@Mike_FTW: Let this be a notice: you put together an all-male, all-white conference and I *WILL* go to war with you. And you will lose.
Reading Mike Monteiro’s tweet and subsequent debate made me realize I’ve become one of those people inflamed by the mere mention of racism and gender discrimination. I’m not sure I can be blamed after reading some of these responses, including such gems:
@MatthewDonnely: if there happen to be no good women speakers available then why higher a poor one over a good man? It works the same both ways
@genuinechris: and yet - they are poor negotiators. I have seen world class talent for pennies on the dollar from women.
@JohnONolan: @Mike_FTW Are you retarded? How many black swimmers do you know? How many white 100m sprint runners? How many female fighter pilots?
I believe in human beings. I think the majority of these men genuinely think they live in this bunny-rainbow world where everyone is given a fair shake and no one is judged by skin color, weight, or the ability to hold an erection.
However, being a young female interaction designer, and more freakishly, an Asian-American female interaction designer, I don’t. Let’s get it straight right off the bat that I have a really nice life, one that wouldn’t be possible even two decades ago. People are generally good to me, so this isn’t any kind of woe-is-me post. This is merely to give a curious man insight into why people get so angry when he says that he has never witnessed discrimination and that design hiring must be a strict meritocracy (ie, hiring a team of only men, because there are just more talented men than women).
I think we all can agree on the extreme acts of discrimination. Locking the car door when you see black people on the sidewalk, assuming Jews are trying to swindle you, not interviewing someone because he has a kid at home, yes?
So, here’s the bad news. There’s a whole other brand of discrimination, which is more passive and involves more than your individual choice of letting someone sit in the front of the bus. This is where the statement, “if there happen to be no good women speakers available then why higher a poor one over a good man?” comes in.
There are many great women who shape design. Jessica Hische, Debbie Millman, Kim Goodwin, etc, etc, etc. If one genuinely asked a bunch of women and some cosmic whirlwind made them all suddenly unavailable, fine. I think there are enough female designers that the gap between women and men wouldn’t be ‘poor’ and ‘good’, but maybe we are mincing words, here.
However, I’m betting that the lack of women is due to the fact that women were vastly underconsidered when coming up with a list of the very best designers. Making a conference that is supposed to be about the state of an entire industry all-male is like taking a census of a city and only marking the people who walk past your Starbucks window. It’s as if to say, those other people, they exist over there somewhere…but they’re not walking by the window so who gives?
Ok, so now I’m betting all my manfriends in the audience are pulling out their hair and saying, look at the data, Ash, there just aren’t that many women who do interaction design! It’s a numbers issue! We don’t discriminate!
Yes, my friends, it is a numbers issue. But, don’t you find it boggling that the interactive design industry, one that prides itself on helping people achieve their goals and communicates with normal human beings is dominated by white males? If we’re fighting for the user, why is the interaction design population not representative of the population at whole?
Either the honest answer of, “Ash, I could really give a rat’s ass,” or the more common, “I don’t know, most girls probably just don’t like interaction design if they’re not choosing to go into it.”
Ok, so let’s talk about why men become interactive designers. It’s a marriage between the left and right brains, it moves fast, it’s new and exciting, it’s available to many people, it can pay pretty damn well, it involves working on close teams of smart people…the list goes on.
So, what they’re saying is, because a girl lack a penis, these types of things don’t appeal to her. In which case, I’m calling shenanigans. That sounds like an awesome career. Why else are there so many amateur designers and self-taught who gravitated towards design after they found their other previous callings unsatisfying?
If the reason men went into interaction design was, it feels really good on my penis, I would understand. However, it seems like none of the great things about being an interaction designer touch upon anything gender related.
If not a lack of appeal, then the only other alternative is that women lack the natural ability to keep up with the challenges of being an interactive designer.
Uh oh. Getting into Third Reich territory up in this business.
I know. These men don’t intend to discriminate or hurt anyone, but they continue the tradition of assuming it’s the woman’s fault and the woman’s decision to languish in obscurity. And so, no one is villainizing the industry for hating women. People are villainizing it for being lazy and comfortable in a world where girls in even my young generation were told to sew trinkets and do laundry while boys play with saws and sandpaper.
Don’t hire a woman who is worse than a man strictly because she is a woman. Seek out talented women to add to your organization/conference/whatever as an active choice to try and shift this ridiculous and weird inequality. I promise that even if you seek her out and fail to find her, your initiative will punch a door into the boy’s club of interaction design by creating the prospect of a gender equal future.