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SILICON SCREECHING: FEMINISM AND WHERE IT MISSED THE MARK

Women may have reached emancipation in lots of places around the world over the past century, but unfortunately, most women have not yet learnt how to use their newfound freedom. When we look at several statistics, many of these show a lack of female participation in many senior positions, whether it is in government or in the corporate world.
This under representation is not due to a lack of capacity or intelligence. Recently, a male employee1 at Google, in Silicon Valley, was fired due to spreading a memo to his colleagues about female’s supposed lack of talent to do technology (among other things). The employee argued biology and psychometrics, which turned out to be mostly a collection of pseudo-scientific ideas. Whilst everybody has a right to argue whatever they want on as faulty a foundation as they want, it is not advisable to do so on your employer’s clock. The employee got sacked, felt discriminated against and took his case to publicise himself on social media. The bloke’s time probably would have been better spent on doing some actual research, especially research on Silicon Valley’s past. Had the employee done so, he would have known about the many foundational contributions by female employees on the tech field as well as their filling up of many technical jobs in tech during and after WW2 The, by now, ex-employee would additionally have found out how women were pushed out of the technical field of the job market once this field became lucrative. The reason females are not inclined to work in the tech industry today has nothing to do biology, unless one wishes to argue that emailing unsollicited opinions to colleagues during office hours is founded on biological imperatives.

According to a recent UN survey,2 only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians are women as of June 2016. This is a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995, and, as of October 2017, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government, As of January 2017, only 18.3 per cent of government ministers are women; the most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are environment, natural resources, and energy. These are followed by social sectors like social affairs, education and family. These are usually considered not to be very influential posts, whether this is actually the case or not. Looking at the world’s top economy, in a recent survey of the S&P 500,3 women make up 44.7% of total employees. Within this percentage, the numbers seem to decrease: 36.9% of women are mid-level managers, 26.5% are senior-level managers, 21.2% of women hold board seats, 11% of women are top earners, and merely 5.2% of women are CEOs. While looking at corporate governance globally,4 women are not likely to be found in board rooms. In a recent survey of more than 3000 global companies, it was found that women only hold 14.7% of seats. Looking at those stats, from either a top down or a bottom up perspective, the picture for women does not bring a person to their happy place. Both in career development choices and maximum career achievements, it seems that glass ceilings are still firmly in place, with a few cracks to let some women pass by.

When we skim news sources about women issues in tech, as much of an unhappy picture is displayed. From cultural biases to gendered outreach programs to sexual harassment. This is relevant, especially given the bro-rants that keep popping up in the news every couple of years about how supposedly women cannot do tech. Women’s contributions to the foundations of computing science, let alone the computer industry is often overlooked. Instead, even in today’s tech companies, women are underrepresented. Recently, Google was revealed to have the highest percentage of its technical staff to be female, but this is as low a percentage as 17.5 In order to further research the topic, a movement of historical accounting is in vogue now. Women’s work during WW2 is finally being credited,6 ranging from hardware to software development. In this context, it is relevant that the number of women who major in Computer Science has decreased since the 1980s, the numbers went from 34% to 18%.7 Back then a lot more women used to work in tech (to the point of working as human “computers”8), and graduate from tech related schools, today it is the opposite.

So far, the word “woman” has been used consistently. The choice for use of a word from the sociological, rather than the biological field (which would have been ‘female’) may seem odd. After all, feminism itself never seemed to define the term “woman”, what this term is founded upon and what this term entails in the first place. What is a “woman”? For once you get past the obvious argument of equality of the sexes, women have been sold short on the potential of woman-hood itself. Ever since the right to vote, women have been jumping around in the seemingly never ending quest for more emancipation. A century later, women are left with many hard earned freedoms over their personhood and bodies, but little else.

Is a female a woman? Is a female a wife/girlfriend? Is a female a daughter? Is a female a mother? Looking at those four simplistic questions leaves with you a problem, none of these “identities” stand on their own, they all belong relation to another person/persons. The epithet “woman” is somewhat vague, it is used as a secondary feature to other identities, a “woman” doctor, a “woman” actor, a “woman” politician, etc. The term “woman” seems to denote nothing more than the “female” variant of a certain identity. Since “womanhood” itself was never defined as a potential subjectivity, but a mere accessory or addition, current feminism seems to have built a house with no foundations. Their counter terms, namely “man” and “manhood” are well defined identities. The lack of definition of the terms “woman” and “womanhood” leaves a gap in culture, and it is to the loss of all members of society.

Even though females make up half of our homo sapiens population, in places where they have been emancipated and have been enabled, women still do not occupy equal positions in manufacturing products or running businesses. With regard to occupying positions in the middle market as well as higher ranking positions, females are underrepresented, as the numbers have shown in the discussion so far. The underrepresentation of women in corporate and government has remained a peculiar fact, despite the fact that women have overcome cultural barriers and have closed gaps ranging from education to legal rights.

Women, or females, whichever your perspective is, justifiably pursued inclusion. This was a worthy cause, since political emancipation should not be exclusive to any one biological sex. Unfortunately, after political emancipation, feminism’s main goal seemed to get stuck on inclusion and not much more. This inclusion, sadly, did not benefit the female population. The demand for inclusion on a political level makes sense, since government has a finite number of positions. Not demanding inclusion would come down to political suicide. Fields outside of governments assemble along the lines of mutual interest and mutual gains. One can demand inclusion, but if you have nothing substantial to offer, this inclusion will turn out nothing than a panacee. This, in my opinion, has been overlooked by the feminist movement. This means that another approach should have been taken, Demanding inclusion in business will not lead to actual participation nor inclusion, since business and corporate operate on wholly different parameters from government. In the following, I’d like to sketch another take on things.

In a revisionist historical timeline, feminist would have argued for their rights explicitly, from their freedom over their bodies to their freedom of association. An unwavering right to participate in government by taking turns on singular positions (like that of ministers and prime ministers) to demanding proportional representatives. If the fate of entire nations economies and populations are so important, it would not make sense for half of any given population to sit by idly. Women would simply demand those freedoms, take on those responsibilities and affect their futures directly.

With regard to social and financial regulation, feminists would legislate more in favor of freedom of association and dissociation. In this way, women would get to pick and choose the organisations they wanted to associate with. This would pertain both to being employees and to being consumers. Whether firms and associations end up being exclusively female, male or both, a real market competition backed by enabling social regulation would ensue. This would mean that women would no longer be discriminated against or recruited merely for inclusion points and cleaning up a firm’s market image. Female consumers would have options to choose from: these options would range from quantity and quality of goods, but as consumers, ultimately could demand the product that caters to their needs.

The feminist movement, rather than choosing the risk of freedom and the thrill of having to stand on their own, went the utopian way. At a certain point, feminists apparently decided to argue against segregation, but the numbers show that this has not yielded the desired results. after all, women are still underrepresented in a number of fields, as has been discussed at the beginning of this article. Feminism overlooked the fact that everything was there to be gained by associating freely, where simply the best and the brightest would be attracted, of both sexes. Alas, this is all historial fantasy (or shall we say her-storical, pun intended) because it seems women decided that being a feminist was too much to ask Instead, women would gain small concessions, where the actual change was only effectuated with the passing of certain generations who upkept certain discriminating ideas in the first place. The latter has been largely the case in Western countries, rather than an accomplishment of feminism. It seems one can argue that most women never were feminist, and most don’t seem interested in more emancipation or rights. This is a pity, since female leadership and female achievement, and its particular perks, have a lot to offer to the world.

On the biological front, many quaint arguments have been brought against females, from the hormonal to the menopausal, from the emotional to the menstrual, from getting pregnant to being incapable of thought once they have become mothers. Many of these arguments have obviously been falling part with the advent of science. The modernisation of birth control is arguably one of the most liberating technologies when it comes to women’s rights. , and enabled women to exert control over pregnancy , However, contrary to what one would expect, this did not liberate women with respect to their sexualities.

Female sexual selection is all but established as the leading mechanism by which most species evolve, from birds to humans. The female of the species, whether bird or human, chooses a mate based on aesthetic and survival capacity. A quaint observation might be that the fairly recent, and only limited in its explanatory power, model of the patriarchy made males select a mate. This could imply that women, at a certain point, ‘forgot’ that they have the power to select a mate. Women could be enjoying the selection process itself, but too many women still deny their female nature and seem reluctant to take control of it. Rather, they focus on roles in society – being a daugher, a mother and so forth - and defending themselves when it comes to the idiosyncracies of being female. This allows others, whether these others are men or other women, to use sexism against women in general. In the long run, when women do not own their own woman-hood, they end up not being able to own their sexualities either.

After reading this article, some might say that is unfairly being set up with too many expectations for females, After all, there have been significant accomplishments over the past few decades. We must not forget that female emancipation will effectuate changes within other groups.. Feminism has yet to reach its full potential, but this potential will not blossom by demanding ‘ inclusion’ which is basically asking everybody to be nice to you. Women will have to be prepared to play the game the way everybody eventually will have to play it, which is by utilising your own potential and actively pursuing what you want. In general, legislature that gives people rights does not mean much when these rights are not being utilised. Something tells me utilising from a safe and inclusive space will not amount to much.

by Niko Eldeeb



Bibliography

1. www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/business/google-women-engineer-fired-memo.html

2. www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures

3. www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-sp-500-companies

4. www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-corporate-boards-globally

5. www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/10/06/345799830/the-forgotten-female-programmers-who-created-modern-tech

6. www.newscientist.com/article/2118526-when-computers-were-human-the-black-women-behind-nasas-success/

7. www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/why-is-silicon-valley-so-awful-to-women/517788/

8. www.researchgate.net/publication/236718596_When_Computers_Were_Women