Subtle bias for women leaders

This article illustrates a few examples of female tech leaders being interviewed and the focus was on their children, work-life balance, or other “women’s” issues.  We’ve all witnessed it, whether it’s a woman in tech, a leader in politics, or a female musician.  I’ve been lucky over the last few years.  I’ve done a couple of interviews with male journalists and that didn’t ask me at all about my work-life balance or juggling kid activities or even whether I had kids.  They asked me about Computer Science education, programming, and other areas I work in.

But I have experienced the bias of conference organizers either a) assuming all or most of the attendees are men (SXSWi) or b) assuming because the attendees are mostly women, they have certain interests (BlogHer, 2006).  I get it, people have things they’re comfortable talking to women about or that they assume about them based on what they see on tv or based on the 3 women in their family.  Here’s a news flash: women are different.

I just explained to someone that I have as many Dr. Who fans among my female students as I do Taylor Swift fans.  I have students who like to glam up on dress down days and those that go with the jeans and t-shirt look.  I have students who like sports and those who prefer fashion.  But they’re all smart and capable and when they become leaders, they deserve to be touted for their accomplishments and not their outfits or how many children they have.  Unless, as the author of the linked article suggests, we start doing the same thing to men.

These are the things that wear women down after a while.  I can tell you I got tired of going to work parties with my husband and no one asking me about my work, only about the kids.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often anymore.

I don’t mind having honest conversations about the ways having kids or a lack of family-friendly policies in the workplace disproportionately affect women’s careers if that’s the topic of the article, conference, etc. But if the topic is technical or business related, my kids, work-life issues, or family leave should not really come up.  You can’t ask a question about how many kids I have when the topic is Search Engine Optimization.  So let’s put a little wall between work and home, at least while we have women leaders in the public eye.