Why is this Difficult?

Take a ride with me in the way-back machine. It was July in the year of 2014. Times were different – simpler – they didn’t even have iPhone 6’s! A team of documentarians had a goal to create a documentary about software and its cultural impacts on society. Pretty cool, huh? So they put it up for Crowdfunding and easily reach their goal of $100,000. They actually reach 163% of their goal, and kudos to them.

Now let’s return to the present. The bleak, terrible present. Another team of documentary filmmakers has another goal: deconstruct, raise awareness about, and help fix the gender gap in the software industry. No small feat! They too ask for money from the internet, but sadly, they’re not enjoying the success of the first documentary. They’re asking for less money, even, and they’ve yet to break even halfway with less than two weeks to go. Oh, no!

How come? Why are we, as a software community, not giving them the start-up funds they need? Seriously, let’s examine this.

The first documentary has a cool cast – lots of celebrities in our community, mostly white, mostly men – and knowing them by reputation, I know that they have cool stories. But I’ve heard those stories before. I’ve listened to the Grubers and the Marcos on their podcasts and blogs. I know how awesome apps are and that they can change the world.

I chose not to fund the first documentary because it was unclear what its message, its goal, and its audience were. It struck me – though this may be incorrect, it’s just my gut feeling – it struck me as a masturbatory, self-congratulation story about how great we all are and how lucky society is to have us. Hooray! Maybe that’s not their intention, but I wasn’t willing to take a chance and give money to people when I don’t even know why they’re making this film.

I funded the second documentary the moment I discovered they were looking for money because they’re very clear: they have a specific message, goal, and audience. There is a problem (pretty obvious one if you ask me) with the underrepresentation of women and blacks and latinos and a lot of groups in the software industry, and these filmmakers want to help fix that.

I’m not saying that one documentary deserves to exist more than the other. I’m really not. However, it is kind of telling to me that we fall over ourselves to over-fund a film that discusses how awesome we all are, but can’t be bothered to fund a film that discusses the chronic lack of diversity in the software industry. We like to hear about and share the story of app developers being awesome. We hate to hear about how app developers are actually contributing to a patriarchy that encourages society to simply value men more than women.

I don’t understand why this is so difficult. I really, really don’t. It’s pretty obvious that our society is awfully biased towards white, heterosexual, cis, able-bodied, young men.

Part of what I loved about Cosmos was the history of science that it showed us, and how scientific advancements that profoundly and fundamentally changed humanity forever came from the unlikeliest of sources: priests with no scientific background, indentured serfs who were forbidden to read, women who were only allowed into Harvard as human computers. Forget all the social-justice stuff on why treating people equally is a moral thing to do. Forget all that. If nothing else, you must admit that it is beneficial for humanity to have women working in STEM fields just for the sheer number of discoveries they’re bound to make. How many Einsteins or Newtowns or Sagans have we already missed out on because of our insistence that women are inferior to men? We could be living on Mars by now, for all we know, if we would have changed our society to encourage girls to learn about science as much as we encourage boys to.

Code: Debugging the Gender Gap is on a “fixed funding” project, meaning if they don’t reach their goal, they get nothing and all their backers get a refund. This seriously needs to succeed. Someday, I want to have kids, but do I want my daughter to grow up in our society, as it exists today? Hell no. Would you?

I am literally begging you, please go give these filmmakers some money. Please go tell everyone you know about this project. They have less than two weeks to go, but we can still make this happen.


Posted on September 29, 2014