An employee of a multi-national tech company, and person who I like a lot, asked me: “How can we hire more women?”. You know how it goes, I gave an OK answer and then three months later realised I had a better one. The answer I gave was along the lines of:
“listen to marginalised voices, activists and experts in this area, you’re going to want to interject when people tell you about their experiences —to tell them “not all men”— but it’s important that you don’t. Eventually you’ll find you know things you didn’t know before, and when you know those things, you’ll know what to do. There are no easy answers, there is no panacea.”
Anyways, I was thinking about this a bit more, wondering about the original question, and it struck me that actually “how can we hire more women” is bullshit. It’s completely the wrong question to ask. “How can we hire more women?” is a question you ask because you understand that adding women (or any diversity for that matter) to your company will make it stronger1.
As someone outside of your company I don’t give a flying fuck if it needs me or people like me to be better itself. That’s your problem. My problem is that we exist within a system where systemic inequality benefits some people more than others. That system is unfair. It means that if you have a foreign sounding name you’re less likely to get a callback for a job interview2. It means that people think hiring women for a startup is “risky because they might get pregnant”3. It means that people who speak out about this are subject to abuse and harassment and a lot of other shit that they don’t deserve4.
Hiring women and minorities “because it’s good for a business” is the line you give to people who are so uninterested in making the world better for anyone but themselves that it’s all you have. They don’t care to educate themselves about inequality or don’t believe it exists. It’s a lever you use on the bad people to convince them to support this cause, a cause you care about because you care about fairness, but they don’t because they are terrible humans. It’s a last resort for winning over the gaping assholes whose support you need.
You’re good people, you care about fairness. Show it by not asking “how can we hire more women?” but “how can we make things better for everyone?”
OK, yeah, some people ask this because they have a sense that something is wrong in the industry, something they see in the demographics of their company and would like to fix. That’s cool, I like those people. I know they aren’t acting out of self-interest, but asking “How can we hire more women” should be the first thought they have which they rapidly bin in favour of “How can I make things better for everyone?”. My major beef here is with people who treat women as the secret sauce that’s going to fix their company and make their lives easier. Cool story: if you’re looking at fairness from a wider perspective than just how it benefits you then you don’t need to ask “How can we hire more women” because women will see that you’re someone who cares about equality and come to your company anyway. ↩
An actual man said this to me once, quite a successful one. One whose tech meet-up I haven’t been back to. ↩