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Programming

Video Software Engineer Liz Bennett Talks About Being a Woman in a Nearly All Male Workplace (Video) 370

This conversation was generated by a post Eric S. Raymond published on his "Armed and Dangerous" blog that said, "...if you are any kind of open-source leader or senior figure who is male, do not be alone with any female, ever, at a technical conference. Try to avoid even being alone, ever, because there is a chance that a 'women in tech' advocacy group is going to try to collect your scalp." Eric later wrote a post about how Social Justice Warriors may be more of a problem than the problems they complain about.

Whoa! Predatory women in tech trying to entrap people like (and including) Linus Torvalds the way an old-time private eye got the goods on an errant husband as part of a divorce case? Scary! And worrying about thoughtcrime, too? Oh my! But Liz Bennett is an actual software engineer who works at Loggly in San Francisco. She writes for her company's blog when she's not writing Java code, has a (not very active) GitHub account, and plays bassoon. And her attitude is similar to the one espoused by ESR in the second post (above): write great code -- and if you do, they (for any value of they) have no right to be negative about you, period. And, she says, before you take a job you should be sure the company is a good "fit" for you and doesn't harbor people who will work to bring you down -- which is great advice for anyone, in any field of endeavor.

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller for Slashdot: This is Liz Bennett who is a coder, a programmer with--what’s that company?

Liz Bennett: Oh Loggly?

Slashdot: Loggly, which is an interesting cute name. We were talking about some stuff that the well-known Eric S. Raymond has been talking about recently about women who are being so put upon or feel they are so put upon in the coding arena that some of them are supposedly trying to trap Linus Torvalds, among other people, into some sort of huge uh oh bad sexual harassment thing. So Liz, are you trying to trap Linus Torvalds or Eric Raymond?

Liz Bennett: You know the thought actually hadn’t crossed my mind. But seeing that blog post has surely got me thinking, maybe I should. That was sarcasm by the way, in case, it is being lost.

Slashdot: Realize people, that she does play bassoon -- which leads to sarcasm. And she writes Java. Liz, so how about you? Does anybody give you a hard time for being female or whatever?

Liz Bennett: To be honest, not, not really. No. It is not like something that never comes up. Sometimes, most of the time I am the only woman in the room, and something will come up and they will be like “Oh Liz! How does that make you feel as the token woman?” and I will be like, “I don’t know. I am just a person. Like how would it make you feel?” I don’t know. It doesn’t really happen. It doesn’t happen. But I have also been really careful to vet the company culture, the place that I am interviewing, at which I’m interviewingwith the idea of working at it.

I am really careful because it is kind of a cultural thing; like some companies may have a culture where it is kind of a more “taken for granted” type place and I would probably avoid a company like that at all costs. Loggly is a really fantastic company. Their culture is just so open and so nice, so accepting. Nobody has ever said anything disparaging to me ever, so I am just so grateful that most of the time, most people are actually decent human beings in the tech industry despite what you might think.

Slashdot: Well, I looked at the company’s About page and staffing team thing, and you are not the only woman who works there in a position of responsibility, are you?

Liz Bennett: Oh no. I am just so for the first like eight to nine months I was here I was the only woman in the engineering department.

Slashdot: What about the whole Gamergate junk? Did that affect you?

Liz Bennett: Oh not really. Not too much. I mean if I start getting too involved in this stuff and too invested in the internet comments and, like, the flames, where am I? And it’s like, it is not really what I face on a daily basis. It is not like that. So it just kind of gets me all rattled for finding no reason.

Slashdot: Yeah.

Liz Bennett: I just don’t, I don’t know, maybe I just don’t keep up with it too much. It kind of doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter one way or the other. Or I can view it as just work on the relationships I have with people around me and just focus on doing a great job and being a great person. So I don’t think the industry is rampant with horrible sexist men who are actively trying to push women out. It is in reality, it is just not what it is really like. It is not like that. Everybody I have ever worked with has been really nice, been really supportive and just been awesome coworkers. And it just so happens that there is only one woman in the room. I don’t know – I guess I don’t maybe – I just don’t have a particular inflammatory thinking about it, so maybe I am not that concerned.

Slashdot: No but I noticed you said that you before taking a job, you looked them over a bit.

Liz Bennett: Yeah, yeah, I mean anybody assesses a company they are going to, they are not just assessing inclusion, and I wouldn’t want to work for a company with a culture that I don’t enjoy. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody has their social things that they like and maybe there are people out there who really like the programmer culture that they think is awesome without female. That’s not the kind of place I am going to be looking for. And maybe those are the kinds of places where there aren't going to be any female engineers. If they decide hey this is a real big problem for us, we need to hire more female engineers, then yeah, then they might need to take a closer look at the culture and examine, “what it is that’s kind of putting women off??” It is a little bit of a Catch-22. Sometimes because maybe a culture is not great for women because there are no women there. So how do you get more women, have more women? Like how do you start? But I was one of the first women to join, I was one of the first women to join the Loggly engineering team, but at that time I was the only, there were no other women when I joined. And I still felt fine about it, like all the people I have interviewed with were so nice.

Slashdot: What do you have for advice? There are other women out there who are either just graduating college or just moving into actual programming jobs, you just face it, we both know the majority of women working in tech are doing like marketing and PR, non-engineering work.

Liz Bennett: Yeah.

Slashdot: Doesn’t mean they are bad people. I know a lot of people in that circumstance who are very good people, good friends.

Liz Bennett: Yeah. So I guess the only advice is the thing that is actually pretty hard for me on a day to day basis is kind of the subtle biases that people have, and it is little bit hard to know how to deal with that. It does get easier though. I feel like they stereotyped it a lot. Being the only woman in the room is still, you can kind of second guess yourself a lot. Everything you do and say everything that people say and do to you, it's like do they say that because I am a woman or they say that I am the youngest person on the team, and they said, oh okay, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, so that is really exhausting. I think the best thing you can do about that is to just see yourself as a person and everybody else is a person, you are not a woman, he is not a man, we are all just people working together. And try not to think of one isolated incident as a symptom of a much bigger problem or a much bigger issue it could just be an isolated incident if you go talk to that person, it might have been in this communication, you never know.

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Software Engineer Liz Bennett Talks About Being a Woman in a Nearly All Male Workplace (Video)

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  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @06:59PM (#51036999) Journal

    What was the purpose of the first paragraph? And yes, I am very sorry and feel directly responsible for something Eric Raymond said.

    • Re:WTF (Score:5, Informative)

      by wronkiew ( 529338 ) <wronkiew@protonmail.ch> on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @07:25PM (#51037153)
      The whole summary was disgusting. Roblimo kept trying to bait her into talking about sexism during the interview, and she wouldn't go for it. Then he turns the whole thing into a statement about ESR. If I was Liz I would be pissed.
      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        ESR's statement wasn't out of the blue, though, just its inclusion in this summary is (WTF?). ESR was talking about a real problem, applicable a few dozen people in the world,and irrelevant to everyone else.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          No-one has ever presented any actual evidence of this problem, and Linus has not said anything about needing a constant guard at conferences. No-one has ever been able to spot these people guarding him, or any other big names in open source for that matter.

          It's complete rubbish. ESR won't reveal his source or present any evidence that what he says is true, and while we can never prove a negative (could be protected by invisible ninja I guess) we can observe that some of his specific claims seem suspect at b

          • Re:WTF (Score:5, Informative)

            by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @08:58AM (#51040139)

            Whilst I'm not sure anyone has been the victim of unfounded allegations by the "womens rights" lot in the IT industry, it has happened elsewhere in science - remember Professor Tim Hunt who spoke at a women's science conference, 3 sentences of his speech were tweeted by a SJW-type and next thing you know, he's out of a job (curing cancer no less) and widely criticised for being a misogynistic white male ba****d.

            Turns out the truth is nothing like how its all been blown up to be, but that hasn't got him his job back. I think this is the real issue ESR is talking about, even if he's doing a poor job of highlighting it.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              Tim Hunt's situation is hardly a case of unfounded allegations. He said something in front of a large crowd of people, in public, and never denied saying it. The only issue was that there was something of a rapid overreaction on social media and from his university, which jumped the gun a bit. However, the "allegations" were not at all false, he did say those things and stood by them when asked.

              I don't think ESR's comments could be interpreted as saying that there are sometimes overreactions. He very clearl

      • Re:WTF (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @08:20PM (#51037503)

        Exactly the above. The interviewer was trying to be inflammatory, provocative, and instigating. Smacks of mainstream media. Whoever was asking the questions in this manner is the bigger societal problem in more areas than just women in tech. Liz was 100% real. The interviewer was baiting her with almost every single question and should be called out for it.

      • Re:WTF (Score:5, Informative)

        by zzbennett ( 4356513 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @12:52AM (#51038875)
        Liz here. I knew what the interview was going to be about going in to it (even the part about ESR) so, for the record, I'm not annoyed. I was happy to talk to Roblimo about it.
      • Re:WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Beck_Neard ( 3612467 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:02AM (#51038911)

        I'm a dyed-in-the-wool left-wing liberal through and through, I love socialism and I want equal opportunity for men and women. But I groan every time I see a woman being celebrated for being a software 'engineer' or somesuch when there is never such praise for men. And it always seems to be from people who are looking to push an agenda. No hard feelings on Ms. Bennet. I'm sure she's a wonderful young lady.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Why? She came out of it looking awesome and Roblimo made a public ass of himself.

    • Re:WTF (Score:4, Informative)

      by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @08:06PM (#51037403) Journal

      What was the purpose of the first paragraph?

      Provocation. This is the new SlashDice.

    • The second paragraph was supposed to be some kind of rebuttal to the first paragraph. Of course it didn't make any sense, wasn't related to the topic in any way, except that Liz was a woman and ESR was attacking women's groups, but logic isn't needed for these sorts of things.
  • Stop Hazing Us (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @07:05PM (#51037031)

    Stop hazing us dice. We're just nerds. We're not bad people. We and our industries aren't hostile to women, or minorities, or transgenders, or disabled people.

    Stop hazing us. We're not like those sour hipsters who work for/with your offices. We're just nerds. Stop injecting sex and politics and religion into our jobs and pastimes and pursuits. Many of us chose these fields in part to get away from that. Stop labeling programmers as "men", "women", "[RACE HERE]", etc, etc and telling us how we opressed everybody simply by existing. We have usernames and handles to escape our meatspace identities.

    This has to stop. These stories have to stop. The politics and the propaganda has to stop.
    Tech doesn't have a problem. The media has a problem with tech. This hazing has to stop.

    • Holy ... fucking shit!. I mean Holy, Fucking Holy, Fucking Holy Fucking Holy Fucking Shit!

      This is possibly the best post I've ever read on Slashdot, ever, and it is from an Anonymous frigging Coward


      Color me seriously impressed (and astounded.)
    • Re:Stop Hazing Us (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Elledan ( 582730 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @04:06AM (#51039381) Homepage
      I couldn't agree more. I'm a software developer by trade. That I am a woman is a completely irrelevant quantifier in this context, as neither one's biological sex nor one's chosen gender role seems to have any effect on the quality of one's code in my experience.

      Frankly, if someone refers to me as a 'female software developer' I'm more likely to feel offended, as if I'm somehow different from my (mostly male) colleagues, despite doing the exact same job and delivering (roughly) the same results.
  • Good Advice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This conversation was generated by a post Eric S. Raymond published on his "Armed and Dangerous" blog that said, "...if you are any kind of open-source leader or senior figure who is male, do not be alone with any female, ever, at a technical conference. Try to avoid even being alone, ever, because there is a chance that a 'women in tech' advocacy group is going to try to collect your scalp."

    Yeah, I think it's a fair fear.

    Women are a subset of people, and a subset of people are malicious. There's a sexist

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      It's not a fair fear because the idea that the numbers of these alleged malicious women are so high that it would require the extraordinary need to never be alone with any woman is ridiculous. And no, refusing to be alone with women at a technical conference is not a win-win for everybody, particularly where that means women are excluded from many of the activities you go to a technical conference for. It is just not a reasonable fear if you are not actually harassing women.
      • Re:Good Advice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @08:30PM (#51037571)

        Whether it's a good idea to avoid them is based on the danger. It isn't just the number of malicious women that affects the danger. The danger is *also* affected by how easy it is for them to set up a compromising situation. The current sociopolitical climate is not very friendly to presumption of innocence or believing a man's word and has a very broad definition of harassment--which makes setting up a compromising situation easy, and increases the danger.

        (Also, while because a random woman is no more likely to be malicious than anyone else, a woman who wants to be alone with you is not random.)

      • Re:Good Advice (Score:5, Informative)

        by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @10:00PM (#51038067)

        See: Rebecca Watson, Emma Sulkowicz, Connie St. Louis... the list goes gone. It's a perfectly fair fear, the consequences to women who aren't part of that malicious cult aren't fair, but as feminists are so fond of telling us everyone is "schrodinger's person".

      • "It's not a fair fear because the idea that the numbers of these alleged malicious women are so high that it would require the extraordinary need to never be alone with any woman is ridiculous."

        Actually, it is your post that is ridiculous, as that isn't what ESR said.

    • Re:Good Advice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @09:00PM (#51037763)

      Yeah, I think it's a fair fear.

      And a good practice. Male doctors, in modern times, are never with a female patient without a female assistant of some kind. Male police officers and security guards avoid detaining or frisking female suspects if a female officer is available and can do so. Male teachers avoid being in "closed office" situations with female students. On a different subject: most (married) people avoid work lunches or dinners with the opposite sex all by themselves (1:1), even if highly visible it creates the appearance of impropriety that might be difficult to explain.

      You can't bypass gender by ignoring it, even if your intentions are honest and your actions clean. There are dishonest people out there, and there are more than enough gossips. In male dominated professions we may be accustomed to working exclusively with other men and not have these concerns so frequently in our lives, but, they exist and we should learn to play it smart. In reality these situations can and probably will arise more frequently in M:M and F:F situations as more homosexual people choose to "come out" (i.e. announce a weakness for predators to leap upon). In the words of Lester Burnham: "Can you prove that you didn't offer to save my job if I let you blow me?"

      I think part of the issue is that a lot of conventions and social professional forums have a bit more of a party atmosphere than a professional one, and the guards we remember to use at work sometimes get forgotten.

    • Jesus Christ. The paranoia in this place is astonishing. If it isn't rabid bands of women out to emasculate mail developers, it's evil bands of ACA bureaucrats trying to steal precious bodily fluids or evil climatologists trying to steal everyone's cars.

      For fuck's sake, I've worked around women, in offices that were predominantly women, under women managers and now have a female business partner, and I have never once had an issue. I have behaved myself, they have behaved themselves, and we all just get alo

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @07:28PM (#51037163)

    Who wold have thought. Women in IT want to be treated like people. Not with some special care or preferential treatment, want to be judged on their professional merits rather than having privileges for being the "oppressed sex". They don't want to feel offended, and they don't want to be defended, but it seems they want to, ya know, do their effin' WORK.

    Dear SJWs. It's really awesome what you want to do, but maybe, just maybe, try to find out first whether what you fight for actually WANTS you to fight for them? You remind me a lot of those "foreign aid" workers who "helped" those "poor, poor Africans" by sending food there until the local farmers had to shut down production because they couldn't compete with your free food anymore. they were not poor. You made them poor. And I fear the same development here.

    There are good and hard working women in IT. No, they are not numerous, but they exist. And they are far from being marginalized. They are part of great teams and they are good at what they're doing. I had the fortune that I managed to work with some of them. They are not here because of their looks, they can easily pull their weight as anyone else. And you will notice that they are usually at the very least a little bit embarrassed by all the shit going down about this "women in IT" thing. Because it does harm their reputation.

    A friend of mine recently complained about the problem. She has been in IT for about 15 years now, we worked together before and she is a very good programmer. With more and more women being signed up on no other merit than being a women, stereotypes are starting to grow. Because these women cannot code well. They would not have gotten that job were they men, simply because their skills are lacking. The main reason they were hired is (in HER words, please note that!) to be the "quota bitch".

    And that casts a shadow on HER reputation. Because stereotypes are a powerful thing. Just ponder the following scenario and tell me honestly and truthfully what you would think:

    The former situation was that the women:men ratio was maybe 1:10, maybe even only 1:20 in IT. Of course, all of these 20, 19 men one woman, would know their trade. That's because they were hired. Now, that "affirmative action" bull takes place and women are hired based more on the fact that they're women than their actual skill levels. You'll probably end up with a 1:1 ratio, even, but that would probably also mean that you really have to scrape the bottom of the barrel because there simply are not as many women as there are men in IT.

    So that means you have one "good" women and about 10 mediocre to bad programmers of the female gender.

    Question for 100 points: What would you think of "the female coworkers"?

    And do you really think that this would aid those women in IT that are really good in their job?

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @08:36PM (#51037605)

      I think the idea is that there are two types of qualified women.

      The first type is the one in your 1:20 ratio. She's competent and can tolerate the environment of a male dominated workplace. She's not the issue.

      The second (theoretical) type is also skilled (or at least has the right inclinations and intelligence type), but she's uncomfortable with the male dominated workplace and so she either leaves the field early or never even gets into the field to begin with.

      Some believe that the remedy for the second type of woman is seen to be a place where there are more women, period. This allows them to have friends and the ability to have a more balanced environment. The increase in women in general will make it more attractive to the skilled women as well.

      Obviously, this is an assumption, but not a necessarily a terrible one. Many people only feel comfortable among people like them. Same goes for gender, skin color or ethnicity.

      A lot of this comes down to what the actual value of a more equitable ratio actually is. What are the quantifiable benefits of this sort of parity or diversity? And are those benefits come at the expense of productivity or opportunity for those who are not selected purely on the basis of their gender? Does one benefit outweigh the other? If so, then the feelings and misconceptions of the other side should give way, at least to the extent that the greatest benefit can be achieved.

      I think there is a lot of shooting from the hip on this. I'd like someone to tell me:

      1) Does having more females in IT being a perceptible benefit to either IT, or themselves?
      2) What methods are necessary to achieve those benefits?
      3) In the end, do any benefits actually outweigh the costs?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )

        Oh. OH. Ok, I'm only comfortable if there are fat people around me so I don't feel insecure about my weight. Can I now force my employer to hire a few? We needn't go to 50%, I'm not that insecure, but how about just replacing the guys in my group with fatsos? They needn't be able to do jack shit for all I care, as long as they make me feel good.

        Sorry, but has the world lost its marbles?

    • There's a lot of good stuff here. I tried to say the same thing on another forum and got shot down for not agreeing that we must push for more women in tech and for companies to have quotes for hiring women, which would be so so bad for the reasons outlined here. Anyway... I work in a large IT department, we probably have about 50/50 men/women overall, though the numbers vary per job. The hardware/networking/infrastructure is mostly male, the business side, project management office etc is mostly female.
  • Oh, Com'on Robin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @07:31PM (#51037185) Homepage Journal
    The very best thing you could have done with that particular posting of Eric's would have been to ignore it, and run the story about that nice woman without mentioning it. She can stand on her own and nobody but Eric should be held to account for what he said.
    • Good video but I preferred "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."

    • The very best thing you could have done with that particular posting of Eric's would have been to ignore it, and run the story about that nice woman without mentioning it. She can stand on her own and nobody but Eric should be held to account for what he said.

      This x 1000.

      I wish I'd read it before I posted on this article, though - I've actually got mod points today.

  • The problem is that for so many women, they have to write BETTER code than their male peers to be considered on the same level. They are put upon to bust stereo-types. And that may be harder for some women to do in work environs which, many times, cater explicitly to male employees.

    Yes, this is an indirect response to the video, but the summary and the slant of the question suggest that the interview is as much about grinding a particular axe as interviewing Liz Bennett.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Old stereotype, still untrue.

    • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @10:03PM (#51038083)

      Women in software keep calling bullshit [linuxjournal.com] on that and people just keep repeating it. Funny how for people so obsessed with women they never seem to actually listen to any...

      • "keep calling bullshit on" is not the same as "repeatedly posting links to one source".

        Also, the world is large, and there are a lot of experiences. Not everyone's is the same. Just because one person happens to have a very good experience, doesn't mean it's representative of the whole. Anyway, I don't know that author, so I go on experiences of what I've observed and what people I know have experienced and observed. And those tell me that the author had a rare experience.

        But go ahead and cherry pick if it

    • And the tone and tenor of the responses is exactly what I would expect. *I* don't see a problem and someone found a woman to personally refute the claim, therefore there must not be a problem. This topic has been written on often enough and in enough detail from enough different angles that, while some of the intricacies are still elusive, we (as a society) are not clueless about this. Those who claim most loudly that there isn't a problem truly mean that there isn't a problem FOR THEM.

    • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @12:59AM (#51038897)

      No they do not. This is complete bullshit. Code is code. It's either, good, or it isn't. If you stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off long enough to actually listen to women in tech, the vast majority do not actually encounter these imaginary issues you think are so rampant.

  • This was a serious non-conversation. She never encountered sexism on the work-floor nor has the need to profile herself by causing a shitstorm against a big name in the development world. Actually, she states she'd rather stay distant from those polemics in like the first 2 minutes and her co-workers are cool and supportive. Why keep on hammering on that subject?
    Loggly seems like an interesting SaaS platform, with probably cool technology behind it. Cloud based, big data, data mining, load balancing, noSQL
  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @08:45PM (#51037679)
    All that other stuff is okay - but playing the bassoon is simply unforgivable.
  • This was terrible interview, absolutely weird questions. Thank you for making sure I will visit Slashdot even less now.

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @10:22PM (#51038173) Homepage

    This was actually my first Slashdot TV video. And it'll be my last. The interviewer's an absolute idiot. Kept asking the same question over and over again.

    Thanks for four minutes of my life I'll never get back. And no, I had to stop at the four-minute mark.

  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @12:38AM (#51038809)

    ... at a company that has some of the highest percentage of women in the industry, as well as the highest retention rate.

    The key to both is ample benefits that allow for good life balance, and raising a family even if you are a single mom.

    People here often complain about agism, and temporary work visas, not realizing that it all flows from the same source: The disregard for the "human resource" in tech.

    Divide and conquer, turning the women in tech issue in yet another culture war, is exactly what the industry wants.

  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @12:51AM (#51038867)

    Rob. What an asshole. He's trying to hard to put her in a situation where she'll say something that supports the narrative he's hoping for. He should be fired. This wasn't so much an interview as it was an attempted ambush.

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