Where are the women in CSS

I started writing a comment in response to Molly’s blog “Where are the women of CSS“ but when it started to become something of an essay I thought I’d move it here!

Molly asks why are there so few women ‘names’ in the CSS community and as a woman … who happens to have just finished writing a CSS book … I think there are several factors at play. I think it would be fair to say that there are fewer women involved in technology than men, particularly at the more geeky level. People are generally surprised that I am a web developer and not a designer as they see a lot of women who are web designers and far fewer who get their kicks from application development. So there are going to be fewer at the top just because there are fewer by percentage.

Secondly, and this is something of a generalisation based on people I have spoken to, I think women are often less happy to self-promote, so less likely to become a ‘name’ even if they are doing lots of great stuff. Speaking personally I’m a doer – I don’t really care whether my name is on stuff I have done, if it needed doing at the time, and I tend to miss the obvious ways to raise my profile because of things I have done. All of the writing that I have done has been because someone has approached me and suggested it, I don’t run around trying to find things to do.

There is also a time issue. The people who I would think of as the big names are able to devote time to contributing in substantial ways to the community, either by providing resources or writing opinion pieces etc. and being at and speaking at events. Many women have family commitments that prevent this, or make it much harder. By the time I have done the work that needs doing to run my business, my writing commitments, done school runs, sat through yet another dance performance to watch the Small Person, taken her to choir practice, ensured she eats something sensible … the time I have to spend on other things is minimal. I know there are some men in that position too, but (again from experience and people I know) these things do still tend to end up being left to women in the main. Although I think anyone (male or female) will agree that having a family does change your priorities!

At the end of the day I don’t feel discriminated against. If I was asked for a list it would probably include very few women just because I would include all those whose resources I use a lot … and they happen to be blokes! It would be very frustrating if, for example, I was putting as much effort into work out there in the community and wasn’t recognised, but I’m not. I do think there are two issues here and I’d be interested in which other people feel is the case.

Are there fewer high profile women in CSS because there are just fewer women interested in and using this technology, or that have time to contribute?

Or, are there fewer high profile women in CSS because women are not respected as much as men and even those doing equal amounts of work in the community are taken less notice of?


Kim January 1, 2001 Reply

I actually fully agree with you, and upon going to your blog today, was quite happy to discover you had read Molly’s entry and were going to respond, simply because you were the first name the came to my mind when Molly wrote that only herself and Holly seemed note-worthy enough in people’s minds to turn to to write a book.

As for my stance on the issue, I’m actually slightly down the middle. You bring up an excellent point on why there are few women being noted on the development side, merely from having little time to contribute to the community. In addition, I also agree there are just less woman in general who are interested in development, therefore, pure statistics states there will be less woman on such a list.

On the flip side however, I have found that subconsciously, men (in general) tend not to put as much stock into research, development and contributions made to technology from women. I speak out of pure instinct without any evidence to back it up, but I can remember during my university years, I was revered for being intelligent and geeky and the only female in the department, however, when it came to my research or my opinion given during departmental presentations or the like, the professors responded, but my fellow male students did not. They tended to pass over my opinion as if it were something mildly amusing they had read in the paper. Perhaps one feeds the other. Perhaps I simply amused them as opposed to enlightened them because there are so few woman doing similar endeavours. Or perhaps there are few women in technology because their opinions aren’t always listened to.

I’m not exactly sure which is right, perhaps a combination of discrimination and lack of numbers & time.

Kay Bentain January 1, 2001 Reply

I also agree with alot of points you’ve raised. I am a mom of 3 myself and finding time to self promote my work makes me cringe. I do mostly both development and design; and like the non limelight side as long as I get paid to do my work and my boss is happy.

molly January 1, 2001 Reply

Thanks for continuing this interesting discussion, Rachel! I think that you have many good points, the family responsibilities and self-promotion make much sense to me.

Just for clarification: I don’t really believe it’s discrimination at this point. It might have roots there, but I feel that at least in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand women are in the forefront of many industries. Other places in the world, too, but it does seem most commonplace in those countries.

Another clarification – Kim wrote:
“ Molly wrote that only herself and Holly seemed note-worthy enough in people’s . . .”

I didn’t make that distinction, it was made for me in the discussion on Eric Meyer’s site. Being very familiar with Rachel’s work (we have a co-authorship on Dreamweaver and CSS from DMXZone, by the way) I wasn’t leaving her out of the list, but others were, and that’s what had me concerned.

Glad the conversation continues!

Gina B January 1, 2001 Reply

I am totally fascinated by this thread. Rachel, I do remember you posting on a list about how you suspected you had some issues with jobs because of your name.

It’s very strange, I came from a background in telecom in the Northeast US, and it was the only field I saw where race, sex, or education didn’t play a role so much as could you get the job done. Not sure how that came about, but it probably had to do with opportunity and chance. When I went to film school, we learned that a lot of early film editors were women because it was considered a menial task…and the good fortune of those editors to reap the rewards of that kind of oversight.

Maybe we need something like that to happen web development? (just kidding.) It saddens me in this day and age that we still have these kinds of conversations.

Rachel January 1, 2001 Reply

I think where jobs are concerned people are often initially taken aback by a technical woman, but generally once they realise that I can do the job they don’t care. Although when I was working full time I remember going to fix someone’s laptop and he asked if I could send ‘one of the boys’ down instead … I said that I could and they could have a nice chat but it probably wouldn’t help with his computer issues!

Before I got into computers I was working as stagecrew in the theatre – a very male dominated area – and there once the guys realised I could lift the heavy stuff, wasn’t expecting any special treatment because I was a woman and could drink pints with the best of them, I never had any problems! I guess it is a little annoying that you sometimes feel you have to prove yourself whereas a guy would just be accepted but the more women that do prove themselves in male dominated areas then the easier it will be for those that follow – I hope!

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