By Jesse Jinna Ruiz
In a scholarship application for a coding boot camp, I was asked the following question and it really bugged me for a few reasons:
In a traditionally male dominated field, what benefits do you think women can bring to the class environment and technology field? What makes you the most deserving candidate for the scholarship?
Here was my response:
There are two answers to this question that address what is asked. The first answer accepts the premise there’s something inherently different between men and women. And traditionally, most people accept this premise and a response might list the inherently different and beneficial qualities of “women” to include, for example, diverse group dynamics and work styles, solid managerial qualities, strong empathetic perspectives and etc.
However, the second type of answer would not accept the premise that there is something inherently different between men and women and would even go so far as to argue, in a radical feminist fashion, that the qualities of “women” and “men” are not consistent with gender but instead social constructs that societal/cultural norms instill in artificial types (‘men’ and ‘women’).
Obviously, I side on the radical feminist perspective to answer this almost misogynistic question about what benefits women might bring to the table (if only they had shot). Women bring benefits to their work or class environment as much as any other person no matter their gender. But not categorically women qua women.
The question isn’t a bad one for a scholarship application, but it is discouraging to ask what women can contribute to the technology field. What about other gendered folx? What have women already contributed to the field? And what can men or persons in positions of power and privilege do to enable minorities to impact the field? These are the real questions that should be asked.
So herein lies the answer to the deeper question: people learning/working in the technology field or any field should acknowledge the disparities of race, gender and sexual orientation on larger scales. And people in power should exercise their influence and authority to institutionally empower women, minorities and other gendered folx within the field and change that field and society in turn. The field can benefit itself by stripping away barriers and assumptions that have been taught through generational stereotypes/norms. This work needs to happen institutionally.
I don’t believe men and women are inherently different. I think society constructs limitations and barriers and institutions and businesses can fight and correct them. Being a gay, biracial cis-woman who just entered the technology field, I want to work with people that respect and acknowledge the need for equality and dignity for all. And I’d like to exist in any place as myself and not a gender.