A hashtag to combat tech misogyny?

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on March 17, 2014

From The News Desk

Late last week came another blow to the claim some make that Valley tech culture is the idyllic meritocratic techno-Arcadia. This revelation stemmed from a TechCrunch article posted Friday alleging negative experiences by a female developer at GitHub, which, the developer says, ultimately led to her resignation. The developer in question, Julie Ann Horvath, has spent the last three days discussing her experience as a female developer at a male-dominated tech company.

GitHub has since offered a somewhat incomplete response to Horvath's allegations saying it has begin a "full investigation." At the same time, it has put two people the article specifically mentioned in its article on leave, which is a step in the right direction. And now we begin to see the ways those enmeshed within tech culture are responding to this drama, for better or for worse.

Currently, there is a spirited social media dialogue about female programmers. Earlier today, developer Jenn Schiffer retweeted an article that highlighted the ineptitude of some critiques of women working in tech. The post, which Schiffer told me she had actually first seen some time ago, was entitled "You can give a woman a CS degree," and included the line: "As a general rule, women don't like competitive jobs where they are held to an objective standard, particularly when they cannot easily pass of their work to others and still take credit for it."

The post itself was bad enough, but some of the comments below were even worse. Wrote one commenter:

I think too many girls who get drafted in under the "MOAR GIRLS!" banner never see real work, then bail when they encounter it. Who will be at a technical conference debating the fine points of something technical, or the fine points of a pun, and who will be taking selfies in a mirror with a sign like "I am doing programming!"?
Thus, thanks to one of Schiffer's followers, a hashtag was born: #iamdoingprogramming.

Since this morning developers of all ages, sexes, and races have been taking selfies of themselves or their keyboards using this hashtag.

I confirmed with Schiffer earlier today that she was the source of the original posting, and that one of her followers was who started the hashtag. As she explained, "I saw the link on twitter somewhere and started quoting it." She says that, so far, she's only seen one person defend the original post.

Of course, a hashtag isn't the same as actual change, in the same way that "awareness" in the abstract is meaningless. But in an industry that runs on social media, and needs to be seen as developer friendly in order to hire the best and brightest, the hope is that companies will be unable to ignore the very real concerns of a large and growing part of the developer community.

[Image via Jenn Schiffer on twitter]