When I heard that March 8 is International Woman’s Day my first reaction was an eye roll. “But Lily!” You may exclaim. “You’re a woman in tech. You battled the patriarchy to claim your place in a STEM field. Don’t you think you and other women deserve this day?”
No, I don’t. I don’t need my social media feeds to be taken up with fake platitudes from men who write #empowerawoman and #HeForShe. I don’t need to see companies post photos of all the women who work in their office. *Insert ‘binders full of women’ meme here*
I don’t want to be celebrated because I’m a woman. I want to celebrated based on my individual accomplishments. A couple years ago, a list came out titled ’19 Virtual Reality Executives Who’s Names You Should Know’. The author had nothing but good intentions but he made the crime of not including any women on his list. He created a list of the best executives in VR based on his research and knowledge. He got so much flack for not including women on this list that he started adding any woman executive in VR that was Tweeted at him. I’m now on that list: 19+ VR Executives… I don’t share it, I don’t put it in my About Me because I didn’t make that list based on my merits. I only made that list because I’m a woman. That’s not something I count as a win. It’s not an accomplishment to me.
A friend told me that all the men in her office are wishing her, “happy International Women’s Day.” She confessed to me her annoyance because the day has turned into a Hallmark holiday. To her and me, the day has lost any validity it had.
This has been coming for a while. In 2016 the woman and diversity movement became mainstream. I didn’t understand it. My personal story of being a woman in tech clashed with narrative suddenly being spread online. Women in Tech are victims. Tech job descriptions discriminate against women. The STEM industry has a “masculine bias”. I wrote in a 2016 blog post, “If being a “woman in tech” means constantly nit-picking and complaining about how hard it is, then I want no part of that title.”
In another 2016 post, I rebutted an article about the lack of female representation in virtual reality. I quoted the article: “We need to be careful not to focus on “diversity for diversity’s sake” but on making a point that this industry is open to all.”
I excitedly bought Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In only to be disappointed by her advice to, “play games to negotiate raises and get their team members to do their work”. I found Sandberg hypocritical and disagreed with her statements to tell bossy girls they have leadership skills. Bossy does not equal leader and I think it’s time we stop telling women they can “have it all”.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t study women in history. There is a lot to recognize how much women have overcome and how much they have done for our industries and country, like the code girls of World War II. The second World War also opened up roles for women in manufacturing. What made these women successful, and what I think we should focus on is that, “delivering results will trump gender bias every time.”
I do want to recognize that there is still work to do. I wrote a lengthy post last year about companies who use women as “booth babes” at tech conventions. I think it’s a degrading practice and undercuts women who are the knowledge leads at their booths.
We may be all women but we don’t all think the same. We don’t all have the same experiences. We are individuals who have the power to lead our own lives. That’s what I want to celebrate. I am not a victim of the patriarchy. I made my career with the help of both men and women. I completed successful projects with a team made up of men and women. What made them successful was that we all had the same goal. We didn’t focus on what made us different. We focused on what brought us together.
I hope on International Women’s Day we can focus on our achievements not only as women, but as human beings and individuals.