* "Where the ceiling is thickest"

Topics: AA
16 Oct 2007

From: Ervan Darnell

That was the caption above a graphic which headlined the top fold of
today's San Jose Mercury (the local newspaper). The graphic showed the
percentage of women executives in different industries with electronic
hardware at the bottom. The article begins:

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In Silicon Valley, few women reach top jobs
> Silicon Valley boasts that the future is invented here, but a critical
> study released today suggests that tech companies are mired in the
> past when it comes to promoting women to top posts.
> Valley companies based in Santa Clara County ranked dead last in the
> state, elevating fewer women to executive ranks and corporate boards
> than any other county.
I cannot tell if this speaks worse of UC Davis (who did the study, but I
don't have access to it) or the Merc for printing it as fact.

Finally, after six paragraphs of implying the tech industry is sexist,
paragraph 7 gets to the point:
> In the valley's defense, some have countered that women have yet to
> play a bigger role because they have generally steered clear of
> engineering and tech careers, leaving too few women in the pipeline to
> fill executive and director jobs.
"Some have countered". The unnormalized study gets headlines as fact
and the truthful explanation gets hedged as a quote from some unnamed
source in paragraph 7 (and below the fold). I guess I should be glad
there as any rebuttal. Either the press is liberally biased or
shamefully naive. Take your pick.

This particularly bugs me because having worked in tech in Silicon
Valley for over a decade I have never seen any hiring decision diminish
anyone over sex. Most tech management people start as engineers
(somewhat unlike other industries), so it's relevant to look at women
entering technical fields and not just technical management as the
comparison point. We very rarely get women applicants for tech jobs.
You can blame social expectation or genetics, but you cannot blame the
tech industry.

The other aspect of this is that you can just feel the creeping quota
argument. Once you throw out personal interest and relative size of
talent pool, one can frame a case for sexism based purely on disparity
of outcome, then ask the loaded question of what to do about it. Doing
anything about it is nothing but a quota dressed up in some other
words. How much of affirmative action is just this kind of fallacy?

After one paragraph of rebuttal, the article continues with statistics
on how few women are in tech jobs. Then it ends with this reason (among

> * Tech culture turns women off. *Many women decide to stay home with
> kids or start their own companies. One simple reason: They burn out on
> the culture that defines the Silicon Valley mythology.

Duh. Women don't accept jobs with long working hours because they don't
want to work long hours (at the office). And, the writer still blames
the tech industry for that. Nobody is at fault here, and nothing is
broken. Everybody is choosing what works for them. That's how it
should be.

[1] http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_7190951?nclick_check=1

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