How Parentheses Bias the Dev World

Tracy Roesler bio photo By Tracy Roesler Comment

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My company is going to have a Hackathon soon. I think Hackathons are a great idea; they promote collaboration, and get you to work outside of the normal tech box in which we live. They don’t bother me. What bothered me was the content in the Hackathon advertisement.

Gather your banner men (and women) to build a 
game-changing piece of software to benefit [our company]...

Why the need to mention women parenthetically? Are we an aside, an addendum, something not to be considered equally? You could just say ‘gather your banner men and women’. Or, why not just say developers?

The definition of parenthesis includes the phrase “…inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage that is grammatically complete without it”.

An afterthought. And that’s what I felt like in this company wide announcement – an afterthought.

This is the second time within the past week that girls have been mentioned parenthetically to me. The first time, myself and another female co-worker were thanked by a developer for helping him. He said, “Thanks Guys (and Gals)!” Again, the afterthought. Also, in this instance, he was not actually helped by a single male, so no need to mention them.

Usually, I don’t have a problem with the gender neutral term “guys”. If the phrase had been left as “thanks guys,” I would not have had any problems. I often refer to my female groups as friends as “guys”.

However, I’m beginning to notice a trend here.

This subconscious use of language is just a symptom of the actual problem. The truth is that in many instances, women are considered afterthoughts. Why are we considering women to be a footnote in our dev world?

Language both leads the way for our thinking, and reflects current ideologies. Treating women as asides when discussing people in tech, or in notifications like the one above, will not endear them to the tech field. It does not make them feel valued.

What it does, is demean and subjugate them. It makes them extraneous, not necessary to the sentence, or to the world where they are trying to live. We need to be building up our women in tech, or at the very least, treating them as equals to others (you know, like men). As much as I enjoy making parenthetical asides (and I do it a lot), there is no room for parentheses when talking about coders.

Now should there be ()s in code? Absolutely.

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