Dear IT industry: “Meritocracy” does not mean what you think it means.

IT culture is so ignorant about how society works that what would be satire in other contexts is actually how most IT people think. IT people in general are not exactly experts on how people and society work, yet too many individuals in IT like to make bold, confident, and unsupported claims about meritocracy.

Vivek Wadhwa of TechCrunch writes:

Is the Valley deliberately keeping these groups out? I don’t think so. Silicon Valley is, without doubt, a meritocracy. In this land, only the fittest survive. That is exactly the way it should be. For the Valley’s innovation system to achieve peak performance, new technologies need to constantly obsolete the old, and the world’s best techies need to keep making the Valley’s top guns compete for their jobs. There is no room for government mandated affirmative action, and our tech companies shouldn’t have to apologize for hiring the people they need. But at the same time, without realizing it, the Valley may be excluding a significant part of the American population that could be making it even more competitive. False stereotypes may be getting in the way of greater innovation and prosperity.

“Meritocracy” means “a society or social system in which people get status or rewards because of what they achieve”. If some people get status and rewards partly because they are white and male, then the system is not a meritocracy. Such a system would have a racial and gender bias, just like every other industry.

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In Malaysia, computers are unmasculine.

Ruth Schechter (Clayman Institute) writes:

The answer [to the cause of the gender gap in technology] may lie in Malaysia, where women make up between 50 and 60 percent of the computer industry’s employees and many hold mid- and upper-level management positions. The country’s burgeoning technology industry has brought about dramatic changes to women’s roles in society, changing traditional perceptions of class, ethnicity and gender.

[…]

The author of “Masculinity, Power and Technology: A Malaysian Ethnography,” Mellstrom has been conducting a long-term survey of female students in preparation for a new book on Malaysian women in the computer industry. In contrast to the U.S., in Malaysia jobs in technology are seen as appropriate for women: Men do not perceive indoor work as masculine and much of society stigmatizes women who work outdoors as lower class. Computing and programming are seen as “women-friendly” professions, with opportunities opening up since men are not interested in competing for these types of jobs. “It’s a woman’s world in that respect,” said Mellstrom.

Link: Malaysian women redefine gender roles in technology

(Via geekfeminism Delicious tag)

Google’s race and gender makeup is Trade Secret in tech business, says Google

Google, Don’t Be Hypocritical (NBC Bay Area, emphasis mine):

Despite its supposed mission to “organize the world’s information,” Google has fought to hide data about the race and gender makeup of its workforce.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that it had fought for 18 months through Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain data collected by the Department of Labor about the employees of Google and 14 other large Silicon Valley employers.

The question of diversity cuts to the core of Silicon Valley’s values. Investors, entrepreneurs, and managers love to tout the technology industry’s so-called meritocracy, in which talented workers rise quickly to the top. And yet the reality is that the technology industry remains dominated by white males, especially in management.

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White, male startup companies get funding for being white and male.

When top technology venture capitalist John Doerr decides which startup company to invest in, he consciously and deliberately chooses white males over women and racial minorities:

“That correlates more with any other success factor that I’ve seen in the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. If you look at Bezos, or [Netscape Communications Corp. founder Marc] Andreessen, [Yahoo Inc. co-founder] David Filo, the founders of Google, they all seem to be white, male, nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford and they absolutely have no social life. So when I see that pattern coming in — which was true of Google — it was very easy to decide to invest.”

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Male IT geeks tend to think they are “low status” males.

Why are male IT geeks less successful in attracting women than other males, on average? Why are there few women in IT?

Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources.

the average person in the United States with an IT career makes $0.13. the average American household makes $0.096.

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Men in IT are paid more than women in IT.

Women IT professionals earn 13% less than men IT professionals, according to BCS. In other words, men in IT are paid 15% more than women in IT.

Graph of gender pay gap in IT (United Kingdom). In 2008, male IT professionals earned £650, female IT professionals earned £550, and total IT professionals earned about £650.

(Note that the Y axis does not start at £0.)

(Via The F-Word via Geek Feminism Blog)