A Man’s Guide to Helping Women in Tech

The War It's not a man's thing
Credit : flickr / sarflondondunc

What can men do? Other than not harass women? Although not harassing is a surprisingly good start.

 TL;DR: Step 1 – Don’t drive women away. Step 2: Don’t stand by and watch other men drive women away. Step 3: Give women a reason to stick around.

 Step 1: Don’t Perpetuate

  • Understand the range and extent of the problem – I created this primer a a place to start.
  • Read up on Cognitive Bias, and check your own feedback on women for examples of it.
  • Offer alternatives to heavy-drinking environments if you are organising something, consider concerns women have for their physical safety.
  • Be physically considerate – don’t stand too close. Don’t assume she is OK being touched even in a friendly way (nice example).
  • Be aware of your language – do you use different language when speaking to women? Could it seem patronising (even if you don’t mean it that way).
  • Read Unlocking the Clubhouse (my review, Amazon).

Step 2: Don’t Ignore

  • Look for and point out examples of cognitive bias in other people’s feedback.
  • Notice if women around you seem to feel physically uncomfortable – e.g. is the a man who is often moving closer to them, that they are subtly moving away from? Read this account from a man who watched a women being violated. If you know her, ask if she is comfortable walking home alone (being asked this by a complete stranger is not effective for making women feel safer).
  • Notice if women around you have reason to feel emotionally uncomfortable – does anyone do or say anything that might make them feel marginalised?
  • Suggest alternatives to heavy-drinking environments for events.
  • Notice when there is only one woman at an event – e.g. team offsite, and suggest ways to make that not the case, either by inviting another woman, or combining with another team.
  • Encourage others to read Unlocking the Clubhouse (my reviewAmazon).
  • Read Delusions of Gender (Amazon).

Step 3: More-than-Moral Support

Think of the tech industry and society in general as pushing women down when it comes to math, science, and engineering. This is where you can try and pull them up.

  • Encourage: Good at any level! High school maths? University? New person on your team?
  • Advocate: “I think X would be good on that project, didn’t she do a great job with Project Y?”
  • Sponsor: help fund or host women’s events, both internal and external to your organization.
  • Refuse speaking engagements or panels without women.
  • Set targets and standards – e.g. “we are sending 5 people to this conference, at least one of them must be female”.
  • Read the research on what helps women get ahead, and implement it – don’t expect them to bring it to you.
  • Read personal accounts on the aftermath of harassment – don’t assume that just because the process says it is done, it is.
  • Attend GHC. Think about how it makes you feel – out of place? Intimidated? Imagine the reverse, remember that women have reason to feel physically threatened by men in general, and the environment is not always as welcoming.

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