Facts From a ‘Woman in Tech’ to Journalist Milo Yiannopoulos

I recently read an article published by breitbart.com titled 14 Facts the Tanking ‘Women in Tech’ Movement Doesn’t Want You To Know. The author, Milo Yiannopoulos makes an interesting, but very misleading and baseless argument against the current movement to encourage more women to get involved in the tech world. Please take a moment to read his article and then come back here to read what I have to say.

I would like to begin with a few facts about myself so that you can be sure my opinion is worth your while.

  • I am a senior Computer Science and Business major at Lehigh University, a leading engineering school in PA.
  • I am going to be a senior this fall and have taken all but one of the challenging “weed-out” C.S. courses that Lehigh offers
  • This past semester I held three positions at Lehigh:
    • Consultant at the WIRED help desk, a place where students can bring their computers with software issues
    • Assistant to the Athletics Technology Department, doing anything from inventory checks to building and maintaining the Athletics website
    • Grader for Lehigh’s Database Systems and Applications course, grading homework, quizzes and the final project, holding office hours, and being available on the online forum for students needing extra help
  • Last summer I interned at AAA Auto in Prague, CZ during my study abroad experience and worked with the marketing team to help design a database for them to store Google Analytics information
  • This summer I have been interning at Verizon Wireless as an IT Intern working on the DevOps team

I don’t want to sound like I am tooting my own horn. I am simply trying to give you a reason to trust my opinion and the facts that I cite. Milo is a British journalist. He may be older than I am, have more work experience than I have and have a larger network, but he does not know the ‘women in tech’ movement like I do.


Now let me address the fourteen arguments that Mr. Yiannopoulos made in his article:

1. The Women Who Want To Work In Tech Already Do

I would really like to see proof of this fact. The fourth ‘Fact’ is that there isn’t evidence of diversity, yet the author fails to cite any real evidence to demonstrate that this ‘Fact’ is true.

2. Most Women Aren’t Interested In Tech, And They Never Will Be

Please refer to number 1.

In my mission to encourage more women to enter the tech fields, I only target the women that have an interest. If a woman knows that she wants to be a lawyer or an HR representative, then I am happy to support that choice. I am not trying to deter women from following their dreams, rather I am trying to encourage the women that do want to be in tech to forget about the naysayers and dream big.

3. Women’s Brains Aren’t As Well Suited To Programming As Men’s

Now this one is interesting.

Side note: The author put two links in this point to make it look like he had sources for his argument. Readers, if you did not check those links, they both link back to an article that he wrote. The same article. I am not suggesting that his facts are inaccurate, but I just want you to see how deceptive this form of journalism can be. 

Here is an article written by a Forbes contributor: Women Surpass Men In IQ, But Are Other Factors More Important? So first of all, women’s IQ’s are increasing, and second of all, it doesn’t or shouldn’t actually matter that much. As the writer says,

It’s clear there may be some value to IQ as a marker of mental prowess, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Other factors, like motivation, creativity, and, adds Jung, persistence, may play at least as great a role in total brainpower and what we’re capable of achieving. Even so, that women are pulling up to – or past – men on the IQ front is an interesting marker of times changing, and it will be fascinating to see how we continue to forge ahead in the years to come.

4. There Is No Evidence That ‘Diversity’ Improves Company Performance

Here are a few articles that suggest otherwise:

How Diversity Makes Us Smarter – Scientific American

How Diversity Can Drive Innovation – Harvard Business Review

The evidence is growing – there really is a business case for diversity – Financial Times

There are a number of Google Scholar articles as well. Unfortunately I can only read the abstract since I am not signed up for any of these online resources, but the results of these studies are clear; diversity does make a difference. Google it yourself, it is there, despite what Mr. Yiannopoulos may have led you to believe.

From personal experience I can say that diversity is remarkably important. Verizon recently put on a hackathon for the IT interns. Teams that were not diverse did very poorly. A team that consisted of all strict computer scientists were unable to look at the big picture and see what the most effective and efficient solution was to the problem. The winning team consisted of only one male and three or four females. My team also did very well and it consisted of myself, two other females (one from Puerto Rico) and a male. We all came from different academic backgrounds and majors and had different levels of coding experience. We used our different skills and developed a very good solution to the problem.

5. Feminist Campaigners Lie About The Numbers And Reclassify ‘Science’ To Make Things Look Worse Than They Are

I don’t necessarily disagree with this point (but again, note that his one source is his own article) but that doesn’t mean that the numbers aren’t bad. Sure, the ‘women in tech’ movement only looks at computer science and not at other equally challenging and important sciences like medicine. Some numbers may be misleading and that is a shame, but that does not diminish the importance of the movement. It does not diminish the fact that women are in the minority.

A Los Angeles Times article, Why are women leaving the tech industry in droves?, shows us some statistics on females in top tech companies. Google, Facebook, Apple and Pinterest all have astonishingly low numbers of females in their workforce. Pinterest has the most at 21%. Based on these statistics, one might argue that the author’s points in #1 and #2 have some merit and that, perhaps, no matter what the women in tech movement do, the long-term interest is just not really there. However, until we see some actual change in how society treats girls and women interested in tech, it will be impossible for us to determine where the cause and effect lies. If women are still leaving the tech industry in droves, thirty or forty years down the line, after girls and boys are raised with the same exposure to technology and are encouraged equally to learn more about the tech world, I will accept and understand that women are just not as interested in technology. Until then, I will continue to encourage women to be who they want to be and go into the tech industry if that appeals to their interests.

6. There’s Vanishingly Little Sexism In The Tech Industry

Interesting. I don’t mean to sound demeaning, but this is coming from a male journalist who does not see what the women in the tech world see. I would really love to see the facts on this one. I am successful, have performed well in school and internships, and am very offended by this statement:

…there will always be a strong contingent of malcontents, particularly if you hand women a victimhood script that tells them every hardship they’ve ever faced in life is the result of sexism, rather than their own choices or shortcomings…

First of all, this is not just a problem with females, it is a problem with people in general. So please stop looking down at women as pathetic things that cannot work at the same capacity as a male. And second, this is not an explanation or excuse for how some men treat women in the workplace. The author is utterly mistaken if he believes that sexism does not occur in the tech world. And yes, I did read the sentence “At least, no more than anywhere else in society.” Okay, so since it happens everywhere else, I should accept that it will happen to me each day I arrive at work? No.

Let’s say that this is true, that the tech world is no more sexist than anywhere else. So women in other careers are treated just as poorly as tech women. Rather than suggest that we shouldn’t complain, maybe the women in other careers should start to stick up for themselves and speak out against the inequality. 

People need to stop ridiculing us ‘tech women’ for our “shortcomings” and “own choices” when we are standing up for ourselves.

To be honest, often times I think men do not even realize they are being sexist. Last year at my internship in Prague, I was partnered with two Asian males to work on my project. No matter how much work I did, when the managers spoke to us, they never addressed me. They addressed the men. This may seem trivial, but it is important. I should not have to prove myself any more than a man should at work. If I got the job, I should be respected and treated as an equal.

7. Identifying As A ‘Woman In Tech’ Is The Kiss Of Death For Your Career

I am “likely to be trouble” if I identify as a woman in tech? I’m in a minority. I wonder if Mr. Yiannopoulos would ask other minorities to not identify themselves with their group? Because I am identifying as such, men worry that I will file “bogus sexual harassment claims, which are rampant”? I love the generalization that most ‘women in tech’ act like this. Tell me more about how women are dramatizing the amount of sexism in tech.

I would appreciate if someone could please inform me of the companies that believe identifying as a ‘Woman in Tech’ is so awful. I want to make sure my application doesn’t land on their desk. I am very proud to be a Woman in Tech, thank you very much.

8. Women Already Have A Massive Advantage When Applying For Tech Jobs

Again I just want to note something for the readers. The author does cite a perfectly well sourced CNN article, but he sources it twice. For people reading through and just viewing links as facts, he again makes it seem like he has more sources than he really does.

If there is a natural bias based on identical applications, that is upsetting, I agree. I do not want to get a job based on anything besides my qualifications.

I will say that when it comes to the real world, not studies, women may have a better chance of getting the job because they are actually more qualified. Many of you have probably heard the statistic that women only apply to jobs that they are 100% qualified for while men apply for jobs that they are only 60% qualified for. A Harvard Business Review article discusses this: Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified.

So in the real world, we may be getting more job opportunities because we are really only applying for the jobs that we feel we can get. So when 20% of applicants are female and 50% of hires are female, perhaps it is because those 80% of men were just not as qualified.

9. Arbitrary Quotas Are Discriminatory And Sexist

I agree entirely! But then I see that he wrote this post: Here’s Why There Ought to be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths? So arbitrary quotas are sexist, but there should be a cap on women entering the field? Seems remarkably discriminatory and sexist. Not to mention that the author thinks that the cap should be at five to ten percent.

10. The Vast Majority Of Women In Tech Work In Marketing And PR, And That’s Totally Fine

If that is where the women want to be then I am happy for them. I am not attempting to push women out of the careers they desire.

Unfortunately, after mostly being in agreement, I went on to read the following,

Why not leverage your ability to recognise when men communicate poorly with customers, and make a pile of dosh while you do it, rather than complain that your sloppy code didn’t land you the CTO’s job?

My sloppy code? Let’s stop generalizing women and men. A woman can write code that is just as impressive as a man’s and there are many men who have excellent communication skills. In fact, that are women and men who can write impressive code and communicate well with customers; males and females with both skills, imagine that.

11. Being A Woman In Tech Is A Competitive Advantage

I support other women, I do not put them down. I do not view them as “losers” if they cannot do a coding assignment in a day. If that is what they enjoy doing, if they want to excel in the tech world, then I will stand beside them 100%. Not everyone is great at everything.

Let’s aspire to be better at the things we enjoy, not just the things are brains were initially ‘wired’ to do. I would much rather be happy doing things I enjoy than be miserable doing things I am ‘good’ at. I did incredibly well in my accounting courses, but I would never want to become an accountant. My brother excelled in economics and did mediocre in political science. Yet he just graduated from Columbia Law School and is moving to Alaska for a yearlong clerkship. Some may think our society will flourish if we all do what we are good at. But if we all focused our time at mastering the things we enjoy then we could excel even more as a society. We would be happy and motivated.

12. Stroppiness And Self-Pity Will Not Get You Hired

I find it entertaining that he says that women have the issue of “feelings over facts” when a majority of his “Facts” are simply his feelings…

13. You Can’t Have It All

Sure. This is an issue for everyone in the business world. Not just women. Being a leader in your industry requires time and commitment and less personal down time. Men can make that choice and so can women.

14. The Number One Reason Women Don’t Work In Tech Is: Other Women

Women who can in tech don’t need to get by on their gender, and they are often the first people to push social climbers and weak performers out so they don’t have to be judged by them.

Well if this is, in fact, true, then it is really unfortunate. I am a woman who “can in tech” and yet I continuously commit myself to engaging more women in the field. I want women to know that they can be here IF they want to be here. Maybe some women act as above, but again, don’t generalize us. 


Many people responded to his article in the comments section and agreed with him. I want those people to see how hypocritical and deceitful he has been. He uses the same link twice in the same sentence to make the reader assume there are two valid sources. Why use it twice? He makes arguments and counters the argument in his other articles. He claims to be writing about facts but only rambles on about his own opinion. Please try not to be brainwashed by journalists that cannot write factual well supported arguments. 

For those of you afraid of the word ‘feminist,’ then just think of me as an equalist. (Though you should know that I agree with this article: Why I Prefer the Word “Feminist” over “Equalist”.) I am not looking to force women into the field of technology and force men out. I am not encouraging companies to hire more women just to hit a quota. I am merely looking to change the way people approach the situation. We may always be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean there has to be inequality. I really look forward to the day when my daughter or niece comes home from her first internship and I learn that inequality in the workplace is as foreign an idea to her as blacks and whites drinking from separate water fountains is for me. And I do believe that day will come. You should too.

Please share your thoughts below.




Photo from http://www.thenashvilleglobe.com/nashvilles-women-in-tech-how-are-they-faring-part-1/

7 comments

  1. Wow! I have just learned more about YOU and women in tech (a road not taken for me, yet 15 years ago I was most attracted to it, as my 20-year marketing career merged with that very field in a huge company-wide development project) than I’d thought possible, Kathleen! Well-written, well-argued …….well done!

    Like

  2. Milo Yiannopoulos’s article isn’t in any way “misleading” or “baseless”. To suggest that he doesn’t “know the ‘women in tech’ movement like [you] do”, is a naive claim.

    Here’s why:

    1. You go to a small school with a virtually unknown Computer Science program
    2. You don’t currently and have never worked at a tech company (telecom doesn’t count)
    3. You haven’t mentioned attending any hackathons, conferences, or meetups outside of what your school or employer may have sponsored, which results in a skewed view of the industry.

    Milo makes a few generalizations, and that invites discussion, but most of your points are weak. Here I will respond to them.

    1.
    When was the last time you heard a woman say “The primary reason I’m not in tech is because I fear I’ll be discriminated against” or something along those lines? Right. Now, how many times have you heard excuses more like these: “It’s too hard”, “There’s too much work”, “I don’t understand it”, “I could never do this for a living”?

    The barriers to breaking into tech have never, ever been lower. An aspiring programmer doesn’t even need formal schooling to get into the industry. So, though the way the authors’ point is worded is confusing, it makes sense. If the author said “The women who want to work for NASA already do”, that would be another story. Tech is broad, friendly, and easily accessible.

    2.
    This is an undeniable fact. A great question to ask is “why is this true?”, and it leads all the way to how girls are nurtured early in life versus boys. By the time you can have an intelligent conversation with a lot of women (as well as men), the STEM ship has sailed.

    4.
    Diversity initiatives are misguided with regard to race and gender. The articles you reference are mostly fluff, and the truth is that some of most successful companies around the world draw their strength from homogeneity rather than diversity, especially when in their infancies. The focused teams that have (and have had) the largest impacts on the most successful companies in the world often have a lot in common. Think about early stage Facebook, Apple, Paypal, investment banks, and the teams that have founded successful enterprises throughout the course of human history. There are a lot of benefits of people being mostly the same that are often swept under the rug in the name of political correctness.

    8.
    It isn’t a secret that women have a significant advantage over men when applying to tech roles at larger companies. It’s like how women would have an advantage when applying to a college where the gender ratio is 90:10.

    10.
    This is an important point. Women can get degrees in computer science, women can compete in hackathons, women can get jobs at top tech companies. But, somewhat due to them gaining advantages in the application/selection process, their coding skills, as a whole, are much much worse.

    Think about the most complex coding project you’ve done outside of the classroom or workplace. What was it? Okay. Now search for some of its key functions on GitHub and see what’s there. My point? When women don’t have to compete as hard as men for tech jobs, they simply don’t.

    Think about all the companies you’ve worked at. How many women were actually nerves-of-steel, gun-slinging, shoot-to-kill, write-code-during-free-time, read-books-about-CS, FANTASTIC programmers? A disproportionate number of men in tech ARE what I just described, relative to women.

    11.
    You don’t seem to argue this, and that’s good, because it’s nearly impossible to do so. Unfortunately, points 8 and 11 are the most detrimental to the movement.

    13.
    You’re ignoring that a woman who chooses to start a family has to deal with pregnancy whether she wants to or not. Regardless of “gender roles”, this is a significant handicap. This is the primary reason for income disparity between men and women. Again, most sensationalist feminist articles will cite such figures while leaving out this vital fact.

    Encouraging more women to go into tech is admirable. However, pretending like there aren’t major shortcomings in the Women in Tech movement is exacerbating the issues- that there aren’t enough women in tech and that people in the industry have trouble taking it seriously. Reading your response in full leaves me with one question: what inequalities have you faced? To compare men and women working side-by-side in tech to the Civil Rights Movement is a gross exaggeration. Do you get bullied in your CS classes due to your gender? Has a lesser-qualified male been selected over you for some type of tech position? Do you get discriminated against in the work place?

    Let’s stop harping on problems that don’t really exist.

    Like

  3. Lol…You can read every google scholar article until a few months after graduating by VPNing into the Lehigh network…Just a heads up from first or second favorite snake….

    Like

  4. I have worked hard to further my Career in the STEM field and I agree with you completely on encouraging women to pursue their interests wherever it lies .

    I can’t tell you how infuriating and discouraging it is to read articles like those Milo writes . Especially the overwhelming agreement and “pats on the back” he gets from the comments section .
    Better not express too much sadness before I get accused for being an emotional “flower” or God forbid I “whine” about it or fall into a “well of self pity”. Milo and his band of loving followers can never see the difference between standing up for something that is wrong and unacceptable in the workplace but instead assume that we women are crying in the corner about not being given special treatment in the big bad world??? I don’t understand where he gets this perception from.. I know the stem world is competitive and I am ready as any man to get my hands dirty and I do it everyday. No I don’t expect to get flowers on my desk everyday and no I don’t need an extra safe environment to work.. What I do expect is due respect for my competence and contributions . There have been a few times where I have been passed over for handling a project just because it involves working in an all-male environment (despite the fact that I am completely fine with that requirement). And I went through the same situations where I was ignored in favour of my male colleagues just because I was a woman and as such was not expected to be the programmer in the team (#i was the only programmer)?? These problems are not huge and I can handle them as part an parcel of working In a historically male dominated environment.. however I shouldn’t have to and a part of me justifiably resents that.. Furthermore I am sure I’m just one of the lucky ones with colleagues who respect me and consider me to be a great asset …thus I only face these minor problems and I can’t hope to imagine what kind of everyday injustices other women in these environments face and how they overcome it .

    It really mystifies how Milo can claim to be an expert in the challenges women face in the STEM world …so much of an expert that he can advocate the dismissal of any support for these women.. Unless you take the time to venture out ..talk to women from these backgrounds ..make at least a minuscule effort to understand them.. Understand the problems they have faced and are still facing in order to be successful in the world they have a passion for . Instead they paint everything with a single brush as whining women who have no idea what it takes to succeed in the working world (seriously how stupid do they think we are ??) the mind boggles …I believe it takes a special kind of arrogance to think that all the complaints women make have no basis. It’s so easy to smugly type out an article ..but to really understand it .. To open your eyes and see not everything is black and white ?? Not so easy ..
    Anyway sorry to go ranting .. I applaud your efforts to give courage to women who may have concerns about joining a “boys club”…and show them it’s really not such a terrible place to be after all.

    Liked by 1 person

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