thoughtwisps One commit at a time


Two people, two senior leaders in technology whose work I follow and respect, recently had an inflamed public exchange on Twitter, which made my heart sink. The exchange was about a piece of advice that one of them had published for women in technology - ‘women in tech’ as the movement is usually known. I read the post, not once, but several times. I didn’t agree with all of it. I thought some of it was problematic, the other part practical. It seemed like advice that actually acknowledges that the real working world is not always a nice, fair, just place and I appreciated it for its candor. But advice is just that: advice. It’s not a how-to manual or a guaranteed way to succeed in an industry. It’s often based on the author’s own experiences or the experiences of those she has worked with or mentored. It won’t work for everyone and every life situation.

Although the media is infatuated with the narrative of the genius, Harvard drop-out techie founder, who loves hoodies, raw water and waxing lyrical about the upcoming tech brotopia, there are other stories out there, other ways of being in tech and being successful. There is no one guaranteed way to make it as a ‘woman in tech’- three words which are problematic, because we are people before we are a gender, especially before we are a society’s idea of how our gender should act and behave in the world. This is not to say that gender does not affect our lives - it does, sometimes with extremely devastating consequences.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that every woman’s tech career will be different and there is no advice that will work for everyone.

I wanted to share some of these half-baked thoughts on the platform and initially retweeted a few posts and commented, but after a while I gave up and deleted the lot. Twitter is ideal for half-baked steaming hot takes, but this is one fire I don’t want to throw more kindling on. I don’t know what value I can add beyond restating what other people have already said. It reminds of the time another prominent developer (who happens to be a woman) criticised some women in tech groups. There was lots of unnecessary hand-wringing and hot takes. But also a few well-measured responses. If we as ‘women in tech’ can’t take a critical look at our movement and its aims and can’t tolerate scrutiny from people who don’t agree with our goals, then what are we really doing.

Also, I’m just tired of talking about this. Actions speak louder than tweets or words. So that’s what I’m going to focus on.