"Don't automatically assume that men won't respect you in this industry. Don’t believe the hype - assume that they will." By Sarah Morris (Marketing and Community Manager, Sequence Agency)
There's been a lot of talk about sexism in [the web design] industry of late and don’t get me wrong, I'm all for talk, it helps us to form ideas and opinions, it helps us change things.
It’s frustrating though that so much emphasis is being put onto this perceived male/female divide. It feels a little reductive sometimes to focus on this male/ female sex argument. Especially given that sex and gender aren’t really one and the same thing. Broadly speaking, we are born with a certain sex and gender is learned – we are taught, in many ways and from many different sources, how men and women should be seen and how they should behave. Gender is to a point merely a social construct.
Men and women have stereotypical traits, and we are all quick to reference them and it can prompt an easy laugh or two. But just like any stereotype, it’s stupid to assume that men and women all fit neatly into a typical gender role. We all know men who are really emotionally intelligent and women whose balls are just as big (metaphorically speaking) as any man's in this industry. I am not suggesting that men and women aren’t different; I’m merely saying we are ALL different.
This industry isn’t the only one to suffer sexist, outdated attitudes. I would bet there isn’t an industry out there that doesn’t still suffer from these. Generally speaking there are more men than women in industry, due to many social factors. It feels as though it’s perceived to be a bigger problem in the tech industry and maybe it is… I’m no expert, but just maybe it’s because we all have a much more open platform to share our feelings online that it seems this way.
Sharing is no bad thing, it enables us to empathise with each other and change things for the better. So if you are fed up with the comments and abuse that you feel is motivated by sex, or if you feel that there aren’t enough women in the tech industry – then do something about it - get involved with GirlsWhoCode or start a coding/design/social media club at your local school - take positive steps and bring attention to any new and fantastic initiatives you come across. Not to the minority of idiots who give us all a bad name - whether they be male or female.
We all have to earn respect but don't automatically assume that men won't respect you in this industry. Don’t believe the hype - assume that they will. We will never be able to control other people's reactions to us, but that should not stop us working/writing/sharing/dressing how we want and being who we want to be. The only thing each of us can control are our reactions to others, and to be respectful of our differences.
As Ghandi said: - 'Be the change you want to see in the world'
So do your job, do it as well as you can – you may encounter rudeness, criticism and possibly even abuse from people, from both sexes. But just remember that this says a lot more about those people than it does about you. Don't humour these broken people, they’ve lost their way and are desperately trying to get attention. If you feel threatened – tell someone who can help, go to the police. Telling social media may feel cathartic (we’ve all been there!) but it won't protect you or help educate that person.
It's not up to anyone else to dictate what you can and can’t do and to define you by your sex. I truly believe that in 2013 we should be way past any notion that one sex is more capable than another. Be as good as you can be.
Good work is good work, A good idea is a good idea – Regardless of your sex or gender.
Do you agree that talk about gender in tech is sometimes unproductive?
About the blogger: Sarah (@iamburley) is a writer who has worked as online editor and community manager for the Do Lectures, production manager for Five Simple Steps (Mark Boulton Design’s publishing arm). She is currently working as Marketing and Community Manager for Sequence Agency.