Tag Archives: ask a geek feminist

When being professional means dressing in men’s clothes

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters:

I work in a research lab with about 15 employees. There are two women, and administrative assistant and me (an engineer) we are getting ready for a big design review and someone suggested we get shirts that we can all wear to match for the big presentation. The problem is that there is a local style of shirt that men wear but women do not typically, the woman equivalent of the shirt is usually sleeveless and sometimes skimpy and not work appropriate. I asked that we not do the local shirt because it wouldn’t really work for me and instead do polo shirts. When I made the request one of my co-workers suggest another local dress that is associated with old women and everyone laughed. I have just found out that the decision was made and we are buying the local shirt and I am supposed to just get a men’s small (they don’t make them in women’s sizes). If I don’t wear the shirt I won’t look like part of the team but I feel like my lab had the chance to try to be inclusive but chose not to. The other woman isn’t happy about it either but she doesn’t have to do a professional presentation. What do I do? I could dress professionally in my own clothes but then what do I say when a customer asks why I don’t match? Do I just put on the men’s shirt?

Companies, diversity and diversity advice?

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters:

What startups do geek feminists see as role models for diversity, and why?

And, what do people think of the idea of a company having a ‘geek feminist advisory board’ instead of a technical advisory board? Its scope would be larger than a traditional technical advisory board also potentially including diversity, corporate social responsibility, culture, and strategy.

I have to say that sounds perhaps more like it should be an ethical advisory board generally, to me. Anyone have experience with that kind of advisory role?

I’ll write more about it as it begins to happen no doubt, but one of the prospective projects for the Ada Initiative is to provide that kind of advice as consultants, including to volunteer organisations and similar that generally wouldn’t be able to afford to hire consultants on the subject of gender diversity.

Impostor syndrome and hiring power

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question:

What are some ways in which I can avoid rejecting people who suffer from impostor syndrome when they apply for a job?

I’ve recently been promoted to a position where I’m somewhat responsible for hiring people. I would like to increase the diversity of new hires, and so I’m more likely to put applications from women through to the interview stage.

Following that though I don’t want to lose out on quality applicants as they are modest about their achievements and abilities, due to impostor syndrome or otherwise.

Giving an automatic “+10 kickass” to every female applicant as they may suffer from impostor syndrome seems to be a strategy without much merit. Getting everyone to exhibit their full potential is clearly the better solution.

Can you suggest interview strategies that would create the environment in which women (and indeed anyone) will be better able to convince me of their suitability for the role?

I don’t have so many specific interview strategies, but I’ve got plenty of ideas for hiring strategies in general, I hope you can adopt some of them and perhaps our commenters can talk about the interview.

First, a should be obvious: a +10 kickass bonus may be illegal discrimination in your geographic area. If it is, definitely don’t do that.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about soliciting applications. Now, there’s a couple of things that stop some women at this point. First, there’s a tendency to regard themselves as underqualified for perfectly suitable jobs. Next, there’s concern that they needn’t bother, as a woman’s name will cause you to discount their resume. Some suggestions:

  1. get your signalling right. You want to say “women friendly employer” in your advertisements without discriminatory pro-women statements. This at least gets you past the “I’m not a man” part of impostor syndrome. Here’s some things you should be doing:
    • advertising all relevant open positions on a women’s job list such as, say, LinuxChix’s jobposts for open source jobs. This at least shows that you aren’t actively avoiding women applicants.
    • including on your full ads the “equal opportunity” boilerplate you might be able to find on other local job ads
    • including information on the “Careers” section of your website about your carer leave, your retirement contributions, your shared sick leave pool, your friendliness to part-time employees if any of these hold

    Not only are these things attractive to many women (and yes, some men as well) in and of themselves, they also signal in various ways that when you picture your new hire, the picture isn’t young, white, able-bodied, male, etc etc.

  2. if your employer has recently had a similar (especially perhaps slightly more junior) position available, get the resumes of the people who were considered the better applicants from the hiring manager, HR person or recruiter, and re-consider them for the new position (probably there would need to be some kind of process of tracking and perhaps re-application here, but I’ll handwave that problem to you).
  3. consider internal employees in more junior positions as potential applicants. Depending on the size of the company, other managers might be able to recommend people to you who are overqualified for their position (or possibly not, if they are getting good work from them)
  4. consider whether you really need experience that skews very very male. For example, does someone have to have open source development experience? Are there alternative ways that someone could have learned the skills you need?

And now for considering applications prior to interview:

  1. you may not be able to say you’re doing this, but in order to avoid bias on the basis of gender or other demographic characteristics, for as long as possible in the process keep names off resumes. Have names and addresses scraped from resumes by someone before you see them, and do as much ranking as you can prior to finding out the names and details of the applicants.
  2. avoid judgements about cultural fit at this stage.
  3. there are reasons companies rely on the recommendations of existing employees, but for each open position, try and select some applicants for interview who didn’t come in via the company networks in order to avoid duplicating your company’s present demographic by hiring all their friends

In the interview itself here is a strategy for getting people to talk about their successes when they are susceptible to impostor syndrome (note that any candidate might be part of an oppressed group, so don’t limit these to women candidates): ask about something the candidate did that benefited someone else. How did they save their company money or helped a team member learn what they needed to know? Present them with cooperative scenarios where they need to help you or your employer do something as well as or instead of competitive scenarios where they need to prove they are the single right person for the position. If anyone can flesh this out to specific example questions in the comments, that would be useful.

I strongly recommend reading Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever for good solid information both about women’s negotiation and self-promotion strategies and why they use those strategies, namely, that competitive and aggressive interpersonal strategies are simply not effective for most women because of negative responses to perceived aggression in women.

Open thread: an extremely important question

Submitted to Ask a Geek Feminist, I think this question deserves your silliest answers:

What are [Geek Feminism blog]’s thoughts on morphing males into females via using the XX chromosome and simulating as sperm, injecting it to eggs to create better humans (especially those that are into life extension-ism?)

Source: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pellissier20110202

Science, it is coming for your Y chromosones, folks.

Inside the Atomium 3
Image description: a tall, steep set of stairs painted red leads up a large closed metal tunnel illuminated in unnatural lighting colours. Image by O Palsson.

This is also an open thread, for unicorns, sparkles, better humans, discussion of older posts, and anything else that takes your fancy. Questions for ask a geek feminist are still open.

Ask a Geek Feminist, round 4

Welcome to round 4 of Ask a Geek Feminist! How it works:

  • if you’ve got a question you think a geek feminist could answer, post a comment in reply to this post. (Comments will not be publicly visible.)
  • about a week from now I’ll distribute questions to my co-bloggers and they can make a post with an answer to a question as they like
  • about a week after that I’ll choose some of the remaining questions and open them up to our commenters

Your question, if it appears in a post, will be quoted (possibly edited for length) but not attributed to you, unless you ask us to attribute it. Since we’re not making them publicly visible, questions can be about anything you like; however obviously if you stray too far from our comment policy the chances of ever seeing an answer are pretty slim. Check out previous posts answering questions to see how this worked before.

Questions do not have to be about feminism or or obviously feminist topics: they could be about geeky interests, about careers, about social life and so on. Given the name of this blog though, feminism might appear in the answer…

If you have a 101 (introductory) questions about feminism we suggest that:

  • you’ve looked over Finally Feminism 101’s FAQs and the Geek Feminism wiki’s 101 page to see if you can get an answer there first; and
  • you explain why you want a geek feminist, in particular, to answer this question. Do you think there’s a particular geek slant on this we might have or that our readers might like to discuss? The series is intended to produce interesting things for our community to think about and talk about, as well as an answer for the questioner.

If your question boils down to “why are there so few women in science/computer science/mathematics/engineering/physics, and what should we do?”, we’re unlikely to answer, please see this list of resources to turn to.

Questions will be accepted until comments on this post close in about a fortnight. (I don’t want to accept them constantly, because of the work of anonymising them.) If you miss out and find comments have already closed, another round will run later in 2011. You can also ask questions non-anonymously in Open threads, although they may not be promoted to the front page.

Re-post: When you are the expert in the room

In anticipation of a December/January slowdown, I’m reposting some of my writing from 2010, for the benefit of new (and nostalgic!) readers. This piece originally appeared on the 4th October 2010.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question:

This a “what should we do” question, but a fairly specific one.

Recent discussions, particularly Restore meritocracy in CS using an obscure functional language , have left me thinking “this still doesn’t say what it would be helpful for people like me (white male with computing experience starting early) to actually do about it”. Just saying to avoid the viewpoint that this reflects enthusiasm or innate ability isn’t very specific, but the discussion seemed to finish around that point.

The answers will probably be different in different contexts. For example, how about in class? The best I can think of is “don’t be eager to answer the lecturer’s questions to the class, but let someone else go first”. Would that help? Is that enough, in that context? But if you give the lecturer the impression you’re not knowledgeable, but then do well in the written exam, you can invite suspicion of cheating in the exam (this definitely happens). Or should you even make deliberate wrong answers, to lower your apparent expertise? I’d find that horribly condescending if I knew someone was doing it towards me.

And in a professional context, if you know the answer to a colleague’s question (or on a mailing list, to any question), but you hold back on it to let someone else answer, you’re holding back the asker from getting on with whatever raised the question. But is that less important than letting others answer? (I suspect it depends on the group or list concerned.)

And a branch of that one, relevant in my present job, in which part of my role in the team is specifically to be the experienced programmer who can answer people’s questions, how is it best to handle that?

And in a seminar, should you hold back in a discussion if you have advanced ideas, so as not to scare the less confident? But then, you’re not making your best technical contribution.

The most extreme suggestion I’ve seen (only once, I think) is that geeky men should get out of computing altogether, to make it more comfortable for others to get in. In which case, a big source of potential mentors would be lost.

And do the same suggestions apply to female experts?

So, I’m stumped on this and can’t contribute any significant answers, but I hope the questions are useful for discussion.

There was some discussion among the cob-loggers about whether and how to answer this question. But there was always lots of confusion about this on the LinuxChix lists while I was subscribed (I haven’t been for a few years now), men who genuinely wanted to in some way to address gender issues in computing but the only strength they saw in themselves was their expertise, and when it was suggested to them that displaying this at every opportunity was at best annoying and at worst harmful they were completely at a loss. So I think an answer is genuinely useful.

Important note: this answer is aimed at privileged people (in this context, generally men with a good technical background) hoping to check their privilege and keep it on a short leash. If you are a woman reading this, it’s entirely possible the reverse applies to you in geeky environments: you might be wanting to learn how to have more confidence in your expertise and how to inspire confidence in others. Some of these techniques might be useful to you at some times when you want to help others learn, but this answer isn’t really intended for you.

Important note 2: from here on, “you” refers to the general you, the person who want to encourage/support/etc women but is struggling to see how to do it without being dishonest about your own abilities, not necessarily “you” the person who asked this specific question. I’ve seen this a lot, so I want to try and address it in general. I’m generally going to assume that the relative expertise of the question asker is in fact a correct assessment but you should question whether you are really the expert or whether you’re partly benefiting from structural assumptions that you are.

Let me start by stating that there are at best misguided versions of this question: people who say “I want to share my expertise with women who want to get into computing! But now I’m not supposed to be intimidating. Fine then, I’ll take my expertise and go home. See how you like that, women in computing! Ahahahaha!” Don’t be one of those people. Your participation in technical and geeky groups, especially groups for learners, isn’t solely about you. If you insist on either being the top dog expert or going home… go home.

My beta reader for this suggested that much of the question is based around the assumption that in order to help build people up, you have to drag yourself down. There’s two problems with this: one is that this sort of thing isn’t a zero sum game, and the other is that not all women (or outsiders in general) are also beginners. They may be intimidated in spite of substantial ability and experience. So in many cases your role is less to try and hide your own excessive light under a bushel, and more to support the discovery of what’s already there.

When you’re the expert at work

In terms of your workplace, an approach I like is one that some activist groups make explicit: if you are the only person who knows how to do something that the organisation needs, you should make it your top priority to train at least one other person to do it. You could do some of the following:

  • presumably part of your role as designated expert, or something that you can make part of your role, is keeping a sort of list (mental or physical) of areas of expertise other programmers have, and referring questions to the other experts.
  • if something should be documented, ask the person who consults you if she can document it as she learns it. Then you can refer future questioners to that documentation, or get them to improve it. And you can credit its authors when you point people to it. And by having people teach others and write for others, you are turning them into experts.
  • if something should be automated (for example, you are consulting on a fiddly manual process) ask the person who consults you if she can automate it as she learns it.
  • when you get too busy (and this sounds like the sort of role where you are constantly in more demand than you can satisfy) decide that someone else needs to be the expert on some subset of the organisations knowledge base, and come up with some kind of handover process in collaboration with her, so that she is confident in being able to handle that set of problems and people know to go to her without even involving you.
  • consider that your own expertise is unlikely to be all-encompassing. If there’s a task that takes you half a day and a colleague half an hour, ask her for her help with it. (No need to go on and on about how she’s the expert here yay for her, just get her help.)

Note that those aren’t specific to women colleagues despite my choice of pronoun. The idea is to change the environment such that expertise is being built everywhere, not to go out of your way to make women into experts, unless you are in an environment specifically focussed on women (like LinuxChix is).

Similarly, in teaching roles, it is important to know when someone is thinking out loud on their way to the answer and when they are genuinely stumped and starting to get too frustrated to make progress. In the former case, just let them think and give them some time to put those thoughts into action.

When you’re the expert in class

Some of the question about classroom behaviour does seem a little excessively fearful. I guess there might be some classes that are structured as lectures and a final exam, but all my classes at university involved submitted assignments throughout the course in which you can demonstrate knowledge without taking up class time. A class in which people must ask questions to demonstrate their knowledge, as opposed to asking questions because they need the answer sounds like it must be terribly tedious for everyone involved. And they must be awfully small classes, or really long ones, if everyone who doesn’t regularly participate but still does well in the class is then investigated for cheating. In general, if you are required to demonstrate expertise solely in order to pass, see if you can do so in a way that isn’t public.

In terms of being part of classes or seminars, it is situation dependent. Is the class or seminar or discussion a bit introductory for you? Perhaps you should absent yourself or remain silent while the others get the hang of things, or at least wait for one-on-one approaches from other students for help rather than taking up teaching time demonstrating your knowledge. Is it genuinely challenging for you too? Well, make it visible that you’re being challenged. Be that wonderful person who asks the lecturer half way through the class “uh, I don’t think I really understood that first set of hypotheses, can we slow up?” when everyone else thought it was just them. Throw a few ideas against the wall before you think you have the answer. If someone else has a good idea, give them space to express it, thank them, and then see if you can extend it, especially in a collaborative way with the original proposer. Watch the tendency to try and set up a you-and-me-the-smart-ones dynamic with the teacher by speaking up only when you’re totally confident.

It may help periodically to actually try and measure (by making notes of who speaks when, assuming you can do it subtly) whether you are the most talkative person in the class. If you are, take a break from talking: it’s unlikely your ideas are so uniformly superior as to need that much airtime, and if they are, perhaps you need a more advanced class.

My beta reader also suggests that if you find a classroom is centred around you and other confident students and generally being a little self-congratulatory and that other students are floundering and suffering, that perhaps you should have a word to the teacher about how you feel the classroom environment is letting most of the students down.

When you’re the expert in a women-centred geek forum

In situations like mailing lists, at least places like LinuxChix which have a specific mission to be encouraging and a good place for learning, here’s some tips:

  • Have a look at the average turnaround time of the discussion. Is it common for someone to wait 24 hours to have a question answered? Well, people asking for help are probably aware that they may need to wait 24 hours (unless of course they say something like “ARGH HELP NOW DON’T DELAY FIRE FIRE FIRE IN THE THEATRE”). So make that your delay. Wait 24 hours (say), and see if they got a decent answer yet. If not, then post.
  • Very important: before you post an answer, read the other answers. It’s a common problem to have a self-appointed expert insist on re-explaining the whole thing from scratch, rather than seeing that Suzy already sorted out Jane’s compile error, so you just need to help Jane work out how to get the info she needs out of the core dump.
  • If an answer worked, but is missing a nuance, or isn’t precisely how you would have done it, consider carefully if you need to point that out. Is it actually harmful in the long run to do it the other suggested way or is it a matter of taste? Is this a good time and place to evangelise on matters of taste? It usually isn’t.

Note that none of this is denying your interest, expertise or talent: it’s not about pretending not to have it, it’s about genuinely putting it at the service of other people, and about developing similar expertise in other people.

I think it’s also important to interrogate your motivations in being the expert in women-centred groups. All of these approaches are not uncommon in tech groups with a lot of women:

  • assumptions that you, a man, must surely be the only expert in such-and-such who is part of the group, because, really, how likely is a woman to be a such-and-such expert? (There were certainly subscribers to the LinuxChix lists who believed that this was true of all of Linux systems administration, to the constant chagrin of women members who had spent 20 years in the field.)
  • assumptions that women geeks, unlike men geeks, will properly acknowledge you and respect you for your expertise, finally, the admiration you deserve!
  • the good ol’ not having enough women in your social circle thing, and being there to make friends.

The last one is tricky: here’s my take. Nothing wrong with having friends or wanting more! But, when you aren’t in a social group, attend to the mission of the group first, and the socialising a distant second.

Re-post: Self-confidence tricks

In anticipation of a December/January slowdown, we’re reposting some older writing for the benefit of new (and nostalgic!) readers. This piece originally appeared on Apr 14, 2010.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question:

How do you keep up your inner reserves of self-confidence?

It seems like a certain amount of “irrational” self-confidence is necessary for success in geeky fields. STEM work usually involves a lot of failure before you figure something out. While you’re failing repeatedly, you have to keep believing you can do it and you’re smart enough to figure it out. But the repeated failures, to me, always seem like evidence that I’m not smart enough. From a scientific perspective, I demand proof: what evidence is there I can do this? And there seems like a lot of evidence that I can’t.

It seems like guys are less likely to have this problem. They don’t attribute the failures to their own lack of ability so much — they attribute the failures to the difficulty of the problem, the equipment they’re using, the information they were given. (Or maybe I’m wrong and guys also feel this way. But they don’t show it as much.)

Anyway, my questions are: Have you experienced this? What do you do about it?

While I’m actually a bit of a poster child for high self confidence (you sort of have to be in my field), I’ve been teaching tutorials at the university for 5 years so I talk to a lot of students who aren’t feeling so hot about their own abilities: the first year of an undergraduate program is especially hard for a lot of folk.

So here’s some of the things I tell my students about how to survive in an environment that takes a lot of self confidence. Other suggestions are welcome in the comments!

Remember that you’re not alone

Lots and lots of very smart people have trouble with self-confidence. In fact, there are so many people who have this problem, that they have a couple of terms regarding the phenomenon:

  • Imposter syndrome refers to the fact that many people feel like they’re not good enough to be doing what they’re doing. They feel like they’re impostors who don’t belong and eventually someone will notice and kick them out of the field.
  • Dunning-Kruger effect refers to a very strange cognitive bias: People who are vaguely incompetent will over-rate their abilities, and those who are highly competent will under-rate theirs.

So remember that your insecurity may actually be a sign of intellectual maturity: you’ve learned enough to understand what you don’t know. And remember that some of those people who say they’re awesome may not be. Especially in first year computer science, where I teach, there’s a lot of blow-hard teenaged boys, and I remind people of that regularly.

Cultivate your shield of arrogance

I joke about it a lot, but I’m not entirely kidding when I suggest that the best way to get through certain things is to have a thick shield of arrogance. I’m not the only one who says this. The perl folk tell us that The Three Virtues of a Programmer are Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. Think of it as a tongue-in-cheek recommendation: I don’t really think you should all become arrogant jerks, but it’s really handy if you can grin, wink, and say “of course I can do that, because I’m awesome” and then follow through.

The amount of arrogance shielding you need is a bit of a personal decision. You don’t want it so thick that you can’t take constructive criticism, but you want it thick enough that pointless insults roll off you. I publish academic papers in computer security, a field known for harsh practitioners, so I need enough arrogance to look at a terrible review and say, “Does this person even know what they’re talking about?” before I think, “OMG, they hated my work.” But then I need enough humility to admit that their mistaken impression might be fixable if I explained something more clearly.

Also, note how I’m not saying you need a thick skin. That’s maybe true, but it won’t help your confidence nearly as much as the ability to say, “screw you; I’m awesome.” Shield of arrogance it is.

Find your cheerleading squad

Some days, things are going to get you down, and it’s really helpful to have someone who can cheer you up. People who believe in you and what you’re doing can help you through a lot of rough patches, including crises of self confidence in geeky fields. Constructive criticism can be great, but you also need the odd pep talk and some people who are willing to be really positive. And just like cheerleaders are often very talented athletes, you’re going to need some very talented people on your cheerleading team: people who can fairly judge your abilities and whose opinions you’ll actually believe when they say that you’re awesome. They don’t have to know everything about your geeky field, but they have to know enough about you to make some good judgments.

You may already have your cheerleaders among your existing friends, but one additional problem for geeky women is that they’re often surrounded by companions who think you’re hot and who have… other motives behind the compliments. This means cheerleading can quickly become icky. Not cool.

If this is a concern for you, consider looking for some extra cheerleading help from other communities. Women’s groups, especially, tend consider being supportive part of their charter (and often have rules against hitting on their members!) Some examples: Systers for women in technology, Linuxchix for women in linux and open source development… if you don’t know where to find such a community, ask on Geek Feminism and we’ll try to help you out, or maybe hook you up with other people who want to start such a community. Even if you don’t think you need access to such a community, you may be surprised by how much fun it is to have more people to interact with. And don’t think of it as a write-only relationship: hearing other people’s stories and getting to cheer them on is actually quite fun and rewarding.

Celebrate your accomplishments

Research has shown that women don’t promote themselves as much as they should. (If you want to learn about this, I highly recommend you read Women Don’t Ask!) This leaves us (and other shy folk) at a disadvantage because people around us may not realize and recognize how awesome we are. Even if you’re too shy to tell anyone but your cheerleading squad, give it a shot. And remember that some communities even explicitly encourage this, so you aren’t necessarily going to be out of place: Linuxchix, for example, encourages people to do “horn tootin'” posts where they celebrate neat things they’ve accomplished: a new job, a working system, a neat solution, achieving inbox zero, or even the first day your daughter sleeps through the night. Don’t feel you should only celebrate “big” milestones: if you do something that matters to you at all, allow yourself some time to brag.

You’ve got to remember to balance here: bad things happen, but if your cheerleading squad only hears from you when things are rough, it’s going to be harder for them to bring up examples later. So make sure they hear the good as well as the bad. I don’t know about you, but I find when I sit down and think about it there’s usually more good than bad.

Talking and writing about your accomplishments not only makes them more widely known, but also gives you practice expressing yourself… so not only are you advertising your awesomeness, you’re actually becoming more awesome in the process. How’s that for an extra ego-boost?

Don’t forget to be awesome

Just before I went in to do my proposal defence last week, my little sister sent me a text message that told me I had permission to be awesome. And when I asked her for advice on writing this post, she said I should give you all permission to be awesome too. It’s really hard to be down about yourself or your accomplishments when you’re too busy being awesome: that is, actually learning and doing the things that you want to do. It’s a bit circular: But if you can let go of self-confidence issues long enough to do cool stuff, then doing cool stuff will help you let go of self-confidence issues because you’ll have more examples of your awesomeness right there.

So go forth and be awesome!

Feminist political associations with a “geek” focus

A friend of mine submitted this out of season for Ask a Geek Feminist. The benefits of friendship, huh?

Here we go:

I want to donate money to a group that influences politics in a feminist – but also “geek” – direction. In particular, many long-standing political organizations haven’t caught up to social media and other Internet-related changes in political organization, and I want to use my money effectively.

What’s your favorite geek-feminist related political organization and why? (Open question to organizations working in any country(-ies), but we note that the U.S. midterm elections are a month away.)

Anti-humanities sentiment in geekdom

A sort of an “Ask a Geek Feminist” bonus round, from KMF in the open thread (you can always ask questions in the open thread, but they may or may not be promoted to the front page like this):

I’m a longtime geek and feminist, but a newcomer to geek feminism. I’m glad I found this blog, because it gives me the opportunity to ask a question I’ve been pondering for a long time. I’ve seen a lot in geek feminist circles about anti-science bias in feminist circles, but what about anti-social science/humanities bias in geek ones?

Allow me to clarify: I do steampunk, listen to nerdcore rap, play online RPGs, and write (horrible) fanfiction. I love geek communities of all kinds. However, when it comes down to talking about women in geekdom, I feel a bit out of place. Although I love math and science (and have done a fair amount of coursework on the history of science), I’m not professionally or academically focused on a field in STEM. I’m a double major in music history and women’s studies. In geek communities, I sometimes see women’s studies (and other areas in the humanities) criticized or dismissed for being “anti-science,” and women in these fields called out for not wanting to be scientists.

I’m not anti-science (quite the opposite) and I didn’t buy into some sexist pressure against women in STEM. I just want to be a feminist historian. I also happen to be a geek. I feel that this shouldn’t be too difficult.


Know when to walk away, know when to run

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters. This is the last post that will appear for this round.

Let’s say you are a part of a community site of geeks. In my case: gaming. The site is great except for the sexism: it’s a community of mostly guys who generally seem unaware of their privilege as (generally) educated, white males.

Do you stick it out and try to educate, be a different voice? Play along to get along? Leave?

What has been your experience? What do you do and when?