Two Big Reasons Why it's So Hard for Women In Tech

By Cate Sevilla

Whenever anyone asks me why I think that there are so few women at major tech events, like Le Web, I always try to make a big point of mentioning that "men are not the problem".

Men are not the reason that there is not a higher number of female speakers at these things. Surely it's not the men in charge's fault that there are so few women turning up to male dominated tech events. It's not their fault we don't feel more entitled to go. It's not their problem; it's our problem and our responsibility to change all this...


Well, that's how I did feel up until this weekend. And maybe once I've calmed down and taken a breather and accepted that two men with apparently sexist views of the world do not rule the world, I won't feel so angry.

But, ladies, here are two gigantic reasons why it is so fucking hard for us to not only be taken seriously, but to feel entitled in the tech industry:

1. Proof That There Were "Girls" At Le Web

On it's own, this photo is fine. She's a beautiful woman wearing a nice outfit. She's working at Le Web.

Now add into the equation the tags. Then the comment at the bottom.

Then take this tweet from the conference's organizer using this photo as "proof" that there were "girls" at this year's Le Web.

Why not use a photo of a woman in jeans working hard on her laptop, to show that there were women there? Not "girly" enough? Not as "H O T"?

I really hate going off on traditional feminist rants, but for the love of god. I suppose, "my problem", sir, is that, once again, even at a tech conference, women are being objectified. Sexualized. Plain and simple.

How can you not see that?

2. "Quite Simply The Best Commercial Ever Made"

While I absolutely appreciate the naked body, breasts, and a beautiful woman as much as the next person - there comes a time when you have to draw the line between offensive and tasteful nudity.

A commercial with a one fully dressed man, and a pack of women dressed in Lycra thongs who end up sky diving topless for no other reason than to give a bunch of dweebs hard-ons is offensive. Offensive because it's just plain stupid. Brainless, if you will...

Link: Fleg Master Tlpizza

It's fucking pointless, even for a TV commercial...but that's not what bothers me.

What bothers me, is TechCrunch's Michael Arrington declaring this commercial to be "quite simply the best commercial ever made".

What bothers me even more, is the TechCrunch commenters who say that the people who have a problem with this commercial are simply "prudes", or "feminazis". Or gay.

"It’s all the feminazis in the workplace. Can’t do anything any more without fear of it being sexual harassment."

However, a lot of people defended all the "homos" and "feminzzis" who hated this commercial, and said things like:

"Did someone hack TechCrunch and posted this as Michael? It is the only explanation I can imagine at the moment."

To have two of the top male entrepreneurs in both the US and European tech scene, post two, blatantly sexist items within a week of each other is just depressing. And infuriating.

They don't see or care that what they've done is completely sexist, and for them to not understand how this makes it 100x harder for women in tech and just women in general to do their job and to be taken seriously - what the hell does that say about the state of the society? The state of the tech industry?

They've just proved that sexist attitudes still exist in male CEOs and Editors of websites and web services and web conferences that millions and millions of women use, read, and participate in.

You'd think they'd be a bit more progressive and liberal in their thinking and in their actions. That they wouldn't be cool with their commenters calling people who had a problem with what they've posted "homos" or "femizazis".

You'd think that two people who pay millions of dollars into promoting their products and into maintaining their readerships would care more about alienating and offending a huge chunk of their supporters and product users with one thoughtless comment or post...

You'd think that when you asked these guys about why they chose that photo as proof that there were women at a conference you wouldn't be met with "take it easy" and "what's your problem?"...

But, there you have it.

Thanks for the support, guys.

Mon, 15 Dec 2008 17:00 (GMT+00)
21 Responses

I've been saying this for years. Get tired of snarky male bloggers intro-ing me as a "paid" female blogger too. You're post is great, will it change? probably not in our lifetime.We will always be judged on the size of our knockers and bums.
Just like male authors, artists, chefs, surgeons get top billing, so do many fucking boring male bloggers. What can I say Cupcate except blind them with your brilliance and pour coffee on their crutches when they stare..

Donna Jackson
Mon, 15-Dec-2008 17:32 GMT

I watched that advert, and although the women were 'hot', and I liked the cinematography of some of it... I completely agree with what you were saying.

It's a shame I didn't get my ticket for Le'Web in time, because you can bet I would have dressed up especially. I want to know what the reaction would be to a load of crossdressing people there

Okay, i don't want to trivialise the situation, and is outrageous. I think it's the risk of doing things on the cheap, and when I say that, I mean dong things on the internet that take less of a budget. When I work with companies to organise being promotional events, there is a huge budget and everything that goes into the public domain is scrutinised by at least 5 people over two departments - but again, thats with a huge budget and lots of man power... and it hinders your work with loads of red tape.

I think it's hard to get balance right, and obviously Loic hasn't got it yet, like most people on this earth. but life is a learning experience...

In review, I guess having a PR consultant/guy/girl/person is always helpful, if the budget allows.

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 17:47 GMT

Err, I just sat through that stupid vid.

For the record, I'm male and adverts like this make ME feel cheap and manipulated too. See also: Lynx deodorant in the UK.

I will actively resist buying a product if they use these tactics. Because I prefer to view myself as a sentient being, capable of making rational purchase decisions.

Sexist ads cheapen men as well as women.

Carl Morris
Mon, 15-Dec-2008 17:48 GMT

I must admit that I read this, I wondered what the heck you were talking about when you mentioned the tags. (I'm the guy that took the photo.) And then I went to check the photo again, and noticed the tags my thoughtful visitors had added.

That depresses me.

I've left tagging open on all my pictures on Flickr, and it's very, very rarely used by anyone but me. And this is the picture that triggers people into action?

Adam Tinworth
Mon, 15-Dec-2008 17:58 GMT

Adam -

Again, on it's own the photo is fine. To be fair to you, the tags are completely SEO friendly and all the other photos in your Le Web set are just as specific. It's just that, combined with the comment, combined with how it was used that I have a problem with.

The photo on its own is fine, and I think I already mentioned that to you. If not, I apologize. I'm not attacking your or the photo - but how it was used by other people.

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 18:05 GMT

Donna -

Thank you! Will it change completely in my lifetime, no. Will there be major changes in my lifetime? Yes. And I hope that it's people like you and me and the millions of other women in tech that help make those important changes!

Sebbywood -

If the women hadn't of taken their tops off, it wouldn't have been as bad. It's a well shot commercial, just a shame what they did with it! Thanks for your comment!

Carl -

You're right, it totally cheapens men and women. The Lynx adverts are the worst. Thanks for commenting, Carl!

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 18:10 GMT

I get a bit bored of the whole debate why there aren't enough women in tech, but you raise good points here. A couple of years ago the comments/content may have mattered to me personally and driven me up the wall.

Now, I'm like, yeah, whatever. Though I know many people like yourself will find it offensive, and understandably so.

It's not just the tech industry that suffers from lack of women and childish comments. Does it really matter why there are more women or men in a certain industry? More blacks than whites? More disabled than non-disabled?

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 18:10 GMT

Hmm. Some of the tags were rather more specific than I'd generally feel comfortable with...

I'm aware that you're not attacking the photo. :)

I'm just expressing my slight disappointment with humanity as a whole, with the focus of the additional tags on what one might describe as the sexualised elements of the photo.

On the counter-side, I do think it's encouraging that the other photo you link has been favourited far more.

Adam Tinworth
Mon, 15-Dec-2008 18:10 GMT

Awoooooman -

(Did I get the right number of 'o's? lol)

Thanks for comment. You're right, it does get a bit boring, doesn't it? Plus, if you get truly pissed off about it every time some idiot says something sexist, you'll give yourself a heart attack.

I think it does matter why there aren't that many women at major tech events, etc, just as why there are less black people or less disabled people...If we just shrug and say, "That's just how it is..." we fail to look at the blatant problems that exist within an industry, such as sexism, or racism, etc.

We fail to see the obstacles that are in those people's way. I'd rather spend my life trying to knock over an obstacle with a plastic hammer than simply shrugging it off and ignoring it...

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 18:16 GMT

Arrington is a notorious jackass, I'm not surprised by that article at all.

It's a shame that shit like this is still going on. My experience has been at the major tech events I've attended that there are lots of women in attendance; but, that they are often steamrolled by the men there. And, the lack of women panelists and speakers is *very* disturbing. I know tons of really awesome women in tech - from writers to coders to engineers to VPs to PR/marketing to community interaction... yet their voices are so rarely heard on these here innerwebs as "authorities" on the topics they clearly rock the house on.

Someone needs to start a female run and edited version of Tech Crunch - a site NOT devoted to gadgets as they apply to women/fashion - to discuss technology in similar way to emphasize what a true lack of the female perspective there currently is in this business vertical.


Good article Cate!

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 20:15 GMT

Great post. I have a specific objection to the "Best Commercial Ever Made" and that's about the type of woman displayed. I'd bet that 99% of them have surgically altered bodies. This perpetuates the myth about the ideal female form which is so damaging.

Mon, 15-Dec-2008 21:24 GMT

completely agree with Victoriajane.

Tue, 16-Dec-2008 18:04 GMT

It's shocking, isn't it, that supposedly intelligent folk like Le Meur and Arrington still don't understand the difference between sexual repression (which those who opposed their views on the above have been accused of) and sexism. Does this really have to be explained - again - to them?


Girl with a One Track Mind
Tue, 16-Dec-2008 18:33 GMT

In Michael's defense he did say that the ad would be just as good without the bare breasts. Personally I think it would *better* because then I wouldn't feel guilty watching a bunch of old guys staring at the women...

On a side note, did the ad remind anyone else of the part of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Zaphod and several of the other characters are trapped in Slartibartfast's planet manufacturing catalog? One of the planets has an endless stream of naked skydiving women.

But I digress. I would love to have more women in IT (especially my area, computer programming/software development). That has nothing to do with having attractive women around - I'm a gay man - and everything with the principle of diversity. At my college we currently the computer science department is about 5% female students. Pathetic. If there's anything I can do to help that happen I would love to know. If that includes not making a comment about a particularly beautiful woman (yes, I can figure that out) I want to know. Ladies, can you help me on this one?

Alevar Terbolizard
Wed, 17-Dec-2008 22:00 GMT


the CS department at my university is about the same. One of my friends was taking courses and what he noticed was, the higher up the course, the less females, until about third year when it leveled out to two girls. That's it. 45 - 50 people in a class and two girls. What's surprising is that my university has about 60% girls taking classes. What the heck happened? Certain parts of Engineering are definitely male prone as well.
Me, I'm a GIS girl. A map making geek who loves Open Source and was actually amazed when my GIS course this year has roughly 50:50 split of genders. I was surprised. Most of the other courses in the higher tech? Men, almost exclusively. It's depressing.

Sat, 20-Dec-2008 00:09 GMT

"One of the reasons it's so hard for women in tech because one of the guys at TechCrunch says he likes looking at breasts?"

Um, right.

Tue, 23-Dec-2008 16:32 GMT

I really don't know why you are surprised that the tech world is sexist. Most industries are. I attended Blog World Expo this past fall and wrote a post criticizing the lack of women keynoters and people (including many women) jumped down my throat. What I got out of that whole episode and what keep me going is that if someone is complaining about what I'm saying, me thinks I am going in the right direction.

This is an important issue and one that makes people feel very sensitive. We need to be able to have a dialogue without all the name calling.

Thanks for taking a stand.

Melissa Silverstein
Women & Hollywood

Melissa Silverstein
Wed, 07-Jan-2009 22:22 GMT

Hello. Thanks for posting this.

I've had long, long discussions re: conferences with friends. I've been unable to go to conferences, basically, since my kids were born because there is *never* any childcare. Now, personally, i don't see that as a feminist issue, I see that as a parental issue, which just happens to skew toward being extremely supportive for women who might just be able to go to a few more bloody conferences. I really cannot see why there is never any provision. We'd pay! If there was a guaranteed creche at a 3 day conference it would be extremely useful for me to attend in the states, you know what? I'd strongly consider being my 2 year old son over, and having a few days holiday tacked on to the end. Long confs, short confs - whatever. It should be standard and it's shameful that it isn't.

On the point re: casual sexism, sometimes I kind of despair, you know. I'm a strident, full on 70's-up feminist who is fully aware of the hard, hard work that our sisters before us did in the limited number of countries where women have at least basically achieved legal equality on paper. I'm also fully aware that there are many countries on a global scale where women are murdered in state sanctioned executions because they were raped, for example - that's a fun one.

Against that backdrop, it is just astonishing that many women have dropped their guard, think that the word "feminist" is an outdated term, and enough of them seem to agree that sexualisation of women outside of legitimate actual erotic situations (where, let's face it, if men and women *aren't* sexualised, then something's going wrong!) is something to actually engineer for their careers! So then we're in a situation where people like Arrington or Loic will dismiss the 'rantings' of those who are thinking about the bigger picture as being - ugh, that bloody phrase, "feminazis". Unfortunately, I kind of run out of patience and start uncontrollably swearing at that point.

God, I could go on and on it drives me bloody nuts. However, I'll shut up I think. Having said though, that the 2 years of feedback about the pathetic objectification of female delegates at Le Web has really put me off going. Endorse that kind of attitude, or maybe focus a decent conference in the UK, where the organisers aren't institutionally sexist? Hmmm.

Thu, 08-Jan-2009 10:42 GMT

Am I missing something here? This ad is awesome! It's not sexist, it's sexy. I'd hire any of these sexy sky diving ladies, any day :) Hehe.

Sun, 04-Oct-2009 19:38 GMT

A lot of time it's not that men in the tech industry are being deliberately malicious but that they just don't get it. Like any male-dominated field, the male point of view is considered "normal" and you have to work hard to make them see things from a different point of view Which gets tiring.

Incidentally, when I was writing for TechCrunch Europe and complained about stuff like this ad in the pages of TechCrunch US (albeit not in the most diplomatic way) I got precisely nowhere.

Fri, 11-Dec-2009 15:49 GMT

You'd think that when you asked these guys about why they chose that photo as proof that there were women at a conference you wouldn't be met with"take it easy" and "what's your problem?"...
Fri, 23-Apr-2010 01:28 GMT

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