tions that look more like fraternities,
sororities, or cultural groups. In the
STEM fields, this can lead to blind
spots that prevent ideas and research
from being adopted. These organizations are also in the position of being
labeled as preferential, fanatic, lobbyist, and generally less credible.
8. GIVING WOMEN CREDIT
INCREASES YOUR LEVERAGE,
BUT GIVING OUT ACCOLADES FOR
BEING A WOMAN DOES NO T.
In general, not giving appreciation and
credit builds resentment within individuals and that leads to general unhappiness and diminished values. Appreciation is just an ongoing lookout
for contributions. On the other hand,
awards tied to labels are less appreciative and can even have the opposite
effect of encouragement. I’ve always
thought it more beneficial to actively
look for ways of expressing appreciation rather than to sit around and discuss who is “the best woman in blah.”
9. I DON’T WANT ANY SPECIAL
DAYS FOR MY ARCHETYPE.
In a legendary “ 60 Minutes” interview
Morgan Freeman asked Mike Wallace, “Which month is White History
Month?”. Freeman then explained,
“I don’t want a Black History Month.
Black history is American history.” I’m
not saying the gender experience is any-
thing like the African-American expe-
rience, but I do share the opinion that
there is no need to create special events
for being born with specific genetic
predispositions. Creating such skewed
evaluation of what is considered con-
tributory doesn’t particularly help in
term. As a wise man once said, “Every
time you shut a door on someone, you
are narrowing your own horizons.”
As an additional note, if the person
behind is a woman, the worst response
the woman can give is “that was not a
gentleman thing to do,” which reflects
an unnecessary and unprofessional
typecast. Using stereotypes as ammo is
kind of like buying a gun. If you are not
an expert at using guns, the assaulter
can grab it and use it against you caus-
ing even more damage than if there ex-
isted no gun in the first place. Gender-
fueled prerogatives create a precedent
that detracts from the real issue: Sin-
gleton, self-absorbed researchers and
professionals who are narrowing their
own horizons by not opening doors for
others. This is a loss of value that actu-
ally has no gender issues attached un-
less we make it so.
6. DEVELOP SUBCULTURES BY
RELATING THEM TO IDEAS RATHER
THAN GENDER, RACE, COLOR ETC.
Many minority and majority groups
have gained significant influence on
society by creating subcultures that
expand our life experience. Programmers who decided to develop higher
level programming languages rather
than continuing to program in assem-bly-like instructions were real definers
of a subculture. Initially rejected by
the rest of the community, these new
ideas actually needed time to mature.
The larger community evaluates the
matured versions of those ideas. Then,
if accepted, those ideas generate impact. All of this is not possible without
the initial formation of subcultures
around ideas and not stereotypes. The
harshest thing that comes with talking
a lot about gender issues is it can divert
attention from evaluating the ideas
and can hinder the creation of necessary subculture to push STEM for ward.
7. AVOID ONE-DIMENSIONAL
CRONYISM, IN THIS CASE
Cronyism is the act of practicing par-
tiality to long-standing friends. There’s
nothing wrong with helping out your
buddies. However, this assumes peo-
ple don’t just pick their friends based
on stereotypes. Such one-dimensional
cronyism gives rise to large organiza-
artificially engineered social environ-
ments. By and large, labels like “crazy,”
“intelligent,” “genius,” “black,” “white,”
and “gay” are more fashionable rather
than constructive diversifiers.
10. STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.
MOST TALKING ONLY ENCOURAGES
THE STATUS QUO.
When I was an undergraduate at the
U. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I
started the Women in Electrical and
Computer Engineering (WECE) program. This was a much smaller organization in addition to the larger Society of Women Engineers (SWE). At the
time, I observed that somehow raising
awareness at SWE had turned into a
series of fundraising bake sales, high-school awareness, and motivational
speakers talking a lot about how to
survive as a woman in engineering. I
wanted WECE to be more of a nest. A
place where those who wanted to become interested in engineering could
get the extra nurturing needed to grow
in a different direction than the predominantly male engineering field.
Now, I realize there are diverse opinions within the male community as
well, which are often left off the table
because of the status quo. If I were to
start a similar program today, I would
focus on removing as many thought-limiting stereotypes as possible (not
just gender related). Luckily, STEM
participants have a wonderful subculture that constantly motivates them to
think and build new things that will
help create a context for all the other
mechanisms of the world without focusing on attaching labels of any kind.
It’s the best opportunity for me to participate in a for ward-thinking community while helping validate ideas that
haven’t manifested before.
[ 1] Waldron, B. Hillary Clinton Wants Young Women
to ‘Grow Skin Like A Rhinoceros.’ ABC News.
Feb. 13, 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/
Grace Woo is the inventor of VRCodes, an unobtrusive way
of embedding visual information for the camera. She is
currently the co-founder of Pixels. IO, a venture focused on
giving visual context to mobile devices.
© 2014 ACM 1528-4972/14/06 $15.00
It is highly likely
there is a woman
out there who is
capable of helping
you out and currently
not operating at
100 percent of
her own potential.