Wednesday, April 4, 2012

evaluations, sexism, startup cofounders

what are?

In 21w.789 I was talking to a classmate about her project and asked her, "how was the localization implemented?" She said, "I like interaction design, so once the backend is done, I'd like to work on the GUI. I know, playing into gender stereotypes..."

Hi guys. This is the universe we live in, that we cannot simply feel secure in who we are and what we like, in who we are as individuals, but instead feel compelled to be Women who are going against stereotype or following the stereotype -- but either way, the stereotype exists and defines our choices.

I learned the interesting fact yesterday that every semester in one of my course 2 classes, accusations of sexism or hitting on people come up in anonymous evaluations. (I was surprised -- I've never thought of TAs or UAs being sexist, I've always seen them as human beings and possible role models, perhaps fulfilling or not fulfilling gender stereotypes). I don't have any data on any other classes, but it's fascinating that this issue is on top of other people's minds as well, false accusations or not. It's that process sitting there chugging along eating along 5% of my brain cycles all the time, self-conscious, analyzing. (Yea, I'm pretty narcissistic like that, I never really get around to analyzing if people I know are sexist, but I sure do get around to wondering if I can blame all my failings on gender stereotyping :P)

how to not?

I feel that this is a societal level thing. Yes, it's good for you guys to open your eyes and ears and listen more and try to understand. It's good for you to stop and think: when you take charge of the coding portion of a project and do lots of work, you might be putting your friends in a tough spot where they may greatly appreciate you getting the work done but feel put off by your not giving them a chance to be "counter-stereotype". But there is no need to obsess about how not to be sexist on an individual level, I feel, since life is a grand experiment and trying and failing is acceptable.


Yea, I think about gender stereotypes when looking for a cofounder and reacting to people's suggestions as well. I have a somewhat irrational determination that I will not work as a cofounder with a guy (possibly even a girl) who won't shoulder at least half of the "nontechnical" work in a startup. I would rather go it alone than risk the possibility of confirming gender stereotypes (yes, again, my choices are dictated by these stereotypes floating around in society. I don't think I am confident enough to try being an individual instead of a Woman).

from an email i sent recently:
okay, so my knee-jerk reaction to this statement [...] i will explain that it's because i'm not confident enough about my own technical skills to make me willing to shoulder the businessy work, as inevitably it will then take priority over technical work. in addition, i am paranoid about any possibility of contributing to the stereotype that girls are more suitable for nontechnical work. exceptions being made if the target is what I consider underserved markets, then i care enough about the end goal to put my own fears and doubts aside to contributing to making something happen
since i have a decent internship i feel slightly more confident about my technical skills, i am willing to help out with the business-y stuff if you want, but prolly not enough to make me willing to be a cofounder or work long-term this way -- also why i will only ever cofound a startup with someone who is willing to at least equally share the business work, possible small concession on >= 50% share of business work being made if cofounder is female.

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