Thursday, May 24, 2018

Brotopia: It's Bad for Everyone

I recently listened to the audio book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang during my morning jogs. 

My initial thought as I started to listen to the book was that the under representation of women and minorities in Tech was due to not as many women and minorities pursuing STEM degrees and programs as white men. Boy, (pun intended) was I wrong! 

Romans of the Decadence (1847), by Thomas Couture, as updated to parody Silicon Valley’s male-dominated sexual and sexist culture. Photo Illustration by Darrow.

What I found out from the book is that not only is there inequality but also a toxic culture of white, privileged males that are intentionally or at least subconsciously barring others who look different than they do from entering and taking part in the fast and furious tech world of Silicon Valley. 

While Cincinnati, Ohio is not Silicon Valley, there is still has a good deal of tech based businesses as well as insurance and banking companies that are essentially IT organizations. What this means is there is ample opportunities here for the alienation of women and minorities by white males such as myself.

What I hope to take away from this book is to learn how I am contributing to the problem and put an immediate stop to it. With that stated, before being exposed to Brotopia, I did not consider myself as part of the problem, however after listening to this book I am now aware that, in fact, that is likely not true. While not desiring to actively suppress others, I no doubt have committed sins of omission by not combatting the toxicity. 

In short, I hope to be active in two ways. First, encourage and assist my co-workers and associates in tech that look different than me. This can be done by making sure that they know that I am listening to them, that I in fact prize their input, and that they are a value to the team. While I "think" I have been doing that, I no doubt have been remiss in actively communicating that I know they are smart and productive.

Secondly, I could be proactive in seeing that women and minorities enter the tech field via helping the various groups that have emerged in the last 5 years such as Girls Who Code. Here, I can volunteer time and resources. Also, as an Adjunct Instructor at a local university teaching a programming class to Business Informatics students, I can encourage the women and minorities in the class to push forward and fight the good fight. 

What has been most painful in listening to the book is putting myself in the place of many who while working endless hours in a taxing industry, had to battle the emotional stress of the many sexist and mean comments, sexual advances, belittements, and generally being demeaned and alienated all the while trying not only to advance, but also to survive. 

Ms. Chang is correct in her hope for her sons to work and thrive in whatever future they choose. Believe me, the same type of persons that create a toxic environment for women and minorities, often bully and demean their male coworkers we well. Truly, "If one is oppressed, all are oppressed."

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