In just the past decade, there has been explosive growth in the digitization of the world. People can deposit checks with the snap of a photo on a smartphone. You can hail a private car with a couple of touches on a number of ride service apps. It seems like every day, a new technological advancement comes along and alters the course of modern life.
But technology's progress stands in stark contrast to its culture. The tech industry is creating the future, but the tech culture remains years behind, especially when it comes to gender relations.
A new report called "Elephant in the Valley" sheds personal light on the mistreatment of women in the tech workplace. Published in January 2016, the authors surveyed more than 200 women who have worked in Silicon Valley for at least 10 years about their experiences in tech culture.
Some telling points:
- 47 percent of respondents said they were asked to do lower-level tasks such as note-taking or ordering food, which their male colleagues were not asked to do
- 59 percent said they have not had the same opportunities as their male colleagues
- 88 percent of women said clients or colleagues address questions to male peers that instead should be directed to them
- 60 percent reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances
It's easy to point fingers at Silicon Valley, but issues of gender discrimination hit close to home in the health IT industry nationwide, and the largest industry gathering can bring these issues to light. A Craigslist ad posted Jan. 25 serves as one example. The ad seeks a "HIMSS '16 Conference Booth Girl," A picture is requested for consideration. The "girl" is expected to wear business casual attire for three days, earning $150 per day. No requirements or professional capabilities are specified other than being available for those 72 hours.
No vendor or exhibitor's name is attached to the ad.
A reporter for MedCityNews discussed the Craigslist ad in a post, and he should be applauded for drawing attention to this blatant display of sexism. But author Neil Versel suggests having women on exhibition floor may be a distraction to attendees — an interpretation that is sexist in itself. He writes, "I, like most men, enjoy looking at beautiful women. But this is happening in Las Vegas. There's plenty of eye candy to be found for everybody outside the convention center. We can do without it on the show floor."
Being in Las Vegas doesn't pardon sexist behavior, and calling individuals "eye candy" is disrespectful, especially when it's a person to whom one has no type of relationship. Even more unsettling is this unfolding in a professional setting.