McMartin Workplace

Counting internships, I’ve worked two decades in the computer biz. When I was a kid, there weren’t that many female programmers, but there were a few. None of them seemed to find their male-dominated workplace denigrating or hostile or hazardous. It was not fashionable to encourage girls to reduce the gender ratio in technology. But no one discouraged them.

When my associates discuss the Kelly Ellis “sexual harassment” scandal, a common trope is this:

“I have a daughter who’s 11 years old, and I was encouraging her to pursue a career in technology, but now I’m having second thoughts.”

Progress!

When I was a kid I got to tag along to some tech industry conferences. Do you know how much harassment of women I saw at those conferences?

About the same as the number of UFOs I saw at those conferences.

Here is what happens at a conference: You are in a large public space, you attend some presentations which may be interesting, or not, and you exchange small talk and business cards with fellow conference-goers.

I cannot express how surreal it was when I first heard that conferences had “anti-harassment” policies. It was as if you went to your favorite cafe in your home town and saw four armed security guards on patrol. When you asked why the vigilance, they would only say, laconically,

“Zombies.”

Why then is there so much talk of women suffering harassment in the technology industry? Well … why was witchcraft a problem in New England in 1692 but not 1680 or 1700? There’s your answer.

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