Is Tech Industry sexist? Who cares free software is the solution.

Hacker news has a low frequency persistent signal these last months :

IT is said to be sexist. News divide in 2 categories: stupid stuffs made by companies clearly sexists, and mainly my preferred kind of articles: the testimony of women saying how mistreated they are.

It is a person saying «I am being bullied because I am a woman» based on a lot of real life example and the conclusion of this is Tech Industry is sexist.

Well according to Dialektik: Die Kunst, Recht zu Behalten(Schopenhauer) these articles may deserve a sarcastic answer: they defeat all the necessary ingredients needed to an argumentation :

  • generalizing the case experienced by one person in one place to the whole community (both for men and women);
  • appeal to sentiment (I have been hurt bouhou bouhou);  
  • it does not expose any causation or any mechanism which could explain, and could help us fix the problem; 
  • it resort to guilt to make a point and I hate manipulation. 

So here is my answer to these testimony of sexism in IT: I am going to tell a story equally based on real events and voluntarily biased telling how women get what they deserve, that is explicitly a troll 

I will then do an über troll by argumenting the right way: the thesis will be a logical mechanical causation in the way women are treated by the IT community: some are not discriminated positively and they hate that.

Then I will try to be more constructive for women wishing to integrate the open source community and prove free software has perhaps a lesser sex ratio, but that it is a radically non discriminative community were women will find less discrimination than anywhere else.

TROLL: Women get what they deserve

This story is based on true facts. However it is misleading. It is just an illustration of the bias of the reasoning through testimony. (It is an exercise of style)

My life: women are taking a part in bullying the nerds/geeks during school time, I understand how the weakests may think now is payback time.

So, I have been an average nerd/geek interested early in computers even if I was not very productive or gifted (games, and stuff), and literature, and learning everything.

People used to wait for me in my 11-15 years at the end or beginning of school to beat the pulp out of me because I was standing out learning and having good marks (without working too much). In fact I found learning fun.

Since I was a smart coward and a fast runner I got cornered only once in hundredth of attempts at beating me. Being beaten is not that terrible, but I hated giving an easy mathematical win to people I did not liked so I tried not to please them by giving their victory. I was too much an «intello» for them. I was not quite interested in women right at that time, so it is just to draw a global picture.  I was different, I was interested in learning, I chose to specialize in science because I was good in literature, bad in science, and bored.

Girls saw me being chased but never thought they were any prejudice: either I got what I deserved for standing out or it was not their problem. If you were not helping people like me why should I help you now I could say? Solidarity is something I did not experienced. I was all by myself outnumbered and I had to fight back in a disgraceful way (running like a coward).

In high school I was in scientific section. We were already experiencing a sex ratio of 1/6. Our section were lacking glitter for girls so we were quite not the popular boys. Science was the choice of the losers; all cool jobs were supposed to be achieved with a degree in economic or literature or else. My skills at counterfeiting papers for justifying school leave were appreciated so I had no prejudice then.

Then came university and the troubles.

Well I don't know why girls always asked us what we were studying every time we were partying and then stopped talking to us. Another friend smarter than me suggested we were being ignored because of our field of study. I did not believed him. So one night at ESSEC (famous for his MBA) instead of saying I was studying science I said I was studying finance, and got my first success at kissing a girl in a party. As an experimenter, I dared reproduce the experiment in various places times and social communities. My sexyness would always be positive when I was lying. Disturbing no?

I also co-founded an association for sharing reproductions of our lessons. We had to interact with BDE (people organizing parties) and unions. And we were considered non relevant for any topic even after one year of existence. We had the most people in our association, the most actual results, and since we were selling books at a discarded price we also had the most money. I once confronted a girl on the topic of the scientific education having a negative effect on dating. She who was feminist  -and who wished to become a journalist-  told me: why would I talk to you? When we will work you'll be just a bum under my orders! You will have no social status. I wish it was an exception at least she was frank. Could some who experienced the same be resentful? I think so. It was vexing.  How can someone who feel discriminated discriminate me? She should have sympathize, no?

We had quite a few fights with the unions (with a better sex ratio) that were behaving like we were neglectable quantity in the university, and by outsmarting them we proudly stand up and won decisive battle. I love to fight back because it is fun,  at the point we also acted as an union for the scientific and won the elections in the science department presenting scientific student where the union would present only «able» student (from economic or literature sections).

The pattern of being rejected socially because of my guilty liking for science and computer repeated itself more than often, and being turned down by women in an insulting way when I said I was in this field always happened when I was a student. Some have learned very efficiently by first hand how to reject people. Maybe we/I reproduce the same schema I have experienced? I don't know. But, women rejection came first.

So stop trying to make us guilty of something we are not responsible of. Women chose not to be with the geeks/nerds in highschool because we were studying science. Now that the job pays after hard work in schools, after we have been outcasts by you or our problems ignored for years, we are now a place where you should be welcomed? The truth is you are: just follow the rules. Work consistently and learn to focus on the product not the people.     
 Here comes the conclusion of the troll made to appear cool in order not to alienate to much people. 
Truth be told I think it is stupid to resent women as a group for older wounds of some stupid girls, but I do empathise with those who were not that lucky.

END OF TROLL1 : Why is it a troll?

Well, I was happily dating girls I loved and keep found memories of them. Most  of them were not scientific and they never cared for what I was studying. Yes I was bullied and it was truly painful but I learnt how to fight my way and it is a good and funny experience that I enjoyed. I bullied a little myself (shame on me and I regret it).  My university association had a she president mostly because it would help having an entry to the vast majority of the male professor's office and also because we all wanted it this way. The women in our association were bringing a very welcomed balanced with our testosterone with their softer ways ... and we made a great team.

All of that really happened but these are selected episodes, and I could have less selectively told you the truth: these bullshits about being scientific were also equally told by men. And these people even if they were vexing were a painful minority. I could also tell the truth the vast majority of women were normal and I was a bit provocative.

This is a fallacy by selective memory... Okay, I have dated girl easily when I was lying on the fact I was in university in a suburbs and scientific or when I finally had a job considered better paid than average.

But it is an hasty generalisation, and does not explain any causation.

Plus it may had nothing to do with women, but with how I behaved or what I am.

ÜBER TROLL: Pseudo scientific explanation.

This troll has the merit to propose an easy enough causal  mechanism to provide a basis for finding a solution. I don't know if it is a troll, but I am sure that is the wrong way to solve «the sexism problem in the IT».

An educational problem before the IT

Before being an IT guy, most people with a position in the IT were in a scientific related formation. The sex ratio is already negative at this point so the problem lies upstream.

First let's state a few (controversial) premisce

Is IT/science a magnet for socially inept males (that deserve to be rejected/bullied) more sexists than average or maybe behaving awkwardly with women?  

According to meriam webster a Geek noun \ˈgēk\ is a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked

Is their a «social» or «epidemic» reason that makes people with intellectual bent attracted people to the IT and make them socially inept (especially with women) and (also) disliked? Or is their a social explanation for disliking scientific people?

If it is the intellectualism that is disliked why artists or economists are not disliked? It means it has something to do with the field of interest. So is science socially hated recently, and why would women would be more receptive to the social signal than men?

If we search in the «social direction» I dare remind that French women had the right to vote (75 years after the women in Turkey a non religious country by law of islamic culture) after WWII because De Gaulle after some survey found women were more prone to vote for conservative parties thus helping him to win the elections against communists. So, science being related to disruption (progress) there might be an hint there is a cultural bias in women education against change. Or in the society...

But, I will discard this because I have no hard fact that would help explain how it would work. 

So let's work on the «epidemic» reason.

Is there something in Information Technology that would attract male under performing in social skills that could impact women? 

  • First it has to be something genetic related to the Y chromosome to explain the sex ratio. 
  • then, we notice that the more a field in the IT is technical the fewer the women (corporate consulting companies have a better sex ratio then python community which has a better ratio than debian maintainers);
  • then it has to be brain related;
  • then it has to explain a difference in men/women behaviour;
  • then is has to explain the difficulty in socializing.

You know what? I have a candidate: Asperger and high functional form of autisms.

  • Asperger and autism explains the sex ratio (1:9) ;
  • Asperger and autism explains the attraction for science
  • and it explains the social awkwardness and bullying is actually a side effect of this;
  • since kids of older parents are more likely autistic and that older parents also means higher education it could also explain socially the success in science;
  • Asperger also comes with an under performance in social skills;
  • that results in non discrimination.   

BINGO It respects the Curie principle: I find in the cause I suspect the roots of the effects described in the geek/IT particularism.

Ho! By the way there is a strong suspicion there are more Asperger in the IT than in other fields of competence. Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and others are strong candidates.

Hans Asperger, the Austrian psychiatrist who first identified the condition, once wrote it seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.

How Asperger impact men-women relationship? Are Asperger more sexists than average?

Nop. They just are insensitive to non verbal communication. One of their trait is to be less prone to discrimination than others, to be tough in their communication, critical, and very unable to behave correctly in a social environment. Yes Asperger are usually more free than the average of discriminative bias towards the other. The good news is that Asperger won't treat women any differently than other people. The bad news is that you'll be treated equally if you are a women. If a women are used to a positive bias in their social interaction, they might consider the absence of the bias as a negative discrimination.

So if women  think they have a problem with sexism in IT and my hypothesis of an higher Asperger rate is verified then they may have a problem because they expect a positive discrimination they don't have. 

END OF UBERTROLL: I think this is bullshit.

Because even if there are more Asperger I don't think the vast majority of IT is Asperger, and if my hypothesis was true women would suffer the most discrimination in the less technical field. So it would have nothing with IT tech/Asperger but just regular sexism. And if I am right, women claiming IT is sexists are picking up on people that are actually less discriminating than average ... even positively. So it would be unfair.

I also think this troll is not useful since it does not help. Because helping is not about explaining why software could be sexist or not  it is about helping people integrating the community and feeling better.

The guide to Free Open Source software community for women (and maybe IT)

I cannot speak of IT as a whole, I can speak for a world I know : Free Open source software (FOSS for convenience).

Worst case scenario: you already have experienced FOSS and we are sexists (at least you are sure of it)

In worst case hypothesis even if FOSS is really sexist then it is the right place to go: just grow your own community with the rules you want. You can even fork an existing project (linux, openBSD, openSSL) and do a women only community that can interact (or not) with the other communities.  No one will care as long as you publish something useful. And as any projects you will be mocked, but see it as a jest since every projects are antagonizing a little bit for fun (BSD vs linux, PHP vs Perl vs Python vs Ruby). 

The interest of free software is you can do all by yourself without anyone blocking you because of your sex: our tools (pypi, github, CPAN, forums, mail, irc, internet) are gender agnostic, and good projects have documentations that helps you being autonomous and thus you don't need to ask for help or interact with the sexists community.

And if you exists long enough with consistent results people will respect you even more for proving we were sexists and your views will be accepted. You'll be accepted as a brilliant member of the FOSS not only for standing up rightfully but also for finding a solution and you'll be invited to a lot of conference to expose your views. That's the power of FOSS: if we are defeated in a square and fair fight we will warmly accept and respect you and recognize our wrongs.

The cool stuff about free software is it costs 0. Nothing is needed but the fortitude to build something. No one can actually block you. You are free to become whatever you want with or without the consent of the community. So .. our community is the most radically friendly to women even to those who think we are the most sexist community in the IT.

Integrate FOSS the boring way: respect the rules (which are the same for everyone).

  • show me your code: FOSS is not about who you are, it is about what you can do;
  • ask question the smart way: because people are here on a benevolent basis, respect them; 
  • contribute and have fun :
  • on internet no one knows you are a fish. If you fear to be treated differently with a negative sex ratio: cross dress on the internet;
  • for 1 line of code in a big community project (like linux) expect to have up to 200 lines of talk of interactions (by mail, IRC ...) so communication matters; 
  • in free software people don't matter, only ideas/technics matters even though some benevolent dictator are more fun than others;
  • you win an argument by being constructive, fun, witty or pertinent or a genial troll;
  • if you think you have a good idea and present it then people will stress it. Not because they dislike you, but to test the strength of the idea. So be prepared to answer an heavy rain of questions some of which might be stupid, tricky or complex in proportion with the awesomeness of your claim; 
  • there are also assholes in free software (me for instance because I love the bad guys in the movies): just ignore them (/ignore on IRC, filter rules in your mail client);
  • argumentation is not a fight, and if you do think so the discussion might end in a flame war especially if you make it personal;
  • when you are wrong don't take it personally, unless the answer is sarcastic and well crafted (which is a sign of respect and of belief in your intelligence);
  • not knowing or making mistakes is normal: we don't know everything and we usually create stuff that don't exist yet so you will fail like us sometimes or admit your ignorance (I don't know what I am writing right now -_-');
  • you will win respect not by being right forcefully, but in the constance of your good will to help build stuffs;
  • not every communities are cool or fits you; don't persevere if you have a bad feeling with a community and leave it: communities are like bars they might harbour some bitter persons with too much time on their hands; 
  • learn the workflow of code publication when you enter a community, every one does follow the rules especially the benevolent dictator no exceptions will be made unless your contribution is genial;
  • Flame wars and antagonizing are sometimes a game, don't take it seriously;
  • trolling is either an art or involuntary (lost in translation or in humour): don't feed the troll;
  • you can contribute to more than code (translation, documentation, maintaining an abandoned project, packaging, system administration, web design, graphic design, sound design, bringing your knowledge and views, helping new comers, posting news...); 
  • ultimately free software is radically women friendly and non discriminative because you can be the benevolent dictator of your own project!