A couple weeks ago, Pax Dickinson got fired from Business Insider very quickly for some very sexist and racist remarks on his Twitter feed. For those of you not coming to this blog for vulgarities, I’ll include this tame one as an example:
In related but unrelated news, a couple of months ago, Bryan Goldberg launched a website for women which he said was the ‘first of its kind’. He got a lot of flack for implying that he needed to create a website for women. My favorite article from this online magazine aiming to target a smart, interesting, modern female demographic?
These, and some other smaller news stories, have stemmed from this subculture of the ‘brogrammer’. This is the idea of a bro who is also a programmer, which as a group have been creating a similarly ridiculous subculture some have compared to Wall Street that women are choosing not to be involved in. (This isn’t just an opinion, there are actually less women in the tech industry then there was in the 1990s.)
Steve Jobs was considered a genius but why don’t we say the same of Marissa Mayer? Can you name any woman in tech besides Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg? (I can’t.)
What can we do about it? Well, you can do what I did and start your own thing. I largely get to stay out of that ‘bro’ subculture since I get to pick my coworkers (men and women who are not sexist). I also get to turn down work with sexist jerks that are potential clients (my female body parts generally scare them off anyway).
In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which is one of my favorite books ever, she talks about women in the workplace in a general way and it is her advice I follow:
So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work, and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.
If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” (If you’re under forty you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of “over, “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around in an abandoned construction site. They don’t show it anymore because someone has since realized that’s nuts.) If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground—like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that.
Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing. Don’t care if they like it.
(If you want to read the whole excerpt, just go here. It’s better in a context and it’s not much longer than what I have above.)
So those of us women in industries where we aren’t welcome, let’s go over, around, and through… because this is how things get better. I’ll keep doing my thing and not caring if Pax Dickinson, Bryan Goldberg, or anyone else likes it.