Time to Stop Separating Women from Men

by Bill Brenner on July 30, 2016

A few years ago, I used to do a bunch of lists of security people to follow on Twitter every Friday. For a while I did a separate one on “women in security.” That is, until one of my peers called me out on it.

Essentially, my friend, Wendy Nather, said that I was contributing to sexism in the industry by separating the women from the men. That’s how I took it, anyway.

She was right.

Now when I create such lists, I put the sexes together. But I still see these all-women lists a lot. The intent is usually good, but the practice is behind the times.

And the practice is everywhere, not just security.

There’s the 10 women in science, top women in rock ‘n’ roll, and more.

I’m not saying that in the 21st century women are treated equally to men, thus eliminating the need for all-female distinctions. They’re not. Go to Google and you’ll have no trouble finding hundreds of articles on how woman are still marginalized in the boardroom, in politics and beyond.

I am saying we’re not helping the cause of gender equality by separating the sexes in these “people to watch” articles.

We should be judging everyone on their brains, ambition and contributions to society. No more separating by gender, skin color or sexual orientation.

Good people will disagree. I also don’t expect gender-specific lists and articles to cease.

But in my not-so-humble opinion, we’re looking at a symptom of the bigger problem.

No matter how much people talk about the glass ceiling being shattered, society still can’t stop dividing the sexes.

Woman facing down a man in the boardroom

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

klingerock June 17, 2014 at 11:13 am

I can see why they make the list. If they make a single top x list, women may be included but the ratio will be low. That’s just because the woman ratios are generally low is many of the fields that create these lists in the first place. So by creating a single list, they are trying to show that there are significantly more in the field/industry that can be conveyed in a top x list. A list may have 1 or 2 women, but a top ten 10 shows there are more. I think both are important.

My 2 cents.

Killjoy July 30, 2016 at 4:45 pm

It’s easy to shut down and shout down the people who make “top women in X” lists, but the reality is that most men in infosec, and most men in general, simply arent interested in having nonsexual professional networking relationships with women. It could be because they are sexist, or because they are afraid of being seen with a woman and accused of being in a relationship or unfaithful (i certainly have seen women trying to shame men for associating with any other women at all). People that do this aren’t going to announce it, and its not possible to shut this behavior down. But this is the behavior that “top women in X” lists are intended to counter, because any woman in a male dominated field will by definition have a stunted professional network due to stupid sexual tensions.

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