IT Employment

Sure she's a good tech blogger, but what does she look like?

Women tech bloggers get comments their male counterparts don't -- ones concerning their appearance. What exactly is up with that?

Women tech bloggers get comments their male counterparts don't -- ones concerning their appearance. What exactly is up with that?

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I had an e-mail exchange recently with a former IT consultant who now writes about tech. Or at least she did. She has pretty much made up her mind to leave the field altogether due to some derogatory feedback she's received in the comment sections of her blogs. When I asked if she felt that being a woman was a detriment to a career in tech, she said there are too many factors involved to categorically say yes -- one's age, geographic location, and depth of knowledge also have something to do with how one is perceived.

But she did make one statement that, as far as I can tell in my rudimentary research, is categorically true:

"One only has to look at the comments associated with a story about a woman in technology, which is accompanied by her photo, to realize there are significant differences in how men are perceived as compared to women. If a woman is overweight, her weight will figure into the negative comments, versus a guy who is overweight. If a woman is young and pretty, it becomes especially difficult to find comments that reflect on the story or what the woman has done, as compared to how she looks."

Here are just two examples I found after searching the Web for about 10 minutes:

From a site called The Minority Report:

"Leah Culver gives me the heads up today by pointing out some significant women in the computer industry today. Personally, I've been meaning to dedicate a blog post or two to the incredible hotness of Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Product and User Experience at Google. Aside from her yummy gorgeousness, she must be incredibly intelligent to have been one of the first twenty employees of Google and still be there. I'd throw one up there..." [For anyone who thinks Marissa Mayer should be flattered by that first comment, we'll wait here while you go get some band-aids for your dragging knuckles.]

From a discussion on a CNET piece by Caroline McCarthy:

"Caroline... I think you're a pretty girl and all, but, really, who cares?"

What does a woman's appearance -- good or bad -- have to do with the information she is trying to impart? Why are comments about appearance such knee-jerk responses for some people?

According to a piece in The Washington Post, experts say that two factors contribute to the vitriol many women IT bloggers get hit with: The fact that "they're blogging in a male-dominated field, such as technology, and they're achieving a degree of prominence."

What has been my own experience as a female blogger for TechRepublic? At first, I got the occasional sexist e-mails commenting on my blog photo, some complimentary, some suggesting a face transplant, all annoying. But anyone who dared post something like that in the forum discussion was metaphorically maimed by the regular TechRepublic posters. Our membership is mighty good at policing the forums and making sure things remain fair.

My IT consultant friend listed Drupal as another example of an egalitarian community, "so much so that it could be a poster child for all other tech communities."

But, she says, "When you get into the Web 2.0 worlds, or the Ajax communities, or the 'hip' young California-based hot startup communities, women might as well stay home."

So let's open the discussion on this topic. Have you noticed a disparity with how women tech bloggers are treated vs. their male counterparts?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

145 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

Since this topic is essentially asking why, I hope that any statements I make will not be taken as a hate crime or something.... Believe it or not, men are starting to figure out women, we know the way to your heart is through your flesh. We know if we call a women fat it will hurt her and if we call a women pretty it will comfort her. If you did this to a man, it would likely be meaningless, you could call me fat and ugly all you want, proportionatly, there are less men than women that deeply care about how they look compared to the perceived standard of beauty. I don't think there is any way to avoid this in todays world, maybe in the future the standards will be different.

barntobehappy
barntobehappy

Being told I'm pretty when on the job just makes me feel uncomfortable definitely not comforted. Save that for personal relationships. Non of this has any place in a professional relationship period. On the web you have to expect it and put on a very thick skin or stay away.

Slayer_
Slayer_

To be honest though, I would love if people said I was handsome, I don't see why women wouldn't enjoy being told they are sexy looking. It IS a compliment afterall. Unless those that take offence are the same people that don't know how to take a compliment because they never feel they deserve it.

nica.graves
nica.graves

Many women are still surprised by the sexualism that exists in field of technology. But as we all know, men and women are different in our own ways. Yes men have their particular thoughts about women, but women also have their own particular thoughts about men! Yes! Women look at men in a sexual way too! even if we aren't "looking" for a relationship, we, women will also gravitate to the attractive (often yong) men. Those are my thoughts and I'm a young (30 year old smart (at least I like to think so) and attractive (so they say) woman in Technology!

cupcake
cupcake

I would have to say its all about how the 'compliment' were delivered. If it was the only thing ever commented on, as opposed to how she works, how smart she is etc., it probably isn't going to be the feel-good compliment you think it should. Another thing, being told they're 'sexy' is quite different from being called 'handsome' or 'beautiful'. Personally, I think its all about intent. I am more than happy to accept a compliment as long as its delivered properly in the right context. Having a leering look accompanied with 'hey honey, you're awfully sexy today' doesn't compare at all with a sincere 'great work'.

Bestware
Bestware

Well said! I don't get it why a woman would be offended by comments like these. They certainly concern themselves much more about their appearance than men do. The idea that men and women are the same is ludicrous, and I think that is what is causing the problem here. Men and women are different. We should enjoy the diversity, not try and pretend the differences don't exist.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]If you did this to a man, it would likely be meaningless,[/i] Yes, because men are (seen as) dumb oafs when it comes to knowing when they've been insulted... A line from one of my favorite commercials: "Hey Honey, this stuff tastes pretty good! I wonder why there's a cat on the label."

Slayer_
Slayer_

Everything you do is an accomplishment :)

tms020348
tms020348

Thank you very much for this blog. What you are commenting upon is incredibly important. I've been in IT/IS since the early 1970s and have written fairly extensively upon the progress (and now regressions) experienced by women in IT. Women made some great progress for quite a while in this industry, but are now the victims of a reactionary trend that started in the 1980s. The trends tracking women in this industry -- in terms of the number of women now employed in IT, the positions that they now hold, and their relative salaries -- show an very positive growth in equity up until about 1982. At that time, women in IT were approaching equity in pay and position. Since then, there was a significant leveling off, and then a collapse in the trend. Looking at the statistics, it's as though the Taliban were brought into management and began weeding out the ranks of IT. Through each recession, the number of women "downsized" almost always exceeded the number of men. The same trends happened in colleges and universities where IT was being taught. So what happened? Was it some sort of cultural virus that suddenly spread to convince women that Information Sciences and/or Engineering was an unacceptable area of study? Was there blatant discrimination? Or were there more subtle mechanisms at work within our culture? I have heard every excuse possible excuse in my career for why women are leaving IT. But to put it into perspective, I was also working with computers when women were forbidden to enter the computer room, for fear that their nylon stockings would create too much static electricity and short out the mainframe. Until management (and I believe IT management in particular) sets up equity standards for hiring and firing, it's going to be difficult to rectify the trends for women in this industry.

herlizness
herlizness

> actually, that hasn't happened in this recession > is THAT why so many women aren't wearing pantyhose these days? :) I don't get it; I think it's gross having bare feet in shoes all day long ... and I'll be damned if I'm gonna start wearing sweat socks or something

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

In college the trend was 95% men 5% women in the classes. The only woman that I talked to didn't go into the IT field because she didn't like computers. I am still not certain why she didn't switch majors. If women aren't interested in working on computers why is this a problem? Until there are more women graduating computer classes then there will not be more women in the IT field. Bill

steff16
steff16

I agree i might only be 16 but being the best comptuer troubleshooter in my school is a massive deal u get rediculed every day with the common "nerd, geek, you have no life" comments

KSoniat
KSoniat

Good for you!! My son was called a nerd back in 5th grade (he is 16 now) and I asked him if it bothered him. He said no. I asked him if he knew what it meant. He answered. "It means your really smart". :)

steff16
steff16

the 10 grand i droped got me a reptation, I have gotten 3 job offers from places like DELL (i live in austin tx the dell HQ) geek squad and countless comptuer repair shops. I only can afford it cuz my dad is a co-owner of a frys electronics. So we get some free stuff if not close to it. It opened opportunites for me and my life ahead

steff16
steff16

Thanks and I kinda understand i think im a bit to young to be worried but i try my hardest to keep my tech and social life seprate im just a girl that knows more about comptuers than most and the fact i spent over 10,000 probly doesnt help but i go out on fridays the normal stuff but people seem to ignore the fact that I will have a future and all the pot heads that give me crap wont.......

CMB from Omaha
CMB from Omaha

Just keep doing what you do, Steff16. One day those haters are going to be asking you for a job...or at least for your help! ;) I know, because 35 years ago I "WAS" you! Best of luck.

kferraro
kferraro

Steff16, I am glad to see you posting; your comments though brought some thoughts to mind. First, where I come from... "mom" age, working in IT in a public school with a co-worker my son's age about whom *I* have (privately) made the comments geek and get-a-life. To the get-a-life part I would say heed those words. It will make you well rounded and able to better communicate with those around you. Communication is ALWAYS the key to advancement; how could you share your knowledge if you were not an effective communicator? To the geek part I say be proud of it; geek does mean smart. Remember thought that most of the world is composed of non-geeks and they too are often smart, their knowledge is no less valuable because they may be technically challenged. You will go far and be more satisfied if you are able to put your knowledge in terms that non-geeks can understand and are able to treat everyone with respect and kindness. IMHO, women who are geeks can be the perfect interface between technology and the technologically challenged. Good luck in your future endeavors; we need people like you.

steff16
steff16

But in a certin way your right and so is your son. me, i dont get the best grades and im not the smartest but i try to be the best at what i do. by doing so the redicule and the hate is worth it!

santeewelding
santeewelding

That in your case, you are told so because you know better -- way better. Same way I would not hesitate to call the brightest people here, dumb ass, since they know better. Looks like that includes you, sparkling eyes.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Through highschool, there was lots of girls in my class in computer sceinces, why then did only 5 proceede to college out of the 60 men, I do not know. Even worse, only 2 of those girls didn't drop out, and only 1 actually graduated at the same time as me, and just barely. Does this simply mean womens brains are not geared to programming logics? Is it therefore true that women have far more potential to be "Artsy" then men do, while men have more potential to be scientific than women do? I really do wonder.

KSoniat
KSoniat

In this area Clemson University has the most sought after technical programs. My first degree in Music Ed was at USC (U of SC for those on the west coast), and when I decided to go back for Computer Science I went to USC Upstate because EVERYTHING transferred, and I didn't even need to pay a registration fee. When I graduated with a 4.0 having taken 3 math 3 computer science each semester I went to a local company that gives a logic test as part of its hiring process. There were 7 grads from Clemson, myself, and a friend of mine from USC upstate whose first degree was Forestry. I was the only female. The hirer didn't give me grief for gender, but questioned why I would go to USC rather than Clemson as it was obviously the better school. Well.... I scored the highest on the test, and my Forestry friend scored 2nd highest. The hirer actually apologized to me, and said they would have to rethink the "Clemson is better" stance. People will always find SOMETHING to be biased on. Generalizations are made all the time. I always like to be the exception that proves the rule.

KSoniat
KSoniat

Hard to make a living at it - but a great hobby!

steff16
steff16

one day i just went and got a BC Rich Warlock and started playing guitar, took about three years but i won my schools battle of the bands and thats as far as i have gone

KSoniat
KSoniat

Back then....not bad.

KSoniat
KSoniat

It was Music Education in the hopes of getting a teaching job - My major instrument was flute / piccolo. Played tenor sax in jazz band. Started on piano. I was the piccolo player for the VA state band as a senior in HS and received a scholarship to USC. To be a band director you must be able to pick up an instrument to demonstrate "characteristic sound" so I also took a semester of oboe, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, french horn, percussion and cello. I took guitar as an elective. (Just don't ask me to sing)

JamesRL
JamesRL

The whole point of recognizing each other as individuals rather by by our sex, race, education, religion etc., is because sterotyping isn't 100%. I could posit a theory that Clemson grads on average are better than USC grads, and I might even be able to back that up with evidence. But should I use that theory when looking at individuals who graduated from each university? Gee, some people garduate at the top of their class, some at the bottom, by applying that stereotype I could make an awful choice. The same applies to many things. Many people have made assumptions about me based on the fact I'm white, male and in management, plus the fact my wife doesn't work. I'm happy to say I puncture lots of those negative stereotypes. What was that Music degree in? Performance? James

santeewelding
santeewelding

Your own wrapped distinctions of "woman" and "man". Unwrap them. Instead of encapsulating the event entire in those two higher orders, try in addition the lower of "male" and "female". The lower bear a direct relationship to not only the higher of "man" and "woman", but to the event at hand. That I am male alternatively retards and advances my achievement of manhood. My manhood does alternatively the same for my humanity. My humanity, my being. Your quarrel leaves all this out. Leave it out and it may bite your ass and your thesis. It surely bites ass when it comes to your antagonists.

Shellbot
Shellbot

I'm going to sit back and think about this for a bit... I think I almost understand it... That worries me :)

sidekick
sidekick

Yes, I admit it, I'm a man. When I read a blog, My opinion is based on the content of the piece and perhaps the credentials of the blogger, regardless of gender. Now if there is a photo of the blogger and it happens to be a woman, do I look at it and form an opinion of her appearence? Of course, I'm a man, and that is just something most men do, but to comment on it on the blog is akin to walking up to someone on the street or at a meeting and commenting on it - childish and stupid. Of course, it is easier to do when one can hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace.

Slayer_
Slayer_

The idea that a women can do the same things I can do is sexy.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Sorry, but you asked for it. Yeah, men can be sexist or a little forthcoming with their one-track opinions; the truth is, there are a huge deal more women that would be offended by sexual comments than there are men. Secondly, women can get away with it. I think it's all to do with the caveman thing, our minds are a brilliant and highly advanced evolution of a primitive, instinctive model whose base functions remain deeply embedded. These functions are primarily the predatorial instincts, the driving force for every species to survive by hunting for food and procreation. In conclusion, our primitive desire to seek-out as many mating partners as possible also drives us to seek the most suitable partners, which is usually determined by the face and sexual organs. Henceforth, we need to see your face to satisfy our primitive desire to pursue a mating partner. See it as a compliment. It's nature's fault - don't blame the individual.

joeller
joeller

Supposedly intelligent people can say the stupidest things. If you said that to a co-worker at work even to a male co-worker about a woman co-worker you'd be fired, and I'd be cheering.

KSoniat
KSoniat

Steff - glad you are enjoying it. But 23-24 would be the absolute youngest I would ever want to revert to. Hope you find that so when you get there too (as in you enjoy where you are at in your life).

steff16
steff16

yes i would love to be 16 for the rest of my life i drive a nice car (for a first car atleast 2001 camaro)

steff16
steff16

because your not. But like i said im not in a workplace yet, im in a school tech lab and your right about the racial words and shuch flying around but here in austin we get that every day. And about the sexual harassment comeing from girls, ur right again BUT the ratio is much greater for harassment to females from males that from females to males. i menn i have to deal with testosterone filled boys all day every day. I get called hot all the time, behing my back or to my face and it does realy suck im not gonna lie....

joeller
joeller

No it wouldn't. There are just as many case of women committing sexual harassment as there are of men. In addition, many people find discussions of sex in the workplace to be offensive regardless of whether they are male or female and regardless of whether the discsussion is carried out by the same or a different sex. A man entering a traditionally woman dominated workplace would have the same issues with the woman making comments on his sexuality. But it is not sex either. How many white workers have gone into a traditionally black workplace and been uncomfortable with the "N" word flying around. And how many Black workers have been made to feel uncomfortable in a traditionally white dominated work place with their co-workers using traditionally black slang words like "bro" and "dis" when talking with them. It's a matter of courtesy and consideration. "Do unto others...."

steff16
steff16

Me i dont have this prolbem im only 16 but because at school the sexual harassment isnt controlable it hits hard but even when i do get a job and if i experience "sexual harasssment" witch will most likely happen theres other ways of dealing with it the HE SAID THIS!!!! AND ALSO THIS! a law suite isnt the awnser im only 16 but im not that stupid. I lose respect for people like that

xmechanic
xmechanic

But if a woman said that about a male co-worker, it would be perfectly ok, right? Get a grip! If everyone would be more concerned with the job at hand and just blow off good-humored comments for what they are, a lot more work would get done. The main thing is having enough intelligence to know the difference and not over-reacting every time something resembling a sexual innuendo is mentioned.

kristina_johnson
kristina_johnson

Nough said. ; )

steff16
steff16

At work if you went up to a lady and said that, it woulldnt fly and we both know it

Jaqui
Jaqui

after all, it doesn't display images so they only get to see what is written. can't be making judgements based on appearances if everyone is command line text. :D

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

We can also start burning candles instead of electric bulbs too, makes everyone look warm and richly tanned. :D

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

That way when they read my postings, they can think I am tanned and hot. ROTFLMAO

Shellbot
Shellbot

I look much better in black and white than i do in color! Skin looks nice and clear, hair glossy and the bags under my eyes disappear.. :) Maybe thats the trick :)

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

but in everything. Some people cannot help themselves. Maybe they just cannot break away from the animal inside? I remember not long ago, I overheard someone (I knew) talking about the pres. election, and who he was voting for (and why). A few days later I inquired about his vote -- and he not only replied, but just a bit off (and people think I am 'off' a bit). He was going to vote for the old guy and Palin. When I inquired as to why, he said that "She is hot, and I would much rather watch her on TV than the other people" I had inquired a bit further, asking about any issues. He told me he didnt give a shlt, as long as when he watched on TV, a hot person was speaking. umm, 1 vote for McCain/Palin -- solely because Palin looks better. I kept thinking "what a f**king dumba$$" (and still think that)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"Built like a brick schitt-house, but her/his face will stop a clock." "How's our demographics lately, we need to hire somebody." "Dumb blonde..." "Retard" "Sally, get us come coffee please." "Victoria's Secret" "Chippendale's" "the gardener" "Human Resources" Hmmm... maybe not everything. Objectification sure gets around.

MGP2
MGP2

...who have nothing better to do than to display their tacky natures. Actually, I think it's because they're so insecure about their own looks and features that it makes them feel better to criticize others' looks and features. (Doesn't make it any less tacky, though.)

MikeZane
MikeZane

is always judged on her looks, especially in IT. It sucks, and it is unfair, and I don't care how think your skin is, sometimes it is going to bug you when that stuff happens. We can say it doesn't bother us, but truth is, because women feel more than men, those comments DO hurt, and men know that. That's why they say that crap, because it is a way to hurt and knock a woman back. I agree with Toni's observations. It is nice to see that this issue is being acknowledged.

NCWeber
NCWeber

I'm gonna have to disagree with you on that point. There isn't really that much difference between man and woman other than anatomical and relative hormone balances. Men feel just as much as women do, and vice versa. The difference is cultural. It's considered taboo for men to express themselves emotionally because they would be seen by peers as "weak" or "unmanly" (whatever that means). In addition, as soon as one deals in generalities regarding human traits, you've already lost the argument because often there are way too many exceptions to prove the rule.

bradfiel
bradfiel

NCWeber, I think that was very well said and I must agree with you. that was a refreshing comment.

MikeZane
MikeZane

During the day, we have night when there is a solar eclipse. Does that prove that we don't have a rotating earth? That is the major reason women still have problems. Too many people say, "Look at this one exception, therefore the rule is disproved" while the rest languish. We can't fix a problem we refuse to see.

joeller
joeller

"No generalization is true; No even this one." Mark Twain

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