Addendum: I want to make it clear to anyone reading this blog that I don’t condone the mistreatment of women in tech and that I acknowledge that it is a thing …if that’s not obvious in my addressing said problems. However I don’t want us all to be afraid of having a lack of power in our careers, because it makes us quit and I want to share something that’s helped me not be afraid about this concern that I used to have. I want all the women coming into tech who want to have the large amounts of impact and fulfilment and make the large amounts of money that I know they can, to not get scared away by Julie’s story, because I know some people are disrespectful, but they can’t keep you from success, and they didn’t keep Julie from success. I don’t want leaders of companies who ignore and devalue women working with them to be able to keep taking advantage of those women, and I think this is the only way WE can and will change that. Technical people are so valuable to companies. Even if you think you’re at a disadvantage as a woman, you’re at an advantage in terms of working and being where you want and getting great opportunities if you keep going and learning in tech. We all have so much power in our careers as technologists, we shouldn’t be made to feel like we don’t. So here’s how you DO have power and CAN get more.
I’ve had a really bad feeling about all this media attention we’ve been giving the Github fiasco.
I just want to share something with all of you reading that I’ve really stepped into and realized fully lately but also noticed gradually more and more over my life which is that the only way to have the things you want in life, is to have integrity, and the only way to have integrity, is to make a point, a very singular non-negotiable, fervent point, of only allowing yourself to talk think and be about the things you want to create in the world, and not talk think and be about the things you don’t. To look for the things you’d like to bring into your life, and reach out to grab those, think about those, be about those and avoid thinking about talking about and being about the negativity you don’t want. You don’t need to think the law of attraction is real to realize this makes sense, but yeah that’s also a thing and it makes this even more important than most of us actually realize, but I’m not going to talk about that here.
I think if we apply this to the lady freedom fighter that is Julie Ann Horvath we can all start to see how this works. Ok so Julie really wanted to help the women’s movement in tech (Fuck yeah!) but she seemed to be going into the experience with the false belief that large companies like Github somehow control the creative power and success of women in the industry. Based on this belief, it was her intention to go in, infiltrate the culture, and from the inside out change the company so that it was welcoming to more women so that they could be successful in tech. Holy shit thats a tall order for just one woman. Especially considering (if you’ve read books like “Good to Great”, great examples) how impossible it is to effect lasting change at a company that doesn’t have good leadership. So we all heard about what happened and heard about Julie’s great Passion Projects campaign (though not as much as we’ve heard about the other controversy, and she could have steered that if she could have realized at the time(not an easy thing to realize) that the most effective thing she could have said after releasing her statement about what happened is “I don’t want to talk about it further I released my statement. It is what it is. I’m moving on and I don’t want it to take away from the Passion Projects campaign lets talk about that instead.“), but lets think about “What if?”. What if instead of thinking that the key to our success is in the hands of toxic peoples’ ability to change, she started off thinking that the key to our success is in our ability to create things and surround ourselves with positive people in tech who aren’t toxic. Then, we can say (without arguing much about which one is true) that if she’d gone into the sector believing the second thing, she would have had a more pleasurable work experience because she would have probably chosen a different one possibly starting her own company, or not staying at Github as long as she did, and she wouldn’t have helped put so much power and attention in the hands of Github. She’s helped the company with her passion. And if they have a toxic culture with leaders who allow this, this means she invested in something we don’t want as women and I’m sure the thought of this is frustrating to her now (not trying to crucify her, just showing how beliefs effects our choices). What if all women believed they had all the power in their careers? Well no women would work for Github… and I don’t care what you think of their culture or the individuals who happen to be working there ok? IF Github has a toxic culture and you give me the argument that we SHOULD be focusing on and calling out companies with toxic culture (oh I know they exist) and we as women in tech stopped focusing our attention on what we didn’t like about tech and start focusing on all the places we really DO want to be that make us happy, and call more attention to people being inclusive rather than exclusive, and just create all of the things that we know we’re capable of bringing into this world (not saying we don’t already do that last thing) and having fun with it, then none of us would bother with anywhere that had really toxic culture for very long and none of us would be working for Github…THEN would that not hurt the company more than the statements of one or even many employees? And would we not all be better off for it as individuals to surround ourselves with things that are conducive to our growth and advancement? Now everything isn’t black and white, Github probably does have learning and growth opportunities for different women at different points in their careers, but you can only go so far..if it’s really not fair there..then leave, don’t waste your time. If you really really want to be there only stay as long as it works for you. Which is what she did, good, again I’m here to talk about who you think has control over YOUR career as a woman in tech and how it goes, not pick out what someone could have done better.
Look this Github thing scared a lot of women, I know it would have terrified me 4 years ago. 4 years ago I broke down crying in a board room with a manager because I was scared that he wasn’t giving me a fair chance. I thought he was bullying me and I really just wanted to have a conversation with him to try and clear the air because I liked him as a person and thought he must know better and I couldn’t help tearing up. After that talk though I started realizing I needed to be more firm with him and I realized that so much of what I read in articles in business and tech magazines psyched me out for my work experiences. I thought that all the power in my career lied with my supervisors, in what they told people about me, and that if they ever saw me cry I was screwed and maybe in other sexist industries it does, but not in tech. Even if you run into bullies, technical people are so valuable, so you’re valuable, you don’t have to put up with it. That supervisor thanked me for making him think about the way he interacts with people, we became better friends and had lunch even after he left the company. He even told me I was smart and should apply somewhere better, but even if he hadn’t thought about how his attitude effected me, I was wrong to think all the power was in his hands, and it shouldn’t have taken him telling me I deserved better for me to realize I could have even more opportunity and a better place to work, but it did, and now that I spend time focusing on what I can control and don’t spend time worrying about the things I can’t control, my life is much smoother, I get more respect and I have more time and energy to learn, grow, and play in life. It’s still hard sometimes but I know that when I let things go (while still educating people and standing up for myself in uncomfortable sexist situations) I feel so much better than when I hold on to the incident. I’m better off if it’s water off my back.
Now I know a lot of you might say. “Lana What if you really want to work with a certain technology and company X is the best at it and they have a severely toxic culture.” I get it. I’m a woman in tech, I get it. I’ve had my fair share of intellectual emasculation. (“Fighting these attitudes levies an emotional tax that constitutes a form of intellectual emasculation“ Neil DeGrasse Tyson on being a black man in astro physics.). I’ve been talked to..like I needed help, like I didn’t have agency. I’ve been at conferences and felt alienated, but I also realize now that I’ve avoided conferences, I’ve avoided open source, I’ve avoided OPPORTUNITIES because I was afraid of the words and opinions of people who would only have been negative because of fears THEY have. I also know that I don’t like being in around negative people if there’s nothing particularly rewarding for me there, so I don’t go, and I ignore the people who say “Aws but why didn’t you go 😦 were you intimidated?” But do you know what I realized? If I really want to try something all the shit I’m afraid of is bullshit. Because once you go to those places it’s exciting to face your fear and get your bearings and talk to those people who can teach you. It’s also bullshit because if I don’t spend most of my time caring about the foolish unconscious negativity of other people I can feel really grounded and the emotional tax I pay is far less significant, and I can actually enjoy what the people or experience has to offer me and as long as I’m still a great programmer and I keep learning (*feels her pockets and looks around* “Yup still true”), I’m going to keep having great opportunities no matter who wants to talk about me or troll me in the negative environment I walked into to learn valuable information. So if you really want to try working for that company just so you can learn, but you think it might be a negative space, just get your ass in there! Keep a group of good people around you that can support you OUTSIDE of work. Meditate. I had a boss who called me his “little code princess”(could have worked at much nicer places btw in retrospect but I still learned a lot) but on days where I did a Silva method meditation on the bus before coming in, I was on a cloud at work, he couldn’t touch me. I mean most days I would still laugh him off but if he was really intense or unorganized he’d get on my nerves, but never on a Silva day 🙂 :P. This guy would joke about a woman on the street being fat and not sexy (this individual has had sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him), and I’d joke right back about his cellulite, it was fun for me even, as long as I got away when I needed, mentally, and then physically(quit). Whatever you need. Make the most of your time, while you’re there, think of it as temporary, if they can’t keep you that’s their fault. Women tend to stay at places longer than men, keep that in mind, because I think sometimes we stay longer than we should. Go through every resource while you’re there, and respectfully and with a whole truckload of self respect ask anyone who can, to help you learn, and do you know what you do if someone treats you like a dumb bitch? The same rule applies, you give that as little of your attention as possible, don’t go anywhere near the negativity and focus on what you love there that you came there for, get happy about it, call it out, email it and tell it you want to buy it lunch and go over some code tomorrow, and you’ll get more of that, and if you can’t stand the culture, just go if it’s not worth it to you personally, it’s not worth it to you personally. You did your best, but don’t let your fear that it might be bad be the reason you don’t work there.
Now people might say. “If I ignore the stuff I don’t want I’ll get more of it if I don’t call it out, and other women will get more of it too” No you won’t. This isn’t the same as that. I’m not saying never call people on their shit. I do that ALL the time. I just have fun when I do it. Because if I’m around egoic people I’m not there to confront them I’m wherever they are having fun and learning, because I don’t go anywhere(not yet lol) to confront people with big egos. I make jokes about their false assumptions. They like this and it actually gets them to question themselves sometimes. I say EVERYTHING BUT call them an asshole outright and I do it with a smile and then if they go to a negative place again I ignore them and talk to the other people around. I’m just saying don’t focus on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want, so that when you DO call people out it’s moving things in a positive direction. Also avoid things you know you can’t control. I know a lot of stuff from Nintendo is sexist, but I’m not going to tweet angrily at them, they seem very unwilling to accept the fact that they can hurt/help culture. Telling parents about not getting their games for their kids? Ok, more effective use of our time as lady freedom fighters maybe, but personally (personal preference) I’d rather be tweeting support to a cool female indie game developer, and it’s a much more effective use of my time, and it makes me feel better in stead of worse. The bad stuff will bother you less if you don’t waste as much time thinking about it. Only think about it long enough to fix it, and if you can’t control it, don’t waste ANY time on it.
I don’t want us to waste any more of our valuable time working for people that are going to get in the way of our happiness and our success. That’s the whole point of the principle. Not wasting your time. If you’re a dev and you’re not shy about searching for a job and you keep looking you’ll certainly find something more suitable than a job with a culture that ignores and marginalizes women and be much happier for it, and the power of who you are will support them. I want us all to really commit to that because I think we can have a huge impact here. Tech is filled with more jobs than the number of people qualified for them can handle, recruiters hit us up all the time and learning about technology is self empowering. The large percentage of women who leave the field don’t see it that way because they think it will be bad everywhere and that all learning more technology empowers you to do is keep working in a shitty environment, but there’s so much opportunity and so much you can create for yourself here if you look around, opportunities are everywhere. I get that it’s daunting, but daunting is an illusion really, if you were a man what would you do? Focus on what YOU want, focus on your own entitlement. By the way there’s no wage gap in tech…Just a bunch of well paid men and women minus a large percentage of the women who came into the field in the first place. There are lots of different ways to interpret why this happens but we have choice as technologists, and choice is power.
Julie will be fine, she has a new job. Don’t worry about having her experience, because it’s brave to talk about discrimination on twitter, but if you don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of trolls, you don’t have to talk about your experiences with discrimination on twitter, and once you build up enough hutzpah, if you want to yeah do it if it helps someone, and when you do ignore the trolls because honestly if she chose to ignore all her trolls it would have made life easier for her. Am I holding her responsible for the fact that there are so many people outside her control who would tweet at her? No! Don’t worry about the people @tweeting you because you can’t control that. The most successful people in the world get negative messages all the time. How much time do you think they spend on that? How much time do you think Obama spends looking at negative tweets about him? Ok well if it’s beneath Obama then it’s beneath you ok? Realizing that is so important to all of us. All you can control is what’s on your twitter wall, and who can pm you, and if you keep it positive on your wall instead of constantly tweeting at the things you don’t like and keep being about what you’re about and trolls keep being about what they’re about, people will get it. No crowd control necessary. How often do you see what people tweet at the people you follow, if they don’t reply to those tweets? For me it’s never.
I am of the opinion that Hovarth would have had more joy and power in her career if she had started out with the belief that her power didn’t lie with Github. I am also of the opinion that almost all women in tech start out with that belief. She probably loved things about Github too, but you don’t get to hear about that, and I think it sucks that all women in tech get shoved our faces all the time, is the shit end of the stick and it makes us think that’s what’s in our future. I love seeing women in environments that support them and being outspoken from a more powerful place that way and I want to see more of that. I love seeing women starting their own companies and coming together, and want to see more of that, and I hate it when people try to force their false beliefs on me and tell me things like “Don’t women hate each other?”,”Lana why do you want a female business partner? I hear women don’t get along.” No they do get along, especially women who know how to ignore the bullshit that people keep telling them because they’ve learned that it’s not important to them as individuals. Women who are talented in business and tech and doing big things, they can’t wait to meet each other. And women who have honed this skill of ignoring the false beliefs that people feed us all the time, about who we are or who we should be, they recognize each-other, they fucking love meeting each other, and they lift each-other up. It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in these women love helping each other. They say hey you’re getting this too? Ok lets do it together! 😀 It’s not like they won’t talk to you if you’re not perfect, but it takes a BDASS(my way of saying badass) to know a BDASS and if you hone your inner BDASS you’ll be in REAL good company. ❤ 🙂 Not begging for scraps at the feet of other people who you think control your fate.
The perfect example I can think of this principle of focusing on what you do want and not what you don’t want in action is one of my favourite people on earth right now, the incomparable Greek Goddess that is Ariana Huffington. I remember hearing all of the drama that people were stirring up about her firing Mike Arrington a couple years ago. Everyone was so in a huff (hehe see what I did there? :P) about Mike trolling her. And Mike is like THE TROLL I mean look at his troll credentials:
- He got Leo Laporte to rage quit an interview. Did anyone else love Leo and grow up watching him on TV? Only the girls with nerdy dads? Ok..well the point is Leo is stellar and chill and making him rage quit anything is an accomplishment if you’re a troll.
- He has a history of violence against women.
- He’s the founder of TechCrunch, he has lots of loyal followers and he was OUT TO GET HER. Said “Arianna Huffington seems to enjoy f–ing with TechCrunch in her leisure time”, said TechCrunch has to watch its back because it has a “very touchy psychopath conducting a game of musical chairs to the death.”
What would you do if you were in her position? Seriously what would you do? I want you to think about this for a moment.
Well if you’re Ariana you don’t talk to anyone about all the toxic comments and then you throw a fabulous party with all of your classy intelligent friends including several nobel peace price laureates, and you win like a boss because of it.
Does anyone remember that? I bet you can hardly conjure thoughts of when this was an issue in the media because now all we think about when we think about her is the movement she’s created with her book “The Third Metric” Everyone wondered what she would say, everyone speculated about what her rebuttal would be, they made it feel and sound like the situation was a disaster waiting to happen and she sailed right through it, because she knew it wasn’t worth her time, and if you’re saying oh Lana you’re asking a lot of these women, no I’m not I’m asking far less of them because look how effortless Ariana make it look. Because she’s not pushing a giant negativity boulder up a mountain, she’s not trying to change anyone’s minds, because she gets it, she gets that you have to “Change the channel darling” 😉 (I wish you could hear me say that in her voice because I do a really great Ariana lol) She’s only surrounding herself with people who respect her because she respects her self enough to ignore the trash or take it out, or get somebody else to take it out for her 🙂 and then life becomes pleasurable for her and she’s able to share this and all her creations from that place with all of us and it’s marvellous! 🙂
People don’t respect you for telling them how they should treat you, they respect you for having integrity, and really the second way is the only real way you can have power and all the things you chose in your life. So I want to say to all the many women who I’m more than certain have been inspired to enter into tech, to hone their technologically creative super powers, only to have yourselves second guessed and scared and talked out of industry by people with excuses as to why they haven’t followed their own dreams or by people with false beliefs about women, by false beliefs about who YOU are or can be (whether it’s that you’re trying to be more like a man somehow by just boldly speaking your truth, or some guy is trying to white-knight you on a project when they’re not even as good at algorithms as you are). All false beliefs only have as much power for YOU as the attention that YOU give them, and it’s that simple and it’s that easy if you can really embrace that idea. If you learn to shift your attention to how you SHOULD be treated and what you DO want you’ll find yourself less in the presence of trolls and more in the presence of the people you know respect you and getting to talk to them, and then you’ve done your part, that’s all YOU can really worry about and if someone tries to help you like you can’t help yourself, just know that they’re wrong, knowing that is the most powerful thing you can do. Sure you can tell them that you’re more than they think you are, and that you understand that they mean well but that the way they are offering you help is disrespectful to you right now. You can do that, and sometimes doing that is a solution, but you can’t control other people so it won’t always work and do you know what’s even better for you than just doing that? Knowing all the while that it matters more to you that you’re happy and doing and receiving all you can be in life than the fact that some other person outside your control saw you as lacking. It’s far more liberating than trying to change them or stoping yourself from following a dream you had for the sake of avoiding the unpleasantness of that.
Your ego thinks that you are who you associate with. Your ego wants you to be the only woman at that company because that company looks prestigious and you think being associated with it is going to say something about you and about women. But your heart knows you don’t need them. Your heart knows that you are what you bring to life and not who you associate with so you better make sure you’re living and growing and doing your best and surrounding yourself with great supportive people so that you can offer more and more, by virtue of what they teach you and the way they make you feel about yourself. See this blog on rate of learning being the most valuable form compensation at a startup, NOT money, NOT perks, NOT equity. Your heart doesn’t want to work in a toxic environment and knows that you are smarter and more worthwhile than what you can get other people to think or not think about you, and your heart knows you’re going to find the right smart people who recognize that to work with, and you’re heart knows you’re gonna get your due. Ten fold, cuz you’re gonna make it work bitch.
Happy self loving tech lady freedom fighters ❤