Is the bias against women in technology subliminal as well?

I know I’ll get into trouble for writing this, but I dont know any other way than to write what I think. Sometimes I have thoughts that I feel bad about. This is one of those. I am hoping that writing this will help me remember and correct my bias. Although I dont think I have a bias, I think I am trying to be politically correct in speech but my own thoughts need better refinement.

I have always considered women and men alike when it comes to technology of all sorts. There may be fewer women in tech, but most all of the women I have worked with (I have had 3 women managers as well) were as good as the men I worked with.

So before I got into my bias (or perceived bias) I have to say I am a big fan of Marissa Mayer.

This morning I read Marissa Mayer’s Tumblr post on their new logo. I read it in its entirety and was pretty thrilled with its content, and she did a great job on the storytelling. After I read it though, I wondered if the CEO of a large company like Yahoo should have spent so much of her time on the logo. My first reaction after that was, imagine if she spent that time in front of customers convincing them to spend more on Yahoo ads. Or with the product team on a new feature.

Then I remembered later in the day reading Vic Gundotra’s blog post on Steve Job’s icon ambulance a few years ago. I remember being very impressed with the line

CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

Then I wondered if I was as biased as everyone else.

Is it that she’s a woman, so I trivialized her obsession on the Logo and font? Versus Steve Jobs obsession of almost the same thing?

I dont know. I hate to think the answer is yes.

I felt awful for quite a bit thinking about this. I thought it was better to write this down than fight the daemons in my head.

Its okay for you to judge, but I would say that I have never felt that I have the bias ever.

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11 thoughts on “Is the bias against women in technology subliminal as well?”

  1. I think in some cases these situations arise out of not having enough role models by which to judge success — aka, should women tech CEOs act exactly like men tech CEOs, or should women tech CEOs act like women tech CEOs? And what does that even mean?

    When there are more women tech CEOs, then it becomes easier to compare and contrast. Maybe women tech CEOs should spend MORE time diving into fonts and colors. Or maybe less. Or maybe we should truly be gender-blind. It’s a very difficult topic after you think about it too much! πŸ™‚

    1. Jared so you think if there were more women CEO’s we would be less judgemental about the things they do? Or do we all have expectations of the role of a CEO that we think is mystical across genders?

  2. @mukund I’d be more worried if you actually daemons (or cron jobs) in your head πŸ™‚ Was your question/thought really,
    a] Is this the best place for the CEO to be spending their time (which is what i heard first) or
    b] is this CEO spending so much time (whether right or wrong) on the logo redesign because she is a woman
    The former is a legitimate question, regardless of Steve Jobs feelings on it. The latter is a generalization at best or sexist at worst. Either way my take away is that we all could use periodic reflection on our own biases and assumptions and you are brave enough to share them openly. Kudos to you!

  3. Both Ms Mayers and Jobs have a background in design which probably explains their near fanatical obsession with all things design.

    On a slightly related topic, I am curious if you had the same subliminal (or even concious) bias to Ms Mayer’s vogue shoot (http://bit.ly/18wmqvf). And if you did (and please be honest), would your reaction be the same if a good looking male CEO was dressed in a nice suit lounging on the same chair (or Larry Ellison being photographed with his monster yacht).

    1. Soni did not think too much about it. I glossed over it I think and would do the same if a male CEO was in GQ. I did not judge her and neither would I have thought it made any difference to my opinion. The Vogue photo made no difference to my high opinion of her – both on the positive or negative side.

  4. Mukund, I love that you wrote this down and even more that the first two comments are both thoughtful and offered by men. I’m looking at the challenges women face raising money from quality investors with the perspective of (ahem) quite a few years of experience. The way I think of such issues today is that hardest battle any of us face in our lives is to be our authentic selves. My perception of Marissa Mayer is she stepped up to a challenge that plays to her natural strengths, aka, her authentic self. I would love to see much more of that kind of analysis in Silicon Valley today than the so-called pattern recognition that drives many decisions. Please consider that I’m approaching my own market-disruption opportunity in a way that plays to my natural strengths and then let’s chat about why that is or is not the winning strategy. In a sense I believe that’s exactly what you’re saying too. Thanks for putting it out there.

  5. I think many biases are subconscious. I’ve seen that in myself, and have been trying to work to counter it. But we are, all of us, the products of our environments. Biases creep in in spite of us. I have found myself viewing Mayer critically, at least partly because she’s a woman and I find myself expecting more of her — which definitely isn’t fair.

    But trying to be aware of and questioning your own biases is the only way we’ll stop being biased, so thank you for doing that.

  6. Interesting post. I may be biased because while I’m a marketer and entrepreneur, I’m also an artist. I would never delegate the logo supervision if I were in her shoes either. The logo is the face of the company even more than she is and it will affect ad sales and whatever features are created; they’ll sit under the umbrella of the logo. So I’d say, male or female, a CEO better make sure the logo is a good fit for a company. On the flip side, a poor logo could negatively impact a company and then we’d be all over the CEO as to how he/she could have let that happen. It certainly wouldn’t go under the radar like whether or not he or she attended a particular session regarding ads or features.

    As far as whether you caught yourself in passing judgment, you know better than anyone else but we’re all guilty of it every day. We make judgments on a regular basis but the awareness helps us evaluate if that is the correct thing go to do. We’re probably all better people the less we judge but try to guide instead.

    I am trying to recall where I recently read a case study from a professor. Just switching out the actions of the CEO with a male or female name, and that being the only difference, the female CEO was disliked for the same actions when the professor presented a scenario and asked for feedback. So, yes, there is gender bias. Body language experts even coach women in leadership positions to sometimes use a different body language depending on the situation, being sure to be slightly less assertive and more open because of the different expectations placed on them, just because they are women. There was a whole Ted talk I watched on that.

    But can we really expect women and men to be the same? They’re not. They never will be thank goodness. What a bland world it would be. And it’s a good thing to approach business from different perspectives, as it’s the creative side that can expand business. It takes all kinds of people in a room to think out of the box and what better way to foster creativity, than to have a variety of people in a brainstorming session from all sorts of backgrounds and genders.

    So yes, she probably favored something she had talent for and a background in anyway, but like Jobs, we focus on our interests and strengths. It is curious that the thought crossed your mind but great that you noticed it and questioned it. No need to judge yourself either though. Just noting it was a step in the right direction. JMHO. Please disregard if not helpful.

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