Going from 50% to 100%

A number of professions have recognized the issue I was discussing yesterday. Bringing women into a field that was historically dominated by men requires both men and women to work together.

For this reason, fields as diverse as anthropology, law, medicine and architecture have focused on doing just that. These professions don’t see this as an issue of “men versus women”. They see it as a way of getting talented young people into the field. And if you look at the gender balance in such fields over the past few decades, you see that this strategy has been working spectacularly well.

Facebook, the parent company of Oculus, has been doing this as well. Mark Zuckerberg has had the good sense to bring on Sheryl Sandberg as his COO. She has pointed out that men need to be part of the process of increasing participation by women — not as a handout to women, but to maximize their company’s ability to compete.

These examples of inter-gender cooperation are particularly impressive given that there are land mines everywhere. For example, women I know have privately told me that they have avoided commenting here in the last few days because they are afraid of on-line retaliation by trolls. After what I’ve seen, I’m afraid their fears are well founded.

And of course there are more subtle forms of bias, even among men who consider themselves enlightened. If a man asks a question at a conference in a knowing and slightly smart-ass tone, he is generally admired for his daring and chutzpah. But if a woman speaks in exactly the same tone, she risks coming across as “arrogant and smug”.

Leave a Reply