Professionals Do Not Discriminate

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I am tired of the headlines that I am seeing lately. Whether it be the ridiculous comments made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (which he did issue an apology for), or the incredibly disturbing tales of GamerGate which is at its core a massive organized instance of “slut-shaming” focused on Zoe Quinn. Before writing this article I read a news story about how Anita Sarkeesian must cancel a speaking engagement after an unknown person threatened to perform a mass shooting at the university where it was to be held.

Now I know that the issue of sexism is not confined to the video game and IT industries, but I am just becoming more and more disgusted with my profession being associated with sexism and discrimination. I am not disgusted that these stories are being reported. I am disgusted that these stories have merit in pointing out that sexism is alive and well in my profession.

I am not basing this accusation on just the stories appearing in today’s headlines. I am basing it on my own personal experiences during my 15 plus year career in IT. I have seen male co-workers be openly sexist to female co-workers. I have been behind closed doors in meetings where senior IT executives talked about how women cannot be expected to deliver on lengthy projects, because eventually all women have an irresistible urge to get pregnant and will thus need to take nine months off of work (apparently they never saw any of the pregnant women who were obviously in their third trimesters still working late nights).

The sexism is pathetically obvious in some cases to everyone but the sexist. One Vice President that I worked under talked about how Erin Andrews’ privacy being violated was probably the best thing that could have ever happened for her career. His logic was that all of the attention that Andrews was receiving now made her more desirable as a journalist.

That kind of logic is absolutely absurd. Sexist logic is always absurd. That is why sexist logic is not the logic of an IT professional. Sexist logic is not the logic of any professional.

Professionals put the work first. What a person deserves in terms of opportunities and compensation is based on only three criteria:

  1. What skills does the person have, and how do those skills relate to the work to be done?
  2. What is the person’s reputation for delivering results?
  3. How will the work challenge this person to deliver his or her best?

That is how I want to be judged as an IT professional, and that is how I want all other IT professionals to be judged. It is how I want my daughter to be judged as she pursues her career whatever it may be. I do not want her to be pigeon holed and limited simply because I contributed an X instead of a Y chromosome to her genetic code. I also have a son, and it is how I want him to be judged as I do not want him to be treated better for no other reason than his anatomy.

We need to end this type of behavior appearing in the headlines, whether it be in the form of sexism or other forms of discrimination. Not just in the IT profession, but in all professions. The work comes first, and part of that work is to ensure that all who are willing to step up to the challenge are welcomed and appreciated. Otherwise we do not have a profession at all.

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