dir. Robin Hauser Reynolds, USA 2016.
I was very lucky to grow up with a phenomenal sister. But even with that advantage, there are still patriarchal instincts deep in my mental makeup that constantly need flushing and correcting. So it was wonderful tonight on #InternationalWomensDay to have an opportunity to watch this documentary on efforts towards gender equality in computer science, and then take part in a group discussion with a diverse set of Berlin-based tech workers on our own experiences, ideas, and hopes for the topic.
In particular, it was a welcome surprise to come away so inspired by the women featured in the documentary. I was expecting a format that focused more on the negative aspects of the male-dominated tech culture, but instead, having a wide range of female programmers tell their stories yielded a plethora of positive takeaways. I’d be proud to be on a team with such talent, and to work as an individual contributor for the female leaders that arise from this pool.
It was also good to see my old stomping grounds at Pixar, and the female mentorship there, play a significant role in the framework of the movie. Increasing diversity became a major initiative during my tenure in Emeryville, and I hope I can help out from abroad in any small way that I can.
Certainly, I can look back at my career to date and easily find examples where my behavior contributed to an unfriendly environment for women in the field. Hopefully, the other ways in which I have thus far been supportive atones for and mitigates that original sin, but I could likely always do more.
Lastly, it feels good to admit that my interest in gender equality is also quite self-serving. Although I enjoy many male privileges, and consider myself (mostly) heteronormative, I think I am a far cry for the archetypical alpha male that has historically dominated this culture. As such, a diversity of voices in the room leads to us all better being able to find the ways in which we can contribute ideas without being shouted down by more forcefully expressed opinions.
We continue to live in a world that forces us to often pretend that we are something we are not. I find myself often working hard to come off as more extroverted than I actually I am; in programming interviews I have to pretend that I still know Dijkstra’s Algorithm by heart, or can at least derive it given the right set of prompts.
Gender (and ethnic/religious/racial) equality in the workplace is a critical step in letting us all be who we actually are, in the vast range of professional and social contexts that are our lives. Let’s get there together.