Women in Tech

Women in tech: the tortured topic of late, with tech companies floating around statistics trying to prove just how much they’ve increased diversity among their employees. Then there are the bros who don’t get it and probably never will, having been encouraged throughout school, coddled by ego and socialized into toxic male-centered careers some claim women aren’t designed to be good in—fields women have a hard time entering and staying in because of the blatant sexism, harassment and intolerance created through culture, not inherent to our biology.


Photo: Angelina Jolie in the movie Hackers

These perspectives crowd around a central question: Why are there so few women in tech? I don’t think we’re asking the right question or approaching this as the holistic, cultural problem for which low representation of women in some job fields are merely a symptom. We must recognize and accept for fact how depressed women are in the workforce, whatever the job—from fewer promotions, to the gender wage gap, to those deemed too feminine for men. Women struggle for equal footing and equal recognition of their talents, far and away from jobs traditionally considered by our society as male, and by proxy, much more important.

What is tech?

During the last decade, there has been a push for “more women and girls in tech”, yet there doesn’t seem to be a definitive list or definition of what that means. The acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is the buzzword of choice in trying to answer this question but does little more than further the divide between fields of study traditionally pursued by women—teaching, nursing, childcare—and jobs given higher prestige because they somehow fall under the STEM umbrella of those held by men in high quantities. The US Department of Education touts STEM as education for global leadership.

Rosie the riveter with a circuit board background

Image courtesy of Burlington Telecom

The disservice we do to girls now is to imply the only important or worthy pursuits are in these disciplines which have largely been structured and determined by men in the first place. It implies that the only way we women are going to make progress in the workplace is to bust up male-centric job fields. If a girl has an interest in one of these fields, she must have equal opportunity to pursue a career in it but not at the cost of discounting girls who have interests elsewhere. The economy would crumble if all women were in the narrow set of STEM fields.

How we encourage girls’ interests becomes the crux of this issue. Some men like to say it’s our fault there are fewer women in tech because we just aren’t interested in it. Not true! Most of us weren’t encouraged to explore “tech” interests. As example, I saw recently two shirts that a brother and sister were dressed in: the boy’s said “Future Genius” while his sister’s said “Future Princess.” Really?

What are tech jobs?

“Tech” encompasses many disciplines extending far beyond STEM. We can pursue career paths other than programmer, chemist, circuit board designer, mathematician to be part of tech. I have a Master of Science degree in Information Studies. Most of my peers (80% women) went into the fields of archiving, preservation and librarianship with these science degrees; yet these women are sometimes not viewed as working in tech based on the limited inclusion of STEM which tends to focus on math-centered disciplines.

document getting scanned

Digital preservation. Photo credit: Rebecca Carpenter

We also need millions of teachers in STEM disciplines for children to learn them, yet teaching is still viewed as outside tech and compensated at a much lower rate despite teachers having knowledge arguably equivalent to traditional tech workers. We must broaden our view of what it means to “be in tech” if we’re going to ensure women’s progress in tech.

How do we measure tech inclusion?

It’s interesting when executives release statistics about how the number women working at tech companies is increasing. Did you catch the subtle, disingenuous part of that statement? Increasing the number of women working at tech companies, not necessarily increasing the number women holding technical jobs at these companies. Before the personal computer, I would wager there were more women than men working at IBM because of the male dependency on female secretary pools, receptionists and administrative assistants.

dozens of women at typewriters in a large room

Photo courtesy of the Missouri State Archives

I work at a software company that makes such a claim: Approximately 30% of our workforce is female. The board of directors certainly is, with just three of 10 members being women. The executive leadership team fairs far worse with just one of 13 members being a woman (HR).

There are many tech jobs at non-tech companies often not included in this dissection, and there are many tech jobs beyond IT, R&D and Engineering departments. I started my career as a web developer in the Marketing department. Was I considered a woman working in tech? I also want to mention that the concept of women in tech sometimes gets couched as a “gender equality” benchmark, frequently excluding transgender men and women who are ignored in this dichotomy. When trying to measure inclusiveness, we must remember that the labels we use to describe the problem often complicate it.

What now?

Talk to a woman, right now. Listen to us. Believe what we say about our negative experiences growing up in a divided society with an education system hostel to our pursuits. Stop judging what we want to learn or do by antiquated, gender-specific thinking that discourages us. It’s okay for a girl to want to be a teacher, equally so to studying robotics. If she wants to be an electrician instead of an electrical engineer, tell her we need good tradespeople too.

C’mon Pizza Hut

All I wanted was a pizza… just one pizza…

So I’m craving pizza and Pizza Hut deep dish comes to mind. Mmm. I should know better by now, but I went to their website on my phone to see if I could order online. That’s when I encountered a new level of BS usability.

screen shot of Pizza Hut website on a mobile phone with the warning ALERT You are in private browsing mode. please switch to normal mode.
Screen shot of pizzahut.com on my phone

Umm, WTF? Why do you need to track me when I want to give you money? I tapped ‘OK’ and seemed to be able to use the site with incognito mode anyway. Didn’t bother to try to order anything though. You want to block me, I block you and support local business by picking up Double Dave’s, which I learned has a tasty deep dish crust too.

Amazon Locker

I recently tried out Amazon Locker for a package return and it was a great experience. Usually, I choose the UPS drop off option. During my last return, though, I noticed that an Amazon Locker is now available in a more convenient location for me than the UPS Store. So how does Amazon Locker work?

With Amazon Locker, you’re able to drop off (and sometimes pick up) a package at any time to a bank of secure lockers. Shipping for eligible returns is still paid by Amazon and the packages are picked up by the US Postal Service. Next time you start a return, see if there is an option for Amazon Locker dropoff.

Screenshot: Choose Amazon Locker dropoff
Choose Amazon Locker dropoff

If that option is available for your return, you’ll then see a list of drop off locations near you.

Screenshot: Select a drop off location
Select a drop off location

After choosing a drop off location, you’ll get a confirmation message with a date and a drop off code. The reservation is good for only a few days.

Screenshot: your locker reservation is guaranteed through May 8, 2017
Locker reservation confirmed

As with other returns, you’ll get a link to print the return slip and shipping label. This label contains the return code which you’ll need to open your locker.

You’ll get confirmation instructions about the maximum size your package return can be, given the lockers available. Most of the lockers are not very tall. Usually, you can just use whatever box or envelope your item was delivered in.

Screenshot: Confirmation instructions for boxing up your return
Box up your return

It’s time to go to your locker. As it turns out, the one I used is on the side of a gas station convenience store not unlike those Redbox video rental kiosks. It’s bright yellow and I was a little surprised I hadn’t noticed it before while driving by as it’s hard to miss.

Big, yellow bank of lockers
An Amazon Locker location

Each locker bank has a name so you can be sure you’re dropping off at the correct location. Walk on up and start your return using the touch screen.

Touch screen for starting your return
Touch screen on the lockers

There’s a barcode scanner or you can enter your return code on the touch screen. Then, your assigned locker pops open.

Open locker for package return
Open locker for package return

Insert your package, close the door, and you’re done! The touch screen will ask if your locker is too small to fit your package (which happened to me). Just tap ‘yes’ and a larger locker will open.

I was very impressed with this experience. It’s much faster than waiting in line at the UPS Store or a post office. Highly recommended if available in your area.