I believe that software development is a creative industry, so it's incredibly disappointing to be reminded of its shortcomings. And by shortcomings, I mean the sexist creeps who still pervade it.
It's perhaps not immediately apparent from most of the content that I put out, but I spend a lot of my time actively writing web software. On any given day, I have NetBeans or Coda open (I'm working my way towards vim, I really am), and I'm writing a feature, diagnosing an issue or reading through something someone else has checked in. I love the web, and I love making things for the people who use it.
I also spend a lot of my time emphasizing that developers are creative. The act of writing software is very similar to creating any large volume of written work, not just because good code has the same properties as good writing. There's a vast amount of writing and re-writing, research end editing, all powered by the same kinds of demanding creative energy at the center of it all. The life of the solitary writer isn't a million miles away from the life of the bedroom coder.
Another property that a good developer and a good writer have in common is empathy. Each is writing for an audience rather than for themselves; they understand people, and can create a shared understanding with a single line. We know that the developers behind Google+ are awesome because we understand
it almost intuitively, and the system they've designed works in the way we expect and hope it will. I'm sure that this will become even more apparent as they open the platform up across Google's properties and beyond.
So if great web developers - from the front-end down to core infrastructure - are empathic to a degree, why is our industry so sexist, and why is the sexism on Google+ so bizarrely overt?
I'm not just talking about the G-boobs-le picture +Tom Anderson
posted the other day. I've seen stuff in comments - once or twice talking about women I know
- that made my stomach turn and far eclipsed what Tom posted (although, don't get me wrong, I don't think he should have posted it).+Tim O'Reilly
had to post a code of conduct for his conferences, which made immediate waves. (Quite a few of the women I know who aren't in the tech sphere shared it with me.) I've heard accounts of women having to deal with all kinds of come-ons, and being physically assaulted as if it was nothing, at tech events. Even in the comments to his post here on G+, people were suggesting that their Asperger's Syndrome meant that they didn't understand how to deal with social situations, and should be excused from this kind of thing. Bullshit: none of the aspies I know are misogynist pricks. That's because, while they are awkward in some social situations, they have at least half a brain.
The longer this continues, the longer it holds back our industry. On a personal level, not a single one of us wants to be perceived as being this kind of person, and we certainly don't want to be tarred with an industry-wide brush (which I believe we still are, to an extent). On a business level, this behavior is turning away creative, smart people who can help build the future.
And on an individual level, I'm sick of it. I just want to make things.