When Pax Dickinson was fired from Business Insider earlier this month, the tech world was bombarded with accusations of sexism running rampant in the industry. Until recently, Dickinson, the former Chief Technical Officer of Business Insider, was a no-name outside of the field of technology. That all changed when bigoted, sexist comments and racial slurs posted to his personal Twitter account went viral. The rest, as they say, is misogynistic history.
feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list. my finger is getting tired.
— Pax Dickinson (@paxdickinson) September 9, 2013
aw, you can’t feed your family on minimum wage? well who told you to start a fucking family when your skills are only worth minimum wage?
— Pax Dickinson (@paxdickinson) August 29, 2013
Now, many are considering the implications surrounding this very public termination of Dickinson. Is Business Insider justified? Did the media and public merely overreact to tweets that Dickinson would have us believe are “out of context?” One thing that is for certain is that the discriminatory and ill treatment of women in the fields of technology and science is not a new phenomenon. We can thank Dickinson for making this all the more evident.
There has long been a huge disparity between the amount of men and women working in STEM fields. Women aren’t encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology the same way that men are, and in college classrooms, laboratories, and workplaces, they are severely outnumbered. Dickinson’s misogynistic comments are indicative of an attitude that pervades the world of technology: that women do not belong. And yet, in a recent interview with New York Magazine, Dickinson was quoted as saying that he doesn’t think the tech world has a woman problem, because “a lot of women just aren’t into [tech].”
According to Andrea Peterson for The Washington Post, perhaps Dickinson doesn’t see the woman problem because he “is the tech industry’s woman problem.” Peterson goes on to explain, “When you say in a tweet that ‘feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list,’ and make rape jokes, you’re directly adding to what the American Association of University Women describes as ‘stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities’ that keep women from full participation in those fields.” Indeed, with misogynistic attitudes directed towards women in STEM, it isn’t surprising that a considerable gender gap still exists.
The silver lining that has shed an inkling of positivity on the Pax Dickinson scandal is the number of business and technology leaders (albeit mostly male) that have stepped out in defense of women in the industry. At Fortune’s recent Brainstorm Tech Conference, various panels discussed why there are so few women leaders in technology. Of this conundrum, Keith Krach, CEO of Docusign explained, “It’s a question we’re asking ourselves all the time.” For Krach, and other business and technology leaders, the solution is simple: promote equal education opportunities for budding techies, and hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender.
Until the entire tech industry can adopt this attitude, the “woman problem,” and gender gap, will remain. What do you think about Pax Dickinson’s termination, and the status of women in STEM fields?