Developer gender double standard

In the workplace, male software developers are treated as developers first, men second. However, female software developers are too often treated as women first, developers second.

This is a problem that affects every one of us, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you report to a man or a woman, or whether you manage men only, women only, or a team of both genders.

What shall we do about this?

The women in our profession — whether programmer or tester, developer or admin, senior manager or new graduate — face this every day. Comments about their bodies or attire, either to their face or behind their back. Double standards in professional advancement, opportunities to take on new projects, business travel, and of course, pay.

Not all of the problems are created by men. I’m told that women are often pretty hard on women techies, too. It reminds me of a conversation between two Dilbert characters, Alice the engineer and Tina the tech writer:

Tina: One day I hope we can be judged by our accomplishments and not our gender.

Alice: I got my 14th patent today. I’m on my way to a lunch banquet in my honor.

Tina: And you wore *that*?

Is any of this new? Of course not. Women in “traditionally male” jobs have been disadvantaged forever. But that doesn’t mean that we have to overlook the issue, or worse, perpetuate it through our own actions.

These comments today are inspired by a blog post by Tech Republic’s Toni Bowers: “Sure she’s a good tech blogger, but what does she look like?” Thank you, Toni, for the blog!

I’ll also point you to a recent SD Times Guest View, “Sexist and Offensive,” by Lori MacVittie, an engineer with F5 Networks.

Share your thoughts: Tell me what you think.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
3 replies
  1. Sal Mangano
    Sal Mangano says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. First off, in my particular group we have almost a 50-50 split by gender. The female developers that are talented are given challenging assignments. Two of them are mangers. At a previous job the ratio was more male-weighted but again there were challenging assignments for females in the group who had talent.

    However, my experience has been, even among the talented female programmers, very few that I can recall, read a lot of technical books or went out of their way to learn new programming languages, etc. I know generalizing from my own experience is dangerous but I’d go out on a limb and say this is fairly common. I would say females are as talented but not as interested in the profession.

  2. Sal Mangano
    Sal Mangano says:

    Ignore my previous comment. It is not really addressing the point of your post now that I really read it 🙂

    Anyway, the best I can say about this is that it is not unique to programming and its not unique to the way males look at females but to the way females often judge each other. But it is often (but not often enough) a first impression thing. When teams work together for a long time those superficial ways of judging each other tend to disappear. At least they should if most of the males are not completely dysfunctional.

  3. socialgracious
    socialgracious says:

    If women do not perform well or are not as talented it is attributed to their femaleness, not their lack of talent. If a man sucks, he just sucks. Must be nice to be able to just suck without it being attributed to your gender, sigh.

    Plus, whatever we do society has an expectation that we look good while doing it.

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