According to that source of all knowledge on the interwebz, Wikipedia,  “Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

Have you ever had a brilliant, super-competent friend who doubted her own competence?

I’ve often seen this happen to women in technical jobs, and it’s happened to me. Here’s what happens. You work with a man or a couple of men. (In theory it could be women, or men could do this to other men but I personally have only seen men do this, and usually to women). No one knows everything (duh!). You are an expert in Python, Ruby, JavaScript, PHP and Objective C. You’ve developed some pretty cool iOS apps, been part of some successful teams.  Bob suggests that the team really needs an Android app, but, 

You don’t know Java, do you, Joan?

You suddenly realize,

“Oh, my God, I don’t! How did I miss learning Java?”

Part of gaslighting is “using what’s important to you as ammunition”. If you’re a woman who has been in software development, mathematics, statistics or science for a long time,  it’s no doubt important to you and you’ve overcome a lot to stick it out and get where you are.  It’s important to you to be competent and knowledgeable and having someone question that is disconcerting. 

Gaslighters wear you down. It’s the death of a thousand cuts. Bob will insist that the prototype of the next app has to be built for Android because it’s the largest market share, “Of course, that leaves you out of the prototype build  because we need experienced Java developers.” “I’ll bet you’ve never used Android Studio.”

Gaslighters are also experts at reframing things, so much so that you don’t think of the fact that the last five prototypes were done for iOS and there was no problem porting to Android.

Gaslighters can also be good at getting other people to go along with them. If Bob repeatedly tells Sam that Joan isn’t a good fit for this project because we really need an Android developer for this prototype and Joan has no expertise in that area, “she mostly just does testing on iPhones”, Sam may believe him, after all, she’s admitted she has no expertise with Java. So, Sam is not going to consult with Joan on any technical issues, which wears Joan down even further. 

I agree with Stephanie Sarkis that some gaslighters may do this unintentionally and subconsciously. They are, in my experience, trying to make up for feelings of inferiority by making themselves look better by comparison and getting other people to depend on them. 

It doesn’t matter whether it is deliberate or not. The effects are insidious.

I used to think, “Suck it up, buttercup. If some clowns don’t think you have the technical chops, prove them wrong.”

I still think that to some extent, but I can see that it can be really difficult if you are constantly pricked with an endless series of whispering questions of your competence, both behind your back and to your face. It’s exhausting to always be trying to prove your abilities in the areas where you are knowledgable at the same time explaining that no, you have never used (insert any language here because no one has used all of them). I’ve seen women who really enjoyed coding move into marketing or project management giving the reason, 

It just wasn’t fun any more.

You may already be the solution.

Three of us, mutual friends, were at lunch one day and one woman mentioned she had been offered a terrific job but it was for “an expert in the field’ and she didn’t consider herself an expert. Her other friend and I immediately interrupted her,

What? Are you nuts? You are the very definition of an expert!

Then, we proceeded to list all of her amazing accomplishments because she really is incredible. 

Stick with people who see you in the best possible light

I have a great advantage in protection against gaslighters in that I married the right person. Recently, we were drinking beer with a friend who referred to me as “testing the games” and The Invisible Developer corrected, 

She doesn’t just test the games. She makes them, too.

It’s not often someone questions my technical ability around my husband, but when it does happen, he speaks up for me 100% of the time. That’s a big deal because he is not at all one to draw attention to himself. He’s not called the Invisible Developer for nothing. 

It’s not just him. I’m super fortunate to have a group of friends and colleagues who are really supportive and collaborative people who always have my back. 

If you are the problem, you have a problem

Maybe you are scoffing dismissively at this point that if Joan was any good none of this would have bothered her. You are making a snide comment over your cubicle that real developers don’t need anyone to tell them they’re good. People often feel uncomfortable around gaslighters, even if they can’t give a reason. They are right, too, because once Joan leaves, you’ll need someone else to disparage to make yourself feel superior, maybe Sam.

If Sam has a choice of his next project, it’s probably not going to be one with you. If he does get stuck working with you, after all of your comments about Joan, Sam is going to expect that you are God’s gift to Android development, that, in fact, your middle name is Java and the language was named after you. Imagine his response when you turn out to be nothing special.

What I’ve seen happen to the gaslighters eventually is that no one wants to work with them. Even though Bob thinks he’s a 10X software developer, for some reason no one wants him on their team. He tells himself it’s because they’re jealous. 

In the meantime, though, Joan is now managing the marketing department.

Don’t end up like Joan

Years ago, on the More than Ordinary podcast, I had my lovely daughter , Julia, as a guest to talk about what it’s like in boarding school. After saying, that “First of all, it’s nothing like Hogwarts … ” she went on to add

No matter where you are, you can find people to study with, to help support you to reach your goals. And, if not, well, just be that person for yourself.

So, if you find yourself being questioned so much that you start questioning yourself, try finding friends and colleagues who support you and remind you of your awesomeness. If for some reason that’s not an option, I suggest this. Remind yourself. Sit down and write down all of your accomplishments. Then, next time Bob questions you tell him, 

“Shut up you little prick. I’ve done amazing things, and I’m going to be here long after you’re gone.”

Okay, well, maybe you shouldn’t say that out loud at work, but if you do, I won’t blame you. 

In my day job, I make educational games, like this one where a Mayan god thing drags you into the past. Yes, it teaches math.

Mayan guy
Aztech Games: Not made with Java – yet – but that’s just a coincidence

This is part 3 of the series inspired by Cindy Gallop’s brilliant talk on finding talented women or minorities.

Not only is your company not hiring female or minority employees, not investing in female or minority-led companies, but YOU ARE LITERALLY ADDING INSULT TO INJURY.

The tech workforce is disproportionately white and Asian male, and the white male proportion increases the higher one goes up the ladder. Link to Fortune article here. I don’t just make this shit up.

Here is what people say when told these facts about their company.

“We hire/fund solely based on merit.”

Which is saying, that Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, women are INFERIOR.  If you do not mean that, please tell me how “has less merit” is defined in your language.

There is actually a great deal of research that documents that women and non-white men are NOT judged equally. Here is a link to a summary of three of them. In fact, the identical pitch, when given by a man, was about twice as likely to rated favorably as a pitch by a woman.

The first post in this series was about how people can’t find women and minority applicants because they don’t really want to find them. If they did, they would look harder.

The second was on how we hire men based on their potential but we hire women based on their proven accomplishments. The same goes for African-Americans, Latinos and others who don’t fit the stereotype. There are plenty of studies, here’s a link to one of them, that show we give people “like us” the benefit of the doubt. They are rated more highly, more likely to be hired. The “like us” includes “like the people who already work here”.

This whole “they don’t have merit” and judging one group of people on potential while another is judged on accomplishments, produces a vicious circle.

You hire Bob because he has all the qualifications for the job – degree in the right field, portfolio he created in college that highlights his skills – and he is your friend, Bubba’s son. I get that, I really do. We are a small company and we can’t afford to have people working for us who are lazy, faked their qualifications or just cannot get along with their co-workers. Bob is a known quantity and you want to mitigate risk.

So, now, Roberto, or Roberta, does NOT get the internship. When you are looking for a full-time employee, it’s not that you don’t like Latinos or women but Bob has experience and they don’t. Two years later, when you are looking for someone to promote to management, there is Bob, with two years of experience in your company and Roberto and Roberta are somewhere else.

Let’s go back to the beginning, though, when Bob is applying for his first internship or pitching his first startup. Let’s say you don’t know Bob, or Roberto or Roberta. How fucking DARE you start off by saying,

“Well, I’d give Roberto or Roberta the chance if one of them is the better candidate.”

Why do they have to be the BETTER candidate? Why can’t they be just as good?

Okay, now you’re back-pedaling,

Well, of course, if they were just as good.

What really, really makes me want to slap people is the assumption that Roberto or Roberta are not just as good, the willingness to accept the “we only hire for merit and all of the white, male people are better.” Define better.

Let me tell you what happens to the definition of better – it moves to fit your preconceived notions.

Sometimes, Maria and I look at the programs that decided not to fund us or accept us in their accelerator and we laugh a little bitterly. They accept/ fund people with less traction, less users, no product, less experience, less education. Somehow, though, they have “more merit”.

It’s your money, it’s your program and you have every legal right to select people how you see fit.

Just DON’T go around telling people that you accepted all young white and Asian men because there were no good female, black, Latino or Native American entrepreneurs out there, because that just makes me want to slap you.

— Games that make you smarter –

buffalo in the winter

Here is what I make when I am not ranting here. Buy one. You can also donate one to a classroom or school.

Yesterday, I wrote about Cindy Gallop’s talk on finding diverse talent

The Rest of the Story …

There were two additional points in her presentation I want to address, but first …

You can take a  look at our latest prototype under development, Aztech, here and play it in Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Play it for a few minutes and come back here for the rest of the story.

Did you find yourself saying,

“Yes, but your group of minority/ female developers and artists did not have good enough graphics/ CSS that perfectly centered video/ all of the Spanish language translations done ..”

The fact is, I gave  you the link to a prototype for a reason. It emphasizes two of the truest points Cindy Gallop makes in her presentation.

We hire men based on their potential but we hire women based on their demonstrated ability to do the work.

Mayan says wrongMayan says incorrecto

Did I mention that the link you reviewed was a prototype? Yes, I did. Ever since we started 7 Generation Games, our start-up arm that is distributing our educational games, we have heard the same refrain from investors.

  • We don’t think this idea will work. Come back when you have a prototype
  • We don’t think you can make a commercial game for that price. Come back when you have a completed game.
  • We don’t think schools will use these games. Come back when you have 1,000 users.
  • We don’t think these games will work. Come back when you have data.
  • We don’t think there is a market for games that need to be installed on the desktop. Come back when you have a version in the cloud.
  • We don’t think there is a market for web-based games. Come back when you have an iPad version.

Are we seeing a pattern here? I’m actually not whining. Well, not whining any more than usual. We’re still here while most of those companies that received funding two or three years ago when we were just starting have since disappeared.

We’ve received over $600,000 in federal grants, we’ve had two successful crowd-funding campaigns.

We were part of the Boom Startup Ed Tech Accelerator. We just closed our first angel investor round, late in 2015, where we raised $240,000. My point is that we did that MUCH later in the game than I think we would have if we were co-founded by a couple of white or Asian males from Stanford. We don’t look the part of a start-up team.

Funny, I believe my experience as a non-male, non-Japanese competing in judo back in those pre-Title IX days has been great preparation for co-founding a startup. I had 14 years of experience as a competitor with people denying me funding because I wasn’t good enough, didn’t do things right, didn’t run with the right group to get coaching to succeed. Then, I was the first American to win the world judo championships and this weekend I’m getting inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.

I actually appreciate the haters and the doubters as they do point out areas we can improve our products and we are continually working on that. We have come very far with relatively little funding for making games and we will go much farther yet.

I’m not sure how much more we have to demonstrate before we attract the attention of

<sarcasm> those accelerators and investors who are looking so-o hard for women-owned startups </sarcasm>

If you’re interested in our desktop games, check out the demos here,

or

Fish lake woman

buy a couple here

If you are interested in games that run on the web, those are in beta and will be done in a few months. Email info@7generationgames.com if you’d like more information on those.

What you should NOT do is tell me how you are trying so hard to find women in tech to support because I am seriously, seriously tired of hearing that bullshit.

Check back tomorrow for what you really shouldn’t say about women in tech if you don’t want me to slap you.

First of all, you should all watch this video by the brilliant Cindy Gallop. Everything she says about recruiting women for jobs as Executive Creative Directors applies exactly to women, black , Hispanic or Native American men applying for jobs in technology or for investor funding.

Did you watch it? Good! Let me reinforce one of her points.

  1. If you do not have diversity in your team or portfolio it is BECAUSE YOU DON’T REALLY WANT IT.  If you cannot find women/ Latinos/ Native Americans/ African-Americans  it is because you are not looking hard enough.

The last software intern we hired was Native American, which I discovered when her tribal enrollment card was one of the documents she presented on the first day of work. The two software developers we hired before her were both Latino. One of our artists is Native American which I discovered when I said we had hired him in part because we were so impressed with the paintings he did of scenes with Native American subjects and he mentioned that he is Ojibwe.

We found good people by reaching out to the people we knew for recommendations. We posted on our company and personal Facebook pages, posted on our company blog, tweeted on our company and personal accounts. See the number of times I said “personal” in there?

We did not go to any major efforts to have a technology company that is 66% minority employees.  I gave a presentation on a panel at East Los Angeles College and we have hired two people from there since.

A couple of our employees were referred by mutual acquaintances who knew them and knew what we needed and forwarded our position announcement.

We aren’t prejudiced against white males any more than I am going to assume that you are prejudiced against African-American women or Latinas. The question is, how many do you know? My best friend is Latino and so, not coincidentally, is his son. We hired his son as art director because his work is a perfect fit for the games we are creating. See below.

Mayan guy

If the people in your network are mostly white men, that is probably going to be most of the people you get as applicants.

Try reaching out to people outside of your network.

Post your internship opportunities at East Los Angeles College

Contact Sabio coding bootcamp and recruit their graduates

I know there are many, many places you can find diverse talent. There are two I just thought of off the top of my head from which we have recruited people. I know you have access to some electronic device, since you are reading this. It’s not that hard to find people, if you really want to do it.

Come back tomorrow for “I’m sick of that bullshit about not being able to find women in tech: part 2″

I’m pretty certain that I’m a woman in technology.

Last night, I was using SAS on a virtual machine through a remote desktop connection to prepare data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey for use in examples of MANOVA and multinomial logistic regression.

Today, I was working on improving animation in the Javascript for a browser-based game that leads into the 3-D portion of an adventure game I designed to teach fractions.

Next week, I will start on a contract to completely re-do the PHP/ MySQL database for a client to bring it to something more secure and up to date.

Oh, and I also was reviewing my notes for the graduate courses in biostatistics and advanced multivariate statistics that I’m teaching this fall.

Pretty certain that by any standard – writing code, founding companies, graduate degrees, university appointment, successful Kickstarter – I am definitely a woman in tech/ STEM whatever the day’s buzzword.

I read SO many articles, blog posts, tweets about the need for women in tech, women-led start-ups, women entrepreneurs.

If you ask me, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the greatest proponent of women in tech that there is, because they have actually put up money and funded us to do a prototype of an adventure game that teaches math.

When results from that were positive, they funded us again with a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award to develop the games for commercialization.

I have written here before about the troubling nature of the Black Girls Code, Latina Girls Code emphasis that seems to completely overlook the grown women who are here now. I am NOT saying those aren’t good programs. I assume they are but I have no personal experience. What I am saying is pretty much what I said in January.

It seems to me that when people are looking at minorities or women to develop in their fields, they are much more interested in the hypothetical idea of that cute 11-year-old girl being a computer scientist some day than of that thirty-something competing with them for market share or jobs. If there are venture capitalists or conference organizers or others out there that are sincerely trying to promote WOMEN who code, not girls, I’ve never met any.

(Since then, I have met a couple of conference organizers.)

I suppose Ada Lovelace was cool – my two-year-old granddaughter has a shirt with her picture on it. Still, I don’t think a trending hashtag of #fuckyeahadalovelace did anything for me as a woman in tech.

Fish Lake artwork

You know what helped me as a woman in tech? Seed money from the USDA. You can see what we did with it here at our 7 Generation Games site.

One thing Sheryl Sandberg got right in her book, Lean In, was that women tend to be judged on their accomplishments where men are judged on their potential. Of course, you also don’t want to be “too old” to be an innovator so by the time women have those accomplishments, they are past their prime as entrepreneurs according to those VCs who believe that people over 30 are too old to do a start-up.

It’s hard for me to complain about my life when my morning starts out with reading technical books with lines like, “Figure 1 shows the sprite with the red and green blood particles for player and zombie”.

My point is that our company is in the situation we are in not because of any “help minorities code” program but because USDA and our backers on Kickstarter gave us cold, hard cash to develop our products.

Want to help women in tech? Back them on Kickstarter. Buy their products. Tweet about their products and companies to help their marketing. Invest in their companies.

USDA got it right.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Winer set off a firestorm with his blog post asking Why are there so few women programmers.

Lots of people on twitter and his blog called him a lot of unwarranted names, said his straight, white, male privilege was showing, etc. etc.

Just a suggestion — if you find yourself getting all bent out of shape as you read my blog, you might want to read to the end.

Winer must have been in school about the same time as me, and he is right. There were very few women in programming.

In the 1980s,  I was working as an industrial engineer, at General Dynamics, doing programming. Nearly every meeting I sat in, I was the only woman in the room.

It’s not any kind of misogynistic statement to say he worked with few women programmers. I worked with one other woman engineer and no other women programmers.

Fast forward to now. There are certainly more women programmers than there used to be. In the work that I do, statistical programming for The Julia Group and educational gaming for 7 Generation Games, the number of women varies. I see more women at statistics conferences, though most are not in senior positions at their organizations – so I doubt they’d work on a team with someone at Winer’s level.

At the gaming side, when I go to start-up events, I meet very few females who are coding.

Long-winded way of saying there were very few females in tech 30 years ago, and at least in my little spheres, they are still the minority now.

WHY?

disks

Like Winer, I can only guess, but I will make four guesses.

1. Women are not encouraged. I took three required programming classes. My older brother was a computer science major and was always there when I had a question. After him, I can’t think of a single person for the next several years. Partly, I’m here as a fluke. I was nine months pregnant, insisted on still walking through the factory and clambering up on machines to see what was going on and frankly, it was creeping the factory management out so the powers that be sent me to a SAS class to get me out of there.

2. Women feel uncomfortable. Back in the day, users group meetings were great because you got freeware on FLOPPY DISKS. My husband, though, wasn’t too excited about meetings with 60 guys and me. When I attend start-up events now, everyone assumes I am in marketing. It gets annoying to have to establish my credibility in every conversation. Random fact about me, I was the first American to win a world judo championships, so I’m a lot more used to being the only woman in the room than most people. Interestingly, I was at a tournament a few years ago, talking to the women registered in the black belt division. The first woman was a programmer (SQL, I think), the second did maintenance on (unbelievably) legacy code in COBOL, the third was supervisor of a road construction crew, the fourth was a carpenter. Maybe I’m here because I early on got used to being in an all male environment. It certainly seems to be a more common path for women in judo (which is one of the more sexist martial arts in the U.S., far more than mixed martial arts).

3. Some men in tech are complete assholes. Let’s just get it out there. There are men who are just vicious in tearing apart their colleagues. Some are more hateful to women and some are just awful to everyone. I was listening to a podcast the other day where someone said, “If you make (this error) in SQL, you should just cut your fingers off and put them on your desk. Let someone who knows what they are doing write code.” These are the people who stand up in conference rooms and want to point out the slightest departure from perfection in the work done by anyone else, with the insinuation that only a complete moron would have used an ARRAY here.  There are some hateful women, also, but I have met fewer of them. I *think* men are socialized more to suck it up and be tough. Women seem to be bothered more by colleagues who are mean, insulting and abusive than men are, although neither gender finds those people to be a walk in the park. Maybe I’m here because I’m a straight-A bitch when the situation warrants.  If you post nasty comments on my blog, I delete them, think “what an asshole” and move on. As for women who have had their families threatened, I don’t worry about it because no one could possibly be that stupid. Darling Daughter Number Three is the world champion in mixed martial arts . (Her best friend’s picture is below mostly just because we’ve known him since he was 13, we love him dearly and I am so proud of him that he won his second UFC fight this year over the weekend.)

Manny Gamburyan

4. A lot of people in tech lack social grace. This includes me, and there may be a better phrase than social grace, which kind of supports my point. The Invisible Developer is extremely kind-hearted. However, he would say things to the children like, “I can’t believe you are having trouble understand integrals. I figured this out by myself when I was in the eighth grade.” And he would be puzzled when they burst into tears. Often, and this may even be the case with Dave Winer and his blog, they say something completely well-meaning from their point of view, like,

“I wonder why there aren’t more women in programming. Maybe they don’t want to do it because it’s like hunting. You need to sit on your ass and do nothing for long periods.”

and they really don’t understand at all why people get upset. It’s a good bet that people whose strengths are more in the technical realm than diplomacy are more often found in tech fields. Maybe I’m here because I have a very thick skin. Almost every time I get stuck on a technical problem, The Invisible Developer asks, “You want me to do that for you?” I do not give my immediate response, which is, “No, I’m fucking 55 years old. I can figure it out for myself!” Instead, I tell him that if he did it for me, then I wouldn’t have learned how to do it so that sort of defeats the point. (See, I do have some social skills.)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you take away from this that I think I’m better than the average woman and that’s why I’m here, you missed the point. I don’t think those reasons I mentioned are always good. Often, I think I have disappointed my children when they wanted someone to say, “Oh, poor baby” instead of “Suck it up.”

They probably would have liked a mother they didn’t have to caution, “Please don’t say, ‘Fuck’ in front of the admissions people from Harvard.”

My female friends undoubtedly wish I would be more empathetic when their feelings are hurt – and I am very, very fortunate to still have those friends after “not getting it” so many times.

My point is that there ARE fewer women programmers and this is why I think that is so.

My work day started with a call on research design and ended ten hours later after I fixed a program that wasn’t working. I just resigned from my position as senior statistical consultant at a major research university so that I could concentrate on research. I’m on the technical staff on several projects, have a Ph.D., a record of scientific publication, am frequently an invited speaker on assessment, methodology and SAS programming. So, what am I whining about?

Who the fuck are you to say that I am whining?

That, my dear, is probably one of the reasons that I have been successful in this field, and one of the problems women in technology face.

I’m the size of the average twelve-year-old, female ,  Hispanic  and over fifty to boot. Despite all of these disadvantages, I am doing well in this field, thank you because I have a few …

Qualities that I don’t think should be necessary for women in technical fields, but they are….


1. I can be a straight-A dyed in the wool bitch when the situation warrants.

One day, I was sitting in a faculty meeting with the suspicion that women in our department were not being taken seriously. As a statistician, I decided to collect a little data. I drew a cross-tabulation. The rows were gender of the speaker and the column was whether the next speaker responded – questioned, followed up, elaborated – or ignored the comment as if the speaker hadn’t even said anything. Of the speakers, 80% were male (the department was about 50% female) and of those 20%, most of the comments were made by me. Near the end of the meeting, I made a comment and again, a male member of the faculty made a remark that was if I hadn’t spoken. I pounded on the table and said,

“I said something and God damn it, you are all going to listen to me!”

Then, I mentioned the data I had been collecting during the meeting (believe me, the chi-square was highly significant). The two department chairs present were somewhat embarrassed but no one argued with my data. We discussed whatever the topic was – I think it was reducing our mathematics requirement for general education.

Personally, I don’t have a problem pounding on the table and swearing if that’s what it takes. Three points:

  1. The men in the room didn’t need to be that way.
  2. Not all women are like me.
  3. Not all women should HAVE to be like me. I have a pretty high self-esteem but not so high that I think everyone must be like me because I am so perfect.

Women who support Arrington’s view on Tech Crunch that it isn’t men’s fault that there aren’t more women in tech because “After all, look at me, I’m not complaining and I’m doing great” are perhaps missing the point that they are doing well because they have certain characteristics that men don’t need to have.

In my copious spare time, of which I have none, I teach judo. In 1984, I was the first American to win the world judo championships.  One very important lesson it took me a while to learn as a coach is that not every athlete is me. Not every world class athlete is me. I would have been a better coach if I had learned that lesson earlier

2. I aggressively seek out mentors and figure everything out all by myself if I can’t find them.

I was discussing this with a young woman today. She’s probably my daughter’s age. We were working on a program and I commented to her that I had noticed she did not get the off-handed kind of help that the male staff members got. The men tell one another excitedly about new apps, new functions, bug fixes and other interesting and useful information they come across. She said,

“Now, I don’t understand this program at all, but you are explaining it to me where the guys would just be like – here, you’re not interested in this, let me do it. Or, you don’t know how to do this, so just go away.”

I know she is telling the truth because I have seen just exactly that happen to her many times. Maybe I should be more of a mentor. I feel a little bad about that, but she doesn’t work for me, and hey, I am busy.  I told her,

“Well, of course you don’t understand it! No one comes out of the womb knowing this shit. But you’re smart, you’ll get it. Just keep plugging away. If you have any questions, ask!”

The program she wrote in the end was very good. Women, much more than men, in my experience, need to be immune to subtle and not so subtle discouragement, to disrespect. While Arrington says that Tech Crunch goes out of their way to invite women, these are the women who have already made it. Where men generally don’t go out of their way, and in fact, don’t even think about it, is in the unexamined assumptions and treatment of women. Most of the men this woman works with are very nice people who like women in general and are married to one or would very much like to be some day. They don’t treat me like this because …

3. I got all the credentials

I have a Ph.D., two masters degrees, 28 years programming experience, articles published in academic journals and so on. There is an enormous body of literature on social psychology on bias. In brief, the same study done over and over runs like this.

The identical resumes are sent out. Half of them have experience but no degree. Half have a degree but no experience. Of the entire sample of resumes, half of them have a name (or picture) that shows them to be female (or black). The other have are white (or male). The two resumes with experience/degree , white/black or male/ female are then sent out randomly to a group of college students/ personnel managers/ or whatever group.

The results are always the same.  Overwhelmingly, the male (or white) candidate is selected. Those who choose the male candidate swear it had nothing  to do with gender, he had experience. However, the managers/students/whatever who had the reversed resumes swear it had nothing to do with gender, he had a degree.

This is why all those people who loudly proclaim “I’m not a racist” or “I’m not sexist” have me wanting to slap them.

I have experience and I have the degrees. I work with men who don’t have nearly the educational qualifications I have. These guys are SMART and they’re fun and I like working with them. I truly don’t believe any woman would get the jobs they have without a graduate degree – and guess what, there are very , very few.

The one you hear next, of course is, “You just wouldn’t fit in with our team.”

Despite the impression I might give, I actually believe that most people are genuinely good at heart and well-meaning, that the false assumptions and subtle discrimination is not intentional and they really would try to change most of them, if it was pointed out. Some people are just jerks, though. There are people who would never want me working for them because I “am not a team player”.

Let me give you an example of a person who said he would never have me work for him..

I had written a program that was, if I do say so myself, a pretty kick-ass awesome piece of work. As most things that are that awesome, there were other people who helped, who came up with design suggestions, reviewed the results and made recommendations for improvement. All of the coding was done by me. I don’t get the chance to just write code that much and I was justly proud of this product.

4. Have the luck to have awesome bosses and mentors

We had a matrix management model at the time and the project manager, who was not my boss, came to me and wanted to have UMF review all of my work and “check that it is correct”. Now UMF is male and fits the stereotype of what a programmer should look like, which, I could gauge from this is not a Latina grandmother. UMF also is complete waste of oxygen as a programmer. Think the absolutely stupidest code you have ever seen written and that is UMF. I did not make up the acronym UMF. This is how he is referred to by the other programmers. The U stands for useless.

I said,

“No.”

Short version of long story, the project manager weenie went to my boss and told him that,

“AnnMaria says she’s not going to do this.”

to which my boss responded,

“Well, I guess that means she’s not going to do it.”

Dr. Richard Eyman was my doctoral advisor. He spent endless hours teaching me statistics. When everyone but me dropped one of the upper level doctoral courses, he taught it to me as an independent study. He introduced me to his friends who were profoundly competent in psychometrics, people like Jane Mercer. He made sure I took courses from people like Keith Widaman and Lew Petronovich.

It was just luck. I attended UC Riverside because I was pregnant with my second child, my husband had just taken a job at Rohr Aircraft in Riverside and I didn’t want a blank spot on my resume while I was out of the job market having a baby (which turned out to be two babies in thirteen months).

5. I’m not bothered that no one in the room looks like me.

Being in judo probably helped my career. I’m startled by the number of female judo competitors I meet who are in the tech field. It’s kind of ironic that a non-male, non-Japanese American would be the first from the U.S. to win the world championships because that is certainly not the demographic of U.S. judo competitors. I’ve spent so much of my life being the only woman in the room that I am used to it.  It’s actually gotten better. I remember 28 years ago when I was pregnant (hence needing a bathroom every 30 minutes) at a meeting in an aerospace plant where NO ONE knew where there was a women’s restroom because all of the people I was meeting with were male engineers. I finally spotted another woman, grabbed her and said I KNOW you know! Turns out she was just visiting, and, in fact, did not!

Whether it should bother you or not that no one is like you (that you “just don’t fit in”) is a separate issue.

My point is that there are a number of characteristics that women must have that men don’t need to be successful in technology.

These are but PART of the reasons I see that there are few women in technical fields. And why, exactly, is pointing this out called whining?

Let’s get this out right up front – I have no question that there is discrimination in the tech industry. I gave an hour-long talk on this very subject at MIT a couple of weeks ago, where I pointed out that everyone’s first draft of pretty much everything is crap – your first game, first database – and some people we give encouragement and other people we give up on.

That’s not my point here. My point is that sometimes we are our own barriers by not applying to positions. Let me give you two examples.

First, as I wrote on my 7 Generation Games blog earlier, we reject disproportionately more male applicants for positions but yet our last four hires have all been men. This may change with the current positions (read on to find out why).

For the six positions we have advertised over the last couple of years, the application pool has looked like this:

GENDER HIRED
Yes No
Male 4 18
Female 2 4

We had one woman apply for the previous internship position we advertised, and we ended up hiring a male. If you look at this table, the odds of a woman being hired – 1 in 3, are greater than the odds of a man being hired, 1 in 5.5 . Yet, we hired twice as many men as women.

Why is that? Because more men apply. More unqualified men apply, which explains our higher rejection rate. If we explicitly state, “Must work in office five days a week”, we will get men (but no women) applying who live in, say, Sweden, and want to know if maybe that is negotiable (no.)

bannerWe have also recently filled 3 positions, and will soon fill two more, without advertising. In one of those cases, the person (male) contacted us and convinced us that he could do great work. All four of the other positions were filled by personal contacts. We called people we knew who were knowledgeable in the field and asked for recommendations.

We happen to know a lot of people who are Hispanic and Native American, so 3 of those positions ended up going to extremely well-qualified people from those groups. The one woman we hired out of those five positions was actually recommended by my 82-year-old mother who said,

“Your cousin, Jean, is a graphic artist, you should check out her work.”

As you can see from the photo of the 6-foot banner she made for us, she does do good work.

I see two factors at work here:

  1. Women are less likely to nominate themselves. While men will apply even if their meeting the  qualifications seems to be a stretch (or a delusion), women are less likely to do so. I don’t know why. Fear of rejection?
  2. People are recommended by their networks and women seem to be less plugged into those networks. This is also true of minorities. We make no special effort to recruit Hispanic or Native American employees but since that is a lot of who we know, it is a lot of who THEY know and hence a lot of our referrals.

How do you increase your proportion of female applicants? You are going to laugh at this because it is the simplest thing ever. This time around, I wrote a blog post and tweets that specifically encouraged females to apply. And it worked! Well, maybe you would have predicted that, but not me. I would never have guessed.

Do you really want to hire Latino graphic artists or software developers? Come to the next Latino Tech meetup. Bonus: the food is awesome.

meetup

My point, which you may have now despaired of me having, is that affirmative action is a good thing on both sides. By affirmative action I mean being pro-active. If you are from an under-represented group, APPLY. Invite yourself to the dance.  If you are an employer, reach out. It could be as easy as having a margarita during Hispanic Heritage Month or writing a blog post.

In both cases, you might be surprised how little effort yields big results.

Don’t forget to buy our games and play them. Fun! Plus, they’ll make you smarter.

man from Spirit Lake

Is that enough acronyms for you? I’ll be speaking at Celebrating Equity: Women in STEM at ELAC.

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

ELAC – East Los Angeles College

It’s 12:15 – 1:15 pm and it is free. There are six panelists (including me).

Download Women in STEM Poster

I presented last year and our company also had a booth. We hired two people who I met there.

Often, I hear people say that their company is all white/ Asian /under 40 because all of the developers / animators/ audio engineers  that applied just happened to fit that demographic. Here is a thought – perhaps you could go to, say, a college that is predominantly Hispanic and just maybe Hispanic potential employees might meet you there.

Here is another thought – perhaps if you attended events targeted at women in STEM, you might meet some there.

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Wonder what a game would look like if it was created by a design and development team that was predominantly women?

Player needing help

 

Back us on Kickstarter, play an awesome game and wonder no more!

Most start-up events waste my time. Founder Friday Women 2.0 was one of the few exceptions.

Generally,  at start-up events, the people who have an actual company make up a tiny fraction of the attendees, being out-numbered at least 5 to 1 by people with “an idea for a company”. The remainder of those in attendance are in insurance, law or other companies selling to start-ups. Nothing wrong with that and at one event we actually met a company we signed a contract with, so it’s not always a waste of time.

I think most people running actual companies are like me, they are too busy doing things to have a lot of time to spare for drinks with people talking about what they are going to do.

Our Chief Marketing Officer insists that I get out of the office and network. She believes everyone in the company, regardless of job title, should pitch, present or exhibit our games at least once a month. So … I agreed to put up a table at Founder Friday ‘s Women 2.0 event in Los Angeles.

There are only two guarantees that your time at a start-up event won’t be completely wasted; 1. You get to pitch/ present your company or 2. There is a speaker you can learn from.

Founder Friday, Women 2.0 had both. I did get to discuss 7 Generation Games with a number of people, but most helpful for me was the speaker. I tweeted about the event and a couple of people asked me her name. It was Jody  Dunitz, and she is an investor with the Tech Coast Angels, which is the largest angel investor group in the country. Most of her talk was about how she personally decided whether a company was a good investment. Here are the main points from my notes:

  • She looks at three things.
  • Look at the product first. It must be innovative in some way. Status quo is a huge barrier to overcome. You can have a greatly superior X but if people already have an X then they are very inclined to stay with that. (Take the example of a car. You’re probably not going to go out and buy a new car right now just because a better car came out on the market. If you have a Prius, when it comes time to buy a new car, you’re likely to just buy another Prius. )
  • You need to have a product. “There has to be some there there.” Too many people have just an idea but no actual product. It can be a prototype, a minimal viable product, but there has to be something.
  • You need to have a way that you are going to make money. Too many people say they are going to scale up and then be acquired for $19 billion. You need to have a way that you are going to make revenue.
  • Second, she looks at the team. Some investors may look at the team first.
  • She is extremely reluctant to invest in a company with a sole founder. To make up for being a sole founder they would have to have some other aspect of the company  that was really extraordinary.
  • There isn’t a magic number of founders to have on your team but whatever the number is, it’s more than one.
  • The key member of the team is the CEO. The CEO should be knowledgable about all aspects of the company. He or she doesn’t have to write code but should at least understand the technical aspects of a product and not have to go ask the CTO. The CEO should understand the financial situation and not have to go ask the CFO.
  • Third thing she looks at is valuation. Founders always think their company is worth more than investors do. Founders look at how much time and effort they have put into it. Investors look at how much money they think they can make.
  • Angel investors look for a 10x return in 5-7 years. It used to be 3-5 years but there is more competition from accelerators, incubators and different investor groups now, so the horizon has gotten a bit longer.
  • Growth in venture capital has not matched the pace of growth in angel investment, so a higher proportion of companies than previously now get angel funding but fail to get venture capital and die.
  • Angels are looking for a 10X return. They need a high return to make up for all of the companies that fail and don’t make anything.
  • If your company looks like it may pay 10-20% returns, they aren’t interested. In that case, it would make more sense to invest in something like Apple stock.
  • Startup companies at the Angel level are usually valued at $2- $4 million
  • When founders are deciding whether an angel investor is a good fit, the first thing they should look at is rapport, do they get along. Is this person interested in their company over and above the money it can make? Will the investor bring something to the deal in addition to money – connections with key customers, knowledge of the industry.

Two main points I took away from it for me personally are,

  1. Our team is doing a lot of things right.
  2. We need to stress more how 7 Generation Games is different from other educational gaming companies. I got right on that.

hunter on horseback

7 Generation Games – Grand Theft Auto – but with horses and math, and for kids. 

For $9.99 you can quit arguing with your kids about math homework.

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