Why Women Are Still an Issue

July 17th, 2012
Women in Tech

If you are at all tuned into the tech world (or, frankly, the interwebs at all), you may have heard that Yahoo has named a new CEO – Marissa Mayer. As I listened to this report on the radio and read some of the posts and articles about this appointment, I was at first excited – a woman CEO in the tech world is always a good thing, right? But the more I read, and the more I thought about it, the more dismayed I became.

Sometimes people ask me if by separating out the issue of “women in tech” I’m doing a disservice to women, if there’s really still an issue, if I’m not overstating it. Let me put it simply – no, I’m not doing a disservice; yes, there really is still an issue; and no, I’m not overstating it. The publicity surrounding this recent hire is a perfect example of why all of this is true.

If there wasn’t an issue, the stories wouldn’t have to point out that she’s one of only 19 female CEOs among the Fortune 500. We wouldn’t be counting the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 because it would be so common as to not be extraordinary or press-worthy.

If there wasn’t an issue, the press would include information about the careers of the male CEOs’ wives, as well as the career of Marissa Mayer’s husband.

If there wasn’t an issue, they wouldn’t have to identify Mayer as Google’s first female engineer, or as “Google’s First Lady.”

If there wasn’t an issue, the press would not spend time making comments about her wedding, or giving her the nickname  “The Google Princess.”

If there wasn’t an issue, every other headline would not reference her pregnancy – they certainly don’t reference when male CEOs are about to become fathers, or sometimes even reference illnesses that might cause any sort of leave (besides Steve Jobs, of course). (To be fair, some articles at least acknowledge that “this kind of coverage doesn’t happen for males,” but they still cover it anyways.)

If there wasn’t an issue, I would already know more about her qualifications for the job than I do about her wedding, her husband’s career, her pregnancy, and her age. More importantly, those qualifications would indicate more about her ability to run the company than any of the latter information – which apparently is not the case, if you are reading up on the decision.

Is this move important and a step for women? Absolutely. Does it show equality in the world of tech for women? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, this only shows us how much farther we have to go.

So yes, I will keep presenting and writing and talking about the issue of women in technology. Who will join me?

  • Jane Tuttle

    Let me expand the conversation a bit although I know this is
    tech talk. Women/Gender are/is still the issue
    because we live in a patriarchal society.
    While women may make up more than half the college enrollment, women faculty
    and staff members are still underrepresented.
    Women still make on average only 77 cents for every dollar a man
    earns. The woman’s movement of the 1960’s
    has made changes, but overall it has just made life better for professional
    employed men and has opened some doors for women, but that the overall move for
    equality has not been realized.
    Doubt me? 30 years ago a
    professional man didn’t stay home with the sick child, now he can and no one
    thinks much about it.

    This article from the Guardian quite telling about the state
    of women and the choices we are forced to make in the U.S. It’s not much about the tech world, but how
    she is viewed because she can reproduce.
    Compare the UK version with the US version. Same topic, different takes.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2012/jul/17/marissa-mayer-yahoo-working-childbirth?INTCMP=SRCH

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/us-news-blog/2012/jul/17/yahoo-marissa-mayer-pregnancy?INTCMP=SRCH

    I’ve rarely thought that I was one who cared so very deeply
    about women’s rights and her right to make choices that reflect her values/who
    she is. But I do. It makes me said that the media has focused
    on Ms. Mayer’s gender rather than her skills.
    It also makes me said that she feels the need for a working maternity
    leave.

    Just another way to look at what you’ve shared. Interesting observations abound on this very
    talented woman’s selection as the CEO of Yahoo.

    • Wow, Jane – I think you just wrote your very own (awesome) blog post on this :-). Yes, these (and many other) disparities are still way too prevalent in today’s society for me to be entirely comfortable as a woman. Never mind there are men who are currently trying to make decisions about my reproductive choices without my say.

      Essentially, we’re both saying that what should be or could be a great moment for women in technology or careers has instead served to highlight how very far we still have to go.

      Thanks for your comments, as always.