It’s a power struggle.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the Python dev conference tweeting fiasco. In case you haven’t, what happened was that a few developers were inappropriately joking about dongles and made a woman sitting in the row in front of them uncomfortable. She decided to snap a photo of them and tweet about their indiscretion to her 10k+ followers on Twitter. This led to all parties being fired, including the female involved.
For most women working in Silicon Valley, this is nothing new. Men can sometimes be inappropriate, and some may even call it a bit of a ‘nerd fraternity’ or boys club. I’ll admit, it’s hard to get use to even if you’ve been working in the valley your whole life like me. But in order to be a successful woman in the tech community you have to learn how to handle these uncomfortable scenarios professionally.
My hypothesis is that this woman felt powerless in the situation given that she was predominately surrounded by men (let’s face it, it’s a PYTHON conference). Overhearing a group of men behind her make inappropriate sexual jokes pushed her over the edge. There aren’t many women (myself included) that would feel comfortable in that situation.
Unfortunately for the woman in question, she ended up going overboard by ultimately robbing these men of their power. Instead of tweeting their photo to twitter, it might have been better to be direct and tell them to shut up.
The #1 lesson for women to take away from this unfortunate scenario is to be direct. When we feel uncomfortable because someone is saying something insulting, we simply say so in a polite, professional manner. By doing so, we create clear boundaries for what is appropriate and what isn’t. These situations are opportunities for educating others on becoming more self aware in social situations. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved and it’s our job as women to drive this change.
The #1 outcome that I hope will come from this is an improvement in hiring strategy and employee training. Companies need to understand that their brand as a whole is defined by the reputation of their employees. There is a strong need to teach proper social skills and social awareness so we can create a more cohesive culture where men and women feel comfortable working together. While many men in Silicon Valley are extremely talented and have a high IQ, we’re seeing the increasing importance and value of a high emotional intelligence or EQ. If companies start to focus on EQ, I think we’ll see more inviting culture and ultimately be successful at building more successful products.
I use to do a lot of social advising for YCombinator founders and other engineers and I’m more than happy to do my part and help.