Doing is my part (this far)

Posted by Norberto Herz on March 08, 2018

Abuse against any minority is wrong. It has always been wrong but these days it is simply unacceptable. Do you see how simple that enunciate is? This is something we might all agree and yet, abuse is still there.

I am a white man in my 30s and it is hard for me to find my place in this fight. I am a child of the patriarchy and I’m sure I’m full of (sh)it. I’m also sure that I don’t want to be part of the problem. I’m also sure that I want to be part o the solution.

I’m posting this article on International Women’s Day for a reason. We are very used to thinking that today we must give a present to “our women”. It’s a day to “treat them like the princesses they are”. Well, irony aside (they are not “ours” and let’s not even dive into the princess thing), we better get rid of these thoughts soon. We can be nice to anybody anytime. Let’s take advantage of this day to think about what it means (

In Argentina, where I live, violence against women is alarming. Every week we watch the news to find that another woman has been kidnapped, abused, and murdered. There are groups protesting and fighting for this problem to be taken seriously by the authorities. These groups have their thoughts, voices, and methods and, the society is not fully supportive of these. That’s not necessarily bad, opinions are just that. But unfortunately, the society is forgetting to keep supporting the fight against gender-based violence regardless of any affiliation. I’m oversimplifying a really complex situation to focus on something that I think it’s important. There are people, like me, that understand that the change also requires from us to introspect, to recognize in which way we are doing it wrong, and to start changing it soon. Doing this is hard (even if we are honestly willing to), and we might need help. We might need to be educated.

Several years ago, my wife and I put these topics on our agenda. Since then, we have been discussing every now and then. I knew by that time about the big stones. I knew that there was violence, discrimination, gender-bias. But there were tons of finer concepts that were way beyond my observable universe. She was incredibly patient with me while teaching me about it. Most of these impossible concepts are now facts to me and I am enormously thankful for that.

It’s still hard to find a way of doing my part, but here is my attempt: Let’s take a well-known-terrain, focus on learning what can be done there, and start doing it. I know companies. I’ve been working at different companies my entire career. I’m currently an Engineering Manager cause and/or consequence of being interested in building organizational cultures. I’ve seen how companies can educate inside out on topics with social impact. Even though gender-based violence is not starting within companies, other concepts that expose patriarchal thoughts could be easily spotted: sexual harassment, unequal pay, and bias for accepting an idea if it comes from a man, just to mention a few.

As part of the role, I should be doing my best to guarantee a safe workplace. So, I spent the last year educating myself about gender-bias problems and strategies to prevent or detect and solve these. During this time I’ve read countless articles and selected some of them to share with you. Some considerations:

  • I don’t agree 100% with all the contents I’m sharing, but I consider all of them, food for thought. The selection criteria were not based on my opinions but the on value I think they can add to the reader.
  • I’m placing a comment for every article. I’m not trying to explain anything based on my thoughts, since I don’t consider myself an authorized voice to do so. Of course, I have my own opinion and I love sharing it (feel free to reach me via Twitter if you are curious about it). But the same way my opinions were not part of the selection criteria, I’m trying to get rid of them for the purpose of describing the articles.

I hope that you are doing your best already, but if not, I hope you find this helpful in order to improve.


Being an effective ally to women and non-binary people

This is my favorite one because of 2 reasons:

  • I’ve always felt that there is some lack of definitions around this subject, and that complicates communicating and educating.
  • It basically answers my biggest doubt about the subject: How to contribute.

I’m a woman in tech and this is what I want in a company

The list is sharp, clear and still argumentative. While reading it I had an amazing breakthrough: These are all things I also want for me when evaluating a company. Well, isn’t that the true meaning of equality? I understood that being part of the solution is also wanting the same that she wants, and doing my job in order to have the companies I work for, fulfilling these requirements.

This is how sexism works in Silicon Valley

A really detailed deposition about things that happened to Ellen Pao. The narration tells about moments so absurd that I had troubles to process. It’s so outrageous that I had a pulse to write her to ask if there was any story-telling-license. I didn’t. By the way, I don’t think I would have had that pulse if the story was told by a man. Do you see how deep the patriarchal mindset could be buried? I’m ashamed of that and I hope I can keep detecting these glitches until I get rid of them. Well, her career is fascinating and while researching about it, I found that this article is part of her book: “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change” which I’ll start reading as soon as I finish the one I’m currently working on.

Tech’s dirty (not so little) secret

If you found Ellen Pao’s article shocking, I’m sad to communicate that it’s not an isolated case. For data-lovers, this article tells us that from a group of 800 surveyed women, 300 have suffered some kind of harassment. Numbers are discouraging but let’s do something about it. Let’s remember that if we are not part of the solution… (see the next article).

Running out of time

Written by a former colleague, he reflects about his role in relation to this problematic, how we need to start by assessing and recognizing our limitations and always be willing to understand, learn and change.

I’m an ex-google woman tech leader and I’m sick of our approach to diversity

A complex and thoughtful critic about the approach we are using to tackle inclusion issues. The author arguments that having pipelines with 90% men, forcing to have more balanced teams requires lowering the bar, hiring more less-qualified-women giving arguments to the ones who think that “women are not as good as men in tech”.

Running a business with boobs

Closed mindset doesn’t seem to be solved with success cases. This article tells us that not only doesn’t gender bias end when a woman achieves a milestone in her career, but also this gets worst.

The myth of the cool tech girl

A bit shocking. Personally, it made me think about colleagues I worked with and that I could partially identify with the description. I wonder if they felt that way and if I did what everything I could have to make that change.

Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber

The first of many articles exposing that culture at Uber wasn’t at its best. It started with sexism but after a train of “unfortunate episodes” Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, ended up being removed from this position by June 2017. Had you forgotten about this? We shouldn’t tolerate this behavior from anybody. Not from the newest employee, nor the company CEO.

If gender and race are artificial constructs, does diversity matter?

An analysis a bit (too much for me) philosophical about how the society assigns weights to what should be “pure objectivity”, and how the diversity model is constructed over a paradox that indicates that it should be understood but invisible at the same time. An article I wanted to quit reading several times but that reaches some interesting conclusions.

You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry

Is the answer to this article (which in my opinion should be linked in the response). I read the original post and I found a couple of weak points. In the answer, a lot of information. History about how some of the rights were acquired and recognition to the women that fought for these.