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Female Engineers and Coders Share Their Experiences With Sexism at Work

Two weeks ago, the digital publication Mic put out a call on Twitter asking female engineers and coders to share their worst experiences of sexism in the workplace. Due to the large amount of gender discrimination in the industry, it is no surprise that dozens of women responded within only 24 hours.

The responses ranged from subtle biases to extremely offensive and overt situations that went unreported and undiscussed at the time of their occurrence.

Annie, a 29-year-old software engineer in Texas, had fixed her male co-worker’s code while he was on vacation. When he found out, he called her a cunt in front of a meeting full of people, to which no one defended Annie but herself. The man later got promoted.

Polly, a 41-year-old software engineer in the United Kingdom, said that the worst feedback she had ever received in a code review, verbatim, was, “I don’t care. I only hired you because you wore a skirt in your interview.”

Some anonymous Twitter responses consisted of a woman being denied her yearly raise because she didn’t smile enough in the office and another woman who had her intelligence completely undermined by a coworker who began to explain to her what a database was, despite her having a Ph.D. related to databases.

A study found that women’s contributions on GitHub, a software development platform, are accepted more than men’s, but only when their gender has been concealed. When their gender is known, women’s ideas and contributions are rejected more often than those of men. This reality is not unique to GitHub, as it is prevalent on many other platforms.

Jaana Dogan, a software engineer at Google, said in an email that when she contributes to work under a genderless or masculine name, she receives fewer questions or suggestions at code reviews. She says that maintainers are often surprised to see a woman contributing high-quality changes to a project with no help (presumably from a man).

Recently, many incidents of sexism and discrimination in the tech industry have come to the surface, including the actions of venture investor and entrepreneur Chris Sacca and of Dave McClure, the co-founder of 500 Startups. This incident is what prompted Mic to ask women coders and engineers to speak out about their own experiences.

In the incident in question, which occurred in 2014, 31-year-old Sarah Kunst stated that she discussed a potential job at 500. During the recruiting process McClure sent her a Facebook message that read, in part, “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”

After an internal investigation, McClure has stepped down as CEO and is no longer in charge of day-to-day operations at 500.

In a blog post McClure published on July 1, he did not deny the actions that had cost him the executive position at the firm he founded.

“I made advances towards multiple women in work related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate. I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations … My behavior was inexcusable and wrong,” wrote McClure. “500 has long supported a diverse community of entrepreneurs including women, minorities, LGBTQ, international, and other overlooked founders. Despite my many mistakes, I sincerely hope 500 will be able to continue that mission.”

If more women demand respect in the workplace and bring light to the acts of sexism and discrimination that they face every day, more men like McClure will realize that they cannot take advantage of women without being penalized.

Cheers to Mic for providing a platform for these women to express their personal experiences with misogyny in the workplace. Hopefully they have inspired other women to speak out about their situations and to drive positive change in their work environments.

Featured Image by Irvan Smith on Unsplash

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