August 6, 2017

How the Women in Tech discussion promotes Corporatism

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:00 pm

A memo by a Google employee was recently published, which pushes back on new policies the company has adopted to increase diversity and inclusiveness for women. As expected, a lot of political debate ensued around this. However, I wanted to point out a different aspect of the larger discussion taking place around women in tech, and whether there is a pay gap between the genders.

The whole conversation usually takes place in the framework that the corporate world and career advancement through corporate, full-time employment, is the goal. I am not sure everyone should be promoting this as the goal for men OR women, but as usual we are given two paths to talk about, both of which lead to a fait accompli of an existing institution. Just like the net neutrality debate – Title I vs Title II – masking the fact that the USA is already under a large, consolidated too-big-to-fail Telco Cartel, and both one-size-fits-all options do nothing to fix that problem.

We often stick our kids in public school as a daycare center, and some people even send their parents off to nursing homes, just so both parents can advance in the corporate world. People now have a lot more money but less time, and divorce more often, in part to focus more on their career. The trend is very recent, and our ancestors throughout history had much different attitudes and priorities when it came to children and parents.

As technology changes, so does how how society treats men and women. When humans hunted for food, it’s very likely men were usually the hunters. For heavy labor requiring physical strength, such as working on buildings and infrastructure, men dominate the workforce even today. Many biological characteristics may have been selected for as a result of how society treats the sexes differently. For example, I read a very interesting theory that the greater biological preference of men for promiscuity is related to how men were more expendable in war, adventure etc. which was rational since they could have many more children and wives after the war, than if the women’s lives were risked. And even today a lot of the pay gap has to do with the expectations we have that a woman would be a primary caregiver for both children and elderly, especially in the case of a divorce etc.

However, technology is also changing our very institutions, and it is the institutions that often shape our cultural choices and debates. Corporations are large organizations and like any such organizations are governed in rigid ways, and driven by outside forces to set the policy. If you want more FREEDOM (of speech, of choice to commute or not, flexibility in hours) etc. you should consider self employment and changing your local community through your own business. Whether you’re a man, or a woman.

Why, indeed, does having a work-life balance be a thing studies show women do more than men? I, for one, would like to see more genders free and gainfully self-employed (or on a small, close-knit team) instead of cogs in a corporate hierarchy. When it comes to opting out of full-time employment in the corporate system, which is only about 100 years old, perhaps we should see it the reverse way: women are ahead of men in that department, the same way China is ahead of the USA in the payments department through never having widely adopted credit cards.

One day, automation will free people up from having to work, and will fund a universal basic income. But we can already frame the gender conversation the other way: why are women more often considered primary caregivers by our institutions? Are women’s brains simply better than men’s at being a loving parent or nurse? Most of the gender pay gap is due to women having to do “two jobs” when a child is born. Taking care of the child is more optional for the man than for the woman. So conversely, I think, throughout history, having a job to support the family was more optional for the woman than for the man. Most of the talk about women in tech ignores what happens in the home. But there are going to be a lot more conversations once people’s times get freed up from corporate jobs.