Women leaving tech in droves: Readers weigh in

L.A. Times readers react to an article about biases against women in technology

Many people wrote in to discuss the Los Angeles Times article about women leaving the tech industry in droves. Some women shared their personal experiences. Others, including men, weighed in with their views. 

Here’s a sampling:

A constant fight

"I work in tech and I hate it," said commenter mjweir. “There is a subtle sort of mafia-type atmosphere for women. You have so many men from China and India at upper mid level manager, getting ahead is impossible for a woman. It's difficult to even get a modicum of respect. They talk down to you. They belittle you. ... And lest you think I'm whining, I've worked in some of the most ruthless environments on the planet, including Oracle and BA. I'm not a whiner, but I'm getting tired of fighting for everything, every time.”

Commenter Maria wrote about her daughter, a computer science major at Cornell. “She is a math whiz like [story subject] Ana Redmond,” she said. “For the first time in her life, my daughter has experienced a lot of sexism. Her male classmates are arrogant, misogynistic, and sexist. ... The problem doesn’t seem to come from the faculty -- her experience with the faculty is that they want to encourage women in the field. The problem is more bottom-up.

“I don’t know if it’s that these geeky guys have been dissed by girls all their lives and now hate them and want revenge or what. But I think if you want to understand what’s going on in the tech world for women ... you need to interview women from MIT, Cornell, Stanford and other top CS programs to really understand where and how it starts.

“I think my daughter is doing what many girls in the tech world are probably doing. They don’t want to have anything to do with any of the major tech companies like Facebook, Google, etc. She has no interest in working for companies full of her classmates. She wants to work in tech in companies run by ‘grownups’ where this type of behavior is not tolerated.”

It’s not just women

Some commenters noted the unconscious bias isn’t just a women’s issue.

"Funny, I've worked in this field for the last 30 years and have had exactly the same issues,” wrote commenter hntrbr. “It isn't just women who have these issues -- this is an industry filled with sociopaths who cannot see another individual as a human being.

“I'm sure there are cases of sex discrimination, but I do not believe it to be rampant. I know A LOT of men who have left the tech industry and are glad never to be returning to it. And I'm talking about men who are multiple patent holders -- guys who were top of their game and looked around and said 'I don't need this.'"

“Another commenter wrote: "It's not just women who have a hard time in IT jobs. The working environment is very political, based on who you know, rather than how good you are. Most programmers tend to have attitude problems, and a huge distrust of everyone except their own friends."

In an email, Hardy said: “This is exactly what it's like being black in industry. Exact same subtleties, exactly.

“Trying to get a management position, your numbers are among the best, yet you're overlooked time and time again, all sorts of exclusion, being ignored when you have good ideas, someone else says the same thing and everyone goes 'great idea,' and when you say 'that's what I said,' the rebuttal is that 'no, it was different’ and they change the subject and move on. ... So I get it. I really do.”

John, who has a hearing disability, said despite holding an MBA, he has faced discrimination in the workplace. “It is like I am being passed over or used as a token number to apply toward giving out interviews in the name of diversity,” he said. “I know in my work life, I have struggled to prove I am not less than a 'full person.' Meaning, in the eyes of most people, people with disabilities, especially the obviously disabled person, is assumed to be 'less than abled.' Being a white male doesn't help since I am being marginalized due to Diversity/Affirmative Action policies. It seems to be a double standard. I realize that the overall economy isn’t the greatest, BUT, with the number of jobs I applied/interviewed for, I am not getting anything.

"I was told by one interviewer, why don't I apply for a role that was lower level than where I was. It was like better to be working than not. There IS a glass ceiling for folks like me. I was a senior financial analyst at my last role at the age 45. I have a cousin who is a year older and she is a VP at Procter & Gamble! I believe that the only opportunity for women, minorities, people with disabilities, etc. is a situation where the hiring manager has the true desire to bring in someone of those categories.”

Competency will prevail

Other readers wrote to say that everyone in tech faces challenges. Although sexism may exist, women can overcome those problems.

"I spent a good portion of my early career as a developer (I'm a woman) back in the early 2000's," said commenter misslogic. “I never felt like the workplace was hostile. “I learned early on if there was something I wanted, then I could ask for it. It wasn't until much later in my career that I started to experience being passed over by men, and blatant actions of 'putting me in my place.' It happens. Some people are misogynists and will continue to be that way. But I think you can find companies that are generally willing to work with women and don't look at the world in black and white. ... I think most logical people respect competency.”

"The tech industry is a brutal one,” wrote ThanhLim. “People leave for many reasons, and there's a mass exodus. Unlike many other industries, some technology you learned 5 years ago most likely will not be useful. So you have to learn something completely different. It's not like a doctor getting updates on their practice. It's a completely new language, SDK, device, operating system every 2-3 years.

“Plus the hours, especially if you work at a start-up, are much more than 40 hours a week. Probably pushing 60+ hours, and even Google's flaunted 20% time is really 120% time…

“Usually, being passed up has many reasons, one of them being that the one who was promoted worked every day, as in no days off, and always on call. That's this industry and it's the harsh reality.

“There probably is sexism when it comes to certain companies, but to be honest, it's about how much blood, sweat, and tears do you put into the company. Somehow, the industry became who works harder and not just smarter, and it's sad.”

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