Fair warning: this post isn't technical. It's also full of sweeping generalities.
When I attended middle and high school, it was as part of the last group of geeks and nerds that should face systemic ostracization. Naturally, high school will still be terrible for most people, just because it's full of high schoolers, but the world at large has seen a near-complete triumph for geeks and nerds generally. And this has had some very positive side effects: because we had to deal with exclusion and diminishment, we could solve those problems in our own larger culture. We'd be the Good Guys.
Or at least we were supposed to be.
Truth be told, the tech industry HAS significantly advanced inclusive social values. It's much easier to fall outside of the mainstream and do fine in the tech community than in many others. However, for all this social advancement, we've still brought along an undercurrent of sexism.
This isn't some small, two-bit sexism, either. The trouble is that it's easy for those unaffected (say, men) to assume it's not there. That was my problem for a while: since I'm male and haven't done anything particularly sexist, I was content to assume things were hunky-dory. They're not.
Fortunately for me, others have written about this much more ably than I can. I'd like to ask anyone reading this to go and read at least some of these excellent posts/videos/podcasts on the topic from the last few months, in no particular order. Many are about associated communities like gaming and comics, but it's all related.
- No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds
- Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment
- Gaming While Male: A 'Privilege' Few Men Recognize
- Brianna Wu - Nine ways to stop hurting and start helping women in tech
- Debug 34: Sexism in tech
There were also a great many outstanding articles posted about women's experiences during the heyday of YesAllWomen, but I can't track down the ones I was thinking of at the moment. They're worth searching for.
I've been mulling over the best ways to deal with it. The core part is easy: be a decent human being. Facing the reality of what goes on itself goes a long way towards this, since it's made me more cognizant of what half the population has to put up with. Another step I've taken today is to put my money where my mouth is and start donating to App Camp For Girls, a truly outstanding organization dedicated to giving girls an opportunity to be exposed to development while they're growing up. When I was a CS student, there were never more than two females in any of my normal-sized classes, and that's as good a place to start as anywhere else.
Beyond that? My plan is to keep being upset about this. Given that it's been a pretty much constant condition throughout human history, I don't expect it to be solved soon, but it's important to try to keep on the right track.