While I appreciate the content of this post, titling it ‘What Can Men Do?’ frames the discussion by excluding women in tech. I almost stopped reading at that point. Why not title it ‘What Can We Do?’. Women need to be just as aware and supportive of co-workers that aren’t the default young white male.
Programming, while challenging, doesn’t require you to be a genius. Like you suggest, standard web development is much closer to brick laying than most would feel comfortable to admitting. With that said, biological arguments for lack of women in programming fall flat, since differences in mathematical ability between women and men are very small. Here’s a slideshare if you would rather see this in graph form:
Is there then something cultural that skews the numbers toward men? Probably, yes. There were more women in programming back when it was not a prestigious profession, and seeing that programming has probably gotten a lot easier over the years with better layers of abstraction, there should be more, not less.
From the smithsonian mag (www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/computer-programming-used-to-be-womens-work-7180610)
As late as the 1960s many people perceived computer programming as a natural career choice for savvy young women. Even the trend-spotters at Cosmopolitan Magazine urged their fashionable female readership to consider careers in programming. In an article titled “The Computer Girls,” the magazine described the field as offering better job opportunities for women than many other professional careers. As computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper told a reporter, programming was “just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it…. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” James Adams, the director of education for the Association for Computing Machinery, agreed: “I don’t know of any other field, outside of teaching, where there’s as much opportunity for a woman.”
What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”
How do we combat this? To start with, we should increase exposure at an earlier age (programming is also useful in many other stem fields), and create a more inviting workplace. I cringe when I still see things like codebabes popping up on hacker news. We have work to do.
Women often fail to advance in their careers because not enough maternity leave is given, and will usually sacrifice their careers over their family. A good way of avoiding this is by giving mandatory maternity leave for both genders. Raising children is not a woman’s problem, it’s an everyone’s problem.
Going though your advice:
Abide by the Hacker School Rules
This could also be titled: be a good mentor/co-worker. In addition to this I would suggest a pull-request style code reviews. Since the code review is done before changes are merged into master, this prevents random code refactors from 3rd parties. Knowledgeable parties can comment on the diff, you can get more eyeballs on the code to spot simple errors, all while the original dev is in charge of changes.
It’s a positive feedback loop. Of course you need to take care in phrasing your comments, but there are style guides on that too.
People have a hard problem separating critique of code from comments about themselves. Even the best of us will write crap code under time constraints/stress. Don’t take it personally and keep comments civil. Also don’t feel threatened by a competent person that is not a default young white male. We have enough to deal with from impostor syndrome to deal with that drama.
Really listen. What? I SAID LISTEN.
Or don’t assume I’m incompetent If I’m not a default young white male. I know it’s hard, but please try.
If you see bad behavior from other men, speak up.
Sadly this is why we have HR, and why flat orgs probably don’t scale very well.
Don’t attempt romantic relationships at work.
This one is a bit tough. If sparks fly and you enter a romantic relationship, one or both parties should be prepared to find a new job immediately. For an engineer in the current economy, this isn’t too big of a burden.
Also, until both parties have semaphored interest outside of work, please treat your female co-workers as you would your male co-workers. We’re there to work, not to be easy dating material.
No drinking at work events.
Just as bad things can happen at an informal happy hour. If you know you’re a bad drunk maybe you shouldn’t drink.