I guess I have had my head in the sand as usual about a problem that is at a crisis level in my industry.It has been a few years since I went to a conference and I typically get along with folks at conferences pretty well. I have never had a big issue with walking up to someone and chatting them up. Making connections is part of the charm of a conference.
This year, I noticed something disturbing. Several of the women (whose names and companies were advertised on their badges) that I tried to talk to seemed stiff, almost fearful. I understand some stranger-danger but these encounters were beyond that. These were more than cautious, they were fearful.
I didn't understand. As a happily married father of three, I look my age and my description. I wasn't flirty or leering. And yet, when I approached a female at this conference to have a simple conversation, there was a wall. I had to ask, "What gives?"
When I followed some of my favorite speakers on Twitter, I got my answer. It sucks to be a female in the software industry. The more I searched, the more embarrassed I became. I thought we had made progress in the last few decades, but I guess I was wrong. I thought we had fought our way out from under the sexual fog of misogyny and dominance in the tech sector. What I found is ridiculous. Dov Charney would blush at some of the crap that women endure to follow their passions in software.
Like I said before, I am a father of three. Two are girls. My blood went to insta-boil! If a boy treated my daughter like some of the examples I heard, I would be facing jail time. So gents? Here is a good rule: Just because you like it, doesn't make it fun. Fun should be victimless. If your fun leaves someone else feeling vulnerable, used, cheap, judged, second-class or in any way less than you, you need your ass kicked.
It isn't just gender. It isn't just race. If you are always looking for a boundary just so you don't cross it, you are already going too far. You are hurting your business, your family, your honor, your name, your children, your city, your beliefs, your image, your ability to ever work for my company or ever have me spend a red cent at yours. Stop!
My industry needs to start a conversation. I understand this is a two way street and there are certainly examples of women hurting the culture by being provocative. So what? My integrity isn't about who they are, it is about who I am. People unfit for a winning culture will wash out after we build the winning culture, not before. If we want a culture that can be looked to for sustainability, integrity and desirability, we have to look in the mirror before we act. We all learned this a long time ago: Follow the golden rule. Put yourself in the other person's shoes before you act or open your mouth.