At a recent lunch with her family, Toronto-based editor and coder Lyndsay Kirkham was essentially seated next to the forces of patriarchy itself wedged into a couple of meat-suits.
According to her live-tweeted account, she had to endure listening to a group of IBM executives chatting about why they do not hire young women (hint: young women are time-wasting baby-making machines whose uteri get them jammed in the wheels of capitalism):
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Kirkham says that she checked for alcohol on the table because she couldn't believe how unabashedly and obviously sexist the execs — who were later joined by "an older woman" — were being. Turns out, they weren't drunk, just intoxicated on the fumes of systematic sexism. She also told the Daily Dot that "the executives listed off a number of women who are currently employed at IBM, all of whom apparently have kids, and listed the amount of time the women were expected to take off in the next few years for anticipated pregnancies." Not only is such speculation invasive and inappropriate, it's also totally insane. What are you, womb-whisperers?
Kirkham believes the executives were likely employed in some kind of human resources capacity because of their familiarity with HR jargon, which is pretty terrible and disheartening — even if IBM is devoted to fostering diversity on paper, that's fairly meaningless if the HR department finds hiring young women a liability. "It's a systemic problem," she told ThinkProgress, noting that "it [starts] at the job interview," where a young woman gets passed over "because one day [she] might pop out a kid."
According to a recent study, 52 percent of women in STEM careers drop out without returning; the top two reasons for them doing so are the "hostile macho cultures" endemic to science and tech fields and "extreme work pressures." (The study also notes that men who want to raise families take issue with the extreme pressures, too — because, well, men enjoy spending time with their offspring as well. Shocking, I know.)
If tech companies are actually serious about fostering gender parity, they're going to have to eliminate these obstacles instead of what they're doing now, which is endlessly apologizing about their shitty diversity reports and feebly promising to do better. Swearing to work reeeeaaaal hard on improving doesn't do much unless the actual corporate environment changes. So, IBM, why not start by making sure all your employees recognize that 1) women are people, not pregnancies-waiting-to-happen, and 2) those women who do choose to get pregnant need maternity leave — and new fathers need paternity leave, too?
Because the current model isn't really working for anyone but old white dudes.
Image via Twitter.