Logical Fallacies and Women in Tech

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There have been a lot of articles about women in tech over the past year since Susan Fowler’s memorandum came out about her time at Uber. A lot. There has been a lot of discussion about what to do to rectify the situation, what’s wrong with the sentiment that there aren’t enough womn in tech, what women deal with, etc etc, ad infinitum. But there haven’t been a lot of articles breaking down the opposing side.

Until now.

In Monica Chin’s article We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Women in Tech, she explores three logical fallacies that most come up in the women in tech discussion.

"We Shouldn't Lower Our Hiring Standards"

– the implication that lesser qualified women are taking the places of more qualified men.

"This Doesn't Fix The 'Real' Problem"

– hiring more women at tech companies doesn’t fix the issue that we need to get more women into tech in general.

"These Places Shouldn't Be Hiring Women Anyway"

– women are either 1) not designed intrinsically to work in tech or 2) going to be harassed after being hired anyway so why bother.

She then goes on to describe why each of these are fallacies, and even throws in a couple of studies as support. It’s a well-written and thought-provoking read, so I recommend you take a look at the article. It may make you think about things with new eyes when you read them. But my goal isn’t to rehash what she said.

I want instead to discuss how the biases that create these fallacies have such a transformative effect on the landscape. How we ingrain these logical fallacies (even women), to such deleterious effects that we start to believe they are true. How we have to navigate around these fallacies and tiptoe around what can only be called a malformed conversation about women in tech. How we we have to argue against these fallacies as the actual problem, as if men weren’t the real problem in the first place.

The reality of the situation is this: I shouldn’t have to spend time trying to logick men into something that numerous studies have shown is a good decision – having more women around increases productivity, creativity. Also, just based on the numbers of women in college – women are smart.

I hate that we (both women and men) have to spend so much energy and effort into debunking these fallacies, navigating around them and speaking to them. I hate that these arguments have become the landscape of the bigger conversation about injustice. I hate that these have become part of the culture, and that we instead need to push against the idea that there are just as many qualified woman as men out there in the world rather than just buckle down and get things done.

Newsflash: most people that cling to mindsets such as these aren’t the type that are going to listen to well-reasoned arguments against them.

Cancel all my meetings.

Someone on the internet
is wrong.
Source: someecards.com

I found a quote yesterday, attributed to Euripides Bacchae (I am guessing it’s a particular translation, because I read a lot of the Bacchae yesterday to find it and couldn’t), but the quote states “talk sense to a fool and he will call you foolish”.

Speaking to logical fallacies is only going to have a minimal impact. Enforcing higher standards on our companies and our men, isn’t. We shouldn’t have to convince companies and men into compliance, because all that will happen in your logicking is beating down the men, and not really effect change. It’s a great logic exercise – it’s just not a great practice.

Yes, we need to know what some of the arguments against more women in tech are in order to address them. But we’ve lost sight of the point. Instead of taking actual action, we write expositions, allowing people to hide behind logical fallacies and arguments. We post on twitter, and write a blog (guilty), thinking we don’t really have the power to fight either of these things beyond these small lines we cast out into the vast ocean.

Instead, we could be starting an advocacy group at our company. Pushing for 50% of the hiring team to be women (even though we all know being on the hiring committee stinks in general). Starting a meetup in your neighborhood, one for both women and men who support this cause. I’m tired of arguing and analyzing and discussing holes in the other side’s reasoning. We can do something.

The women’s suffrage movement in the United States took over 70 years before it was able to result in the 19th Amendment granting women to vote. I don’t think I have it in me to wait 70 years to see this conversation change.

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