Thursday, March 30, 2006

maybe he was just baiting me

Tuesday night I attended a 10-course dinner with chinese reporters who flew in from Beijing on Google's dime to interview the company. There were around 15 reporters, and 7 Googlers accompanying them for dinner.

Over a meal of lobster, peking duck, and jellyfish, the reporter to my left turns to me. He looks a little like this Hong Kong action film star.

"So you've been an engineer for so many years?" he asks. "Do you think you'll keep at it forever?"

I pause. One day I'd like to found my own startup, and if takes off, my main focus would no longer be writing code. "Maybe not," I say.

"Okay, because women aren't very suitable for engineering."

I sigh inwardly. "You should read my Google China blog article on this topic."

"Women are .. not logical enough. If they're debugging code with a lot of bugs, they'll get frustrated, whereas a man will be more calm."

I resist the urge to say, "Is that because it was the man who created the bugs in the first place???"

Instead I say sweetly, "I haven't found that to be the case."

"Let me tell you, I used to work as an engineer," he declares in a this-will-explain-it voice. "We had a few female engineers come into the company, and they quickly found a bunch of men to do all of their programming for them. Then they would get married to one of the best programmers, and quit their job to stay home as a housewife."

I double-sigh inwardly. "That may have been your experience, but if you worked at Google, I think the reality would change your mind."

That having failed, he tries a new tactic. "I'm sure you must do presentations for execs. And they're usually men. If they do something overstepping professional boundaries, then the women will get uncomfortable."

"Uh... That's illegal in the US," I answer.

"It is?" He seems disconcerted. "Well, women just aren't analytical enough to be engineers."

In the ensuing silence floats an unspoken "QED."

Kai-fu said to me last October that the first step to combating discrimination is making it socially unacceptable to voice it openly. People will still think it, but they will no longer be comfortable saying it. After enough time passes in this manner, the discrimination will be eliminated gradually from the minds as well.

China has a lot further to go on this first step than the US.


Or he could've just been baiting me, hoping to write an article headlined "GOOGLER EXPLODES WITH RAGE, HITS REPORTER IN FACE WITH CURRIED JELLYFISH."


CJ said...


That's so bizarre. I wonder how common his view is in China.

Hasan said...

It's a sad statement on the west when Hollywood culture is exported around the world and people are wearing U2 shirts in St. Petersburg, but our ideal of not discriminating on anything other than intelligence takes slightly longer to sink in.

Anonymous said...

Ohh my God! I can't believe there are men that think like that! What year is this??? 2006 ??? or are we back in feudalism? What an idiot!

I bet he's just jealous and angry because he wasn't that successful as an engineer.. and that's why he's a reporter now! :P hehehe ... and maybe his boss is a woman :D hahaha! What a loser!

I'm a female systems engineer from latin america by the way :)... and to keep reading your great blog! Take care and keep it up!

Knittin 'n Stitchin said...

I hope Google paid you time and 1/2 for that dinner. You ought to get hazard pay.

Anonymous said...

OMFG. That's hilarious. I wish that second scenario came true.

Josh said...

Now that guy...sounds like my mom. Seriously.

Neha said...

i think you should have hit him with the jellyfish. he didn't deserve politness or sweetness.

Anonymous said...

If you are unable to say what you really think then it will seethe under the surface and explode in a more dangerous way. It is better that they voice their prejudices so dialogue is possible.

Prejudices are created for a reason usually based on truths. The prejudice that a female will not be a good engineer will not go away until they make major in roads in numbers well beyond what we see today.

Facts are they can and are good engineers. Women generally are multi taskers and take on other interests making lifelong achievments in the engineering field less likely but not impossible.

A person who puts 2000 hours per year into his/her art or craft, if they have passion will out achieve (in that narrow area) some one distracted by other things.

You are lucky to have dreams.

:-) (-:

klingons on the starboard bow said...

completely OT - isnt it weird how you end up stumbling across blogs after searching for something else.

i found this blog after searching about isaac asimov.

Anonymous said...

i got so mad at the guy while reading this post! wow! i admire you for being able to hold back. i would have lashed out!