile, I’d love to drive that thing straight up a mountain. Call me.

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