New York Wins Because It Has More Girls (and other tidbits of insanity from the tech community)

tumblr_m585xyxrjm1r06u14Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t live in a fantasy world where we get to define truth and memorex. There are many areas of life that are grey areas. Then there’s right and wrong, correct and incorrect, proper and improper, truth and consequences.

I had a conversation recently with a third party developer that was maintaining some code for a client. It went something like this.

Me: Hey, we’re having some problems and I noticed in the logs this error that occurs anytime we encounter the problem. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it seems to have to do with this code. Can you look?

Him: If you turn the error reporting down, then it won’t appear in the log.

Me: I don’t think you understand. I’m not complaining about the error in the log. The error helped me pinpoint the problem area. All turning error reporting down does is prevent us from seeing the error. It doesn’t make it go away. Please tell me how you want to fix this. Thanks.

This morning, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal. The article did your now-common comparison between east coast tech – more specifically, New York Tech – and Silicon Valley tech. That conversation is exhausted. I’ve already addressed regional fiefdoms. It doesn’t matter. Us? Them? Who’s got the biggest dick? It doesn’t matter. Let’s save that conversation for another time.

The article was mostly good, besides the cliché. Until the final three paragraphs.

Andrew Rasiej, chairman of NY Tech Meetup, was debating the merits of New York versus Silicon Valley’s nearest metropolis, San Francisco, at a recent conference when a young programmer chipped in: “New York will always win out,” Mr. Rasiej recalled of the exchange, “because it has more girls.”

A table full of female models was recently enjoying a girls’ night out at Abe & Arthur’s, a steakhouse in the Meatpacking District, when a man sent one of the women a note on a cocktail napkin. It read: “iamrich@google.com.”

The women posted the napkin to Facebook and crowdsourced ways they might reject the overture. In a way, it brought together avatars of the new tech scene with icons of established fashion power. But it also marked, in Internet lingo, an epic fail.

Let’s also ignore the money status cliche and address the sexism issue described in this article. I’ve done it before and I’ll continue to do it until we stop pretending that the problem doesn’t exist by simply changing the log reporting.

The tech community really likes to turn down the error reporting in a big way. New York wins out because it has more girls. Is that so?

We work, breathe, live, spend our weekends in and around, date inside of the tech world. As entrepreneurs and techies, I know more people with zero social life because their idea of fun is sitting at home at 1am on a Saturday coding a Ruby app. Maybe we are just socially unaware. Maybe we’re malicious. Maybe we’re really misogynist.

I don’t care what the excuse is. We must do better. All of us.

Having a balanced number of women to men on tech-oriented panels and at conferences is a good start, but we must fix the problem. We have to get our heads out of our asses and realize that women engineers can probably teach us something about our own world. We don’t know better. We know enough to hang ourselves.

The casual things we say to each other online or in person. The jokes we make that, to us, are jokes… are not jokes.

This is not a cry for political correctness. This is a call for sensitivity and thoughtful intent. This is a sobering call for respect and equality.

I’m talking to myself as much as am talking to you. Every time I make comments about a woman being hot, I am not simply being a man. I am disqualifying her from the intellectual marketplace that I live in. Every time I go to a meetup drinkup and I gravitate toward the woman at the bar at the same event, I marginalize her abilities as a woman in tech.

Are we supposed to just become asexual beings? No. Of course not. But there’s a time, place and way to do it and making comments like “New York wins because we have more girls,” is gross negligence. If New York wins, it’s because it has the best apps, companies, entrepreneurs and ideas… and women are partners in that.

Let’s wake up and get real and stop simply turning down the error reporting so we don’t have to address the issue.

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Struggle

I have a tattoo. I have more than one, but I have one in particular. The tattoo depicts scales that are balanced between an olive tree and a foreboding cityscape. Leading up to the scales, and disappearing into a vanishing point, a road winds its way into the horizon.

People commonly ask me if I’m a Libra. When I tell them no, they inevitably then ask about the tattoo which (clearly) was the reason they asked. I tell them what it really means, what really inspired the tattoo. It’s a principle at the core of my being.

A never-ending struggle for justice.

Justice can be many things to many people. Justice is often considered a validation for what one holds dear. To achieve what a person holds dear is proclaimed, “Justice!” Rarely does anyone consider that justice may result in an outcome that is not comfortable or desired bu that, by definition, is justice.

jus·tice noun \ˈjəs-təs\

the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments

The tattoo to me represents an eternal and ongoing struggle for justice. Justice, to me, is both legal and social. Equality in marriage. Employment and hiring rights. Civil rights.

As I sit here in the cradle of American democracy – Boston – I’ve had time to think about the Founding Fathers. I walked the Freedom Trail, beginning at Paul Revere’s home, and leading to the Old North Church where a pair of lanterns were hoisted into the church steeple to alert rebels in Charlestown across the river of the British arrival by sea. We know the story of that historic ride to Concord.

As I sit here in Boston and ponder the struggle for freedom that the patriots of that day engaged in, I am aware of the potentially fatal nature of that struggle as epitomized in the closing lines of the Declaration of Independence.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This has already been a long-winded post, but there is a point – and it has nothing to do with the normal topic of this blog. Civil rights has not made any significant advances in decades. While one can argue that the Civil War was a distant memory – a blight on American history (and it was), there are still those in the south who call it the War of Northern Aggression.

Abraham Lincoln, though considerably heroic in his legacy, was only able to accomplish what he did through the Emancipation Proclamation by getting creative. He could say, “All slaves are free” and he would not have a mandate with authority in the Union, much less the Confederacy. The only way he managed to use that as a tool and a rallying cry with any success is that there were many in the Union who could care less about slaves and were only interested in the preservation of the Union while others were abolitionists who cared about freeing slaves.

In order to achieve the goals necessary to both sides, the timing and essence of the Emancipation had to serve to unite both factions. That was, in fact, the genius of Lincoln.

Besides Civil Rights, we still have work to do on the Women in the Workforce side of things. Sure, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which enhances the ability of women to file lawsuits challenging unfair compensation. But that’s only a fraction of what needs to happen. Certainly, in the tech space, we need to eliminate Brogrammers and all their evil spawn. And that’s just in tech. Fortunately, Twitter is spearheading a project to get women into engineering. We need more of that.

And of course, equality in marriage is another topic that needs to be addressed.

But the point is, the struggle will always be there. With every achievement, there’s more to fight for. We need to fight and we need to push the issues. Be the change you want to see.

— Aaron Brazell

Used under Creative Commons. Photo by Jay Morrison.

Tech: We Need to Start Being Feminists. Stat!

 

Used under Creative Commons. Photo by Jay Morrison.

This.

That extends this I wrote about a few weeks ago.

This is pissing me the hell off! All that. It all needs to stop.

How are some of the brightest minds on the internet not seeing the harm in how we collectively perceive women, women in tech, women in our industry?

How is it funny to send nude photos of women to a prospective boss and get hired as a result?

How is it humorous to make jokes about “gangbang interviews” in a professional presentation?

How is this okay?

In the context of discussion around this article, someone said something to the effect of, “Well, you know, most resumés I get are from guys so I just hire best available.”

Bullshit. Recruitment is everything, especially when small. And not just for gender equality. You always want to find the best and sometimes the best are working for another company. Sometimes the best are working for themselves and they need to be convinced to come work for you. You have to be proactive to find who you want. If you take the passive approach, you’ll almost always get mediocre talent.

I’ve always proactively recruited as a hiring manager. We were reminiscing yesterday about the “vintage” days of b5media (which was just acquired, congrats!) when Brian Layman posted an old article describing his interview. We eventually hired him (because I personally recruited and hand-picked him) and he ended up being one of the best developers the company ever had.

If you want women in your company, don’t be a douche, go out and find them and hire them. Pay them top salaries along with all your guys.

I will eventually be a hiring manager again and I pledge that I will make every good faith effort to hire at least one woman for every man I hire. Obviously, I’m not naive. It may not always be possible. But to the best of my ability, I will do this.

Hey industry, we need to stop paying lip service to feminism. Let’s be feminists and practice what we preach.