Debug 34: Sexism in tech
Debug is Mobile Nations developer podcast. This week, however, we're doing something different. We're bringing together a panel of developers and designers, CEOs and senior editors, of women in the tech industry to talk about how women are treated and mistreated in the tech industry. Join Serenity Caldwell of Macworld/TechHive, Jessie Char of Pacific Helm, Georgia Dow of ZEN & TECH, and Brianna Wu of Giant Spacekat as share their experiences and insight on sexism in the tech industry, from coworkers to clients to conventions to culture and beyond.
- Brianna Wu of Giant Space Kat
- Georgia Dow of ZEN & TECH
- Jessie Char of Pacific Helm
- Serenity Caldwell of Macworld and I Wear Many Hats
Rene Ritchie: Welcome to a very special edition of Debug. Joining us is Jessie Char, the Co-CEO of Pacific Helm. Hi Jessie.
Jessie Char: Hello.
Rene: We also have Brianna Wu, who runs things over at Giant Spacekat. Did I get the name right?
Brianna Wu: You did, you did. What's crackalackin?
Rene: Serenity Caldwell from Macworld and TechHive.
Serenity Caldwell: Hi Rene.
Rene: And Georgia Dow, who is from ZEN & TECH and Mobile Nations. Hi Georgia.
Georgia Dow: Hello.
Rene: And of course your co-host and mine Guy English. Hey Guy.
Guy English: Hello.
Rene: It's a very special episode because we were asked over and over again to do something about sexism in technology. Guy and I talked about it, and I think it's safe to say, Guy, that we felt completely under equipped, under prepared, and just not qualified to talk about that ourselves.
Guy: No, I feel totally qualified. [sarcastically]
Serenity: You two have addressed it great yourselves.
Guy: No, no. I'm just kidding. Like I was just saying, there was this certain amount of trepidation about approaching the subject, because you want to be faithful to it and actually capture it. I am, as much as I read, ill-equipped. I'm not on the other side of the aisle, in this one.
Jessie: Maybe you're not qualified to talk about feminism. But you are qualified in the subject of ladies.
Rene: Whole other show.
Georgia: This is the wrong show. I prepped for the wrong show.
Jessie: Did I already ruin it?
Guy: You already ruined it, Jessie.
Rene: Or you started it fantastically well.
Guy: I'm all about the ladies.
Jessie: Can I just leave now?
Guy: Thanks for showing up, Jessie.
Jessie: Thank you, Guy.
Guy: Cemented my...
Georgia: So this show is going to be about why there are so few guys in tech.
Serenity: I just don't know what that's about.
Georgia: I wonder why? There must be a reason.
Serenity: Maybe they just don't like technology.
Georgia: Maybe they're just not good at it.
Guy: One of the things I wanted to do was more or less just hand the show over. We have a pretty big listenership. But I kind of just want you guys to dominate the show.
Jessie: Are you sure?
Serenity: Seems like a terrible idea.
Guy: No, I trust all of you. I've known many of you for years and I spoke to Brianna yesterday on Twitter. So good enough.
Brianna: We had a fantastic conversation.
Guy: We did. We had a good conversation.
Brianna: About materials and 3D stuff.
Guy: Yeah. Hardcore rendering stuff. I've wanted to have you on the show to talk about, specifically, your games business. But we'll do this first. Then we'll be pals.
Serenity: We'll get all the nasty stuff out of the way, have some fun and talk about OpenGL implementation on iOS.
Guy: About a couple of hours before we started recording, The Wall Street Journal announced their lineup for their...What is it?
Rene: I think it's Wall Street Journal Dive.
Guy: It's the replacement for All Things D.
Serenity: For the D Conference.
Guy: Which was big. That's the one that Gates and Jobs did their thing at. It used to be, or maybe still will be, a huge deal.
Brianna: Yeah, it seems like it's going to be really good this year.
Guy: They announced all the speakers. It's 20 speakers. It's an entirely male lineup.
Brianna: It's astonishing. It's really astonishing to me that someone could look at the page, when you open it up. It's just a sea of white male faces. My husband is Asian. He's looking at it. Even as a guy, he's like, "There's only one Asian on this." At the Wall Street Journal live thing. It's really shocking. I don't understand how someone could book all these guests and not be like, "Hey guys, do we need to..."
Serenity: Is there a problem here?
Brianna: Does this seem like a good lineup.
Serenity: It seems so crazy to me, because especially in this last year, I can name, off the top of my head, three or four women CEOs and people who I would very much like to see at a conference like this. It's like, "Oh, maybe we should even inquire as to what Marissa Mayer is doing right now. That seems crazy."
Jessie: She's a mom. She's raising a child.
Serenity: She's going to talk about breast feeding and raising babies.
Georgia: What does she know about tech.
Guy: Sheryl Sandberg seems like a shoe-in for this.
Serenity: Yeah. I'm going through this list right now. Some of these companies are just like...I have not heard of that company before. Some of them don't even seem that tech-related, to be quite honest.
Georgia: I'll ask the question that I'm sure some listeners might be saying. I'll play Devil's Advocate. Should they diversify just for the point of diversifying? Should they pick someone just because they are female? That's what a whole bunch of guys are saying right now. They're saying, "We shouldn't just pick someone because they're women." Or should they?
Brianna: I run into this in game dev on a constant basis. Game dev is an industry where you have men that fund the games, men create the games, and men are the journalists on the other side like evaluating the games and saying, "This game has merit, this game does not. This game is good, this game is not."
I feel like what most guys who make that argument fundamentally don't understand is, that game is so rigged that women can't participate. Like, we could all sit around and very easily come up with five, six, seven, eight, just off the top of our heads, very qualified women to speak at this conference. But when you have like guys sitting there making the rules about what has merit and what doesn't, they miss an entire perspective.
As women in the industry, we have lived life experiences that give us unique perspective. It influences the games we enjoy, it influences the music we buy, the movies we like. That perspective is systematically eliminated when you make choices like this.
Georgia: Women are, depending on which poll you take, like 40 to 50 percent of the gamers are now female.
Brianna: Yeah, absolutely.
Georgia: You're definitely missing out on a whole aspect and thought process that you are then going to try to sell your product to, and you're missing out on that.
Brianna: It's entirely true. I'm working on a piece right now, and what we're going to do is go through all the game dev publications, all the game journalism publications. We're going to look at IGN, Joystiq, Polygon, Gamespot. We're going to kind of break down just what percent of women end up reviewing games that get out there. I can tell you right now, it's not going to be a number that's going to leave you feeling good when you look at it.
In that same way, getting it back to this tech conference, you have this system where, if you're saying, "Well, the CEO of SoundCloud, let's bring him in. This venture capital guy, let's bring him in." It's just, if you're going to purely judge on merit, that's a game women will never be able to break into.
I think what happens, that when you start making the conscious effort to diversify, to bring women in, then I think all these great changes happened. I'm going to shut up and let other people talk, but like, Nintendo had the animal crossing team talking about what women brought to that team. It was amazingly financially successful product. It was well reviewed. A lot of these problems fix themselves when women are just simply represented and able to participate in the process.
Georgia: Well, Jessie, you're the CEO of Pacific Helm, do you think that it's because women are not being chosen? Or do you think that women are just not going into the tech industry as many as men are?
Jessie: I think, I mean, San Francisco may be a different kind of sample than maybe the rest of the country/the rest of the world. But there are, it's definitely not equal, women and men in tech. But there are a lot of women who are fantastic and in, like, large leadership positions.
When I see things like this, when it's say, like, out of 20 speakers, there isn't one woman, that seems totally off base to me. If anything, maybe four of them, that would seem like more representatives to me, I guess. It just makes conferences like so tone deaf when they just feature a panel of all white men, because that really isn't representative. You have a lot more Asian people, a lot more people of different ethnic backgrounds. Maybe this is what tech looked like 15 years ago, but to me, it's not what it looks like today.
Brianna: I can speak over here on the game dev side, and I have, I know so many women that are currently in the industry. I know women that are graduating from college and want to come work in this industry. I think, like, I just frankly don't buy this argument that women are not interested in tech. What I do think that happens is that women are systematically pushed out of tech for a lot of reasons. When we talk about women in tech issues, I did that at PAX East this weekend, I open up my inbox to, "Let's do 'come to my house and assault me.'"
I think that, in other ways, like after women have children, it can be very difficult to stay in tech sometimes. I just think there's this entire culture that shows you the door and it's exhausting, sometimes.
Georgia: You yourself have experienced the feeling of that just because you're a female, you are either hit on or excluded from certain conversation or maybe not given the same amount of respect as you would see someone like a male colleague get?
Brianna: Yes, absolutely. I've been talked over at meetings...I'm sure we've all had the experience of going to buy a computer and have the guy talk to our boyfriend or husband. Have you guys had that happen?
Jessie: Yes. I used to work at the Apple Store. Aside from trying to battle that kind of mentality because, in all honesty, I was one of the top sales people while I was a salesperson there. I would always talk to the ladies, they're the ones who actually have the buying power, not to be reverse, you know what I mean.
I worked at the Genius Bar and that was always the most hilarious thing. Genius Bar's all the way in the back of the store, like a pretty large store. You have to walk for 15 seconds to reach the back of it, where it says 'Genius Bar.' There's a physical bar with people standing behind it with shirts that say 'Genius,' and tags that say 'Genius,' and a computer in front of them. People would be like, "Excuse me, are you the greeter?"
Georgia: Are you the receptionist? Can I have a coffee?
Serenity: Jessie, as someone else who also worked at Apple for a short period of time in retail, did you ever have somebody who refused to work with you? I got that a couple of times.
Jessie: I would have people who would always say, "Can I speak with somebody else?" That would always be their way of doing it. Or at the Genius Bar, I was the only girl there for a while. I would give them my diagnosis which, 80 percent of the time, was that the hard drive was dead, making weird noises, obviously superdead. Dead. Dead, dead, dead. They'd be like, "What does that guy over there think?"
Luckily my team was pretty awesome about it. They were really conscious about those kinds of issues and they would just say, "Jessie is right." They wouldn't even ask what was going on, they wouldn't give it a second look. They would just be like, "Jessie knows what she's doing." That was the worst.
Brianna: It was exhausting to deal with, wasn't it?
Jessie: So exhausting! On several levels it is exhausting.
Serenity: Every little punch is like a little punch in your credibility. Even though you know exactly what's going on and you may know a problem backwards and forwards, and be like, "Yes. That clicking noise means that your hard drive is dead," or, "Yes. I've studied Final Cut Pro for five years." They'll still be like, "Well, I usually work with this person."
Georgia: They're not saying straight out that it might be because you're female. They're just saying, "This person makes me feel more comfortable," as their way of getting out of having to say...
Georgia: ..."Your ovaries exclude you from this conversation."
Jessie: While they're wording it carefully, it's not that I'm making the assumption that it is obvious that that is what the difference is, in a lot of cases, when you're dealing in retail tech situations like that.
Guy: How many times, Jessie, were you asked to be the second opinion of a male colleague's diagnosis?
Jessie: Absolutely never.
Guy: I was sure that was the answer. I just wanted to underscore that point.
Georgia: Is that because she's female or is it that because again just egos of when someone makes a diagnosis they don't want someone second guessing it?
Guy: My guess would be that if all things being equal, the fact that Jessie had multiple times that she was asked, that somebody wanted a second opinion, the odds would have been that she would be asked at one point. The fact that it never happened underscores the point that I think you're not just interpreting it, being an emotional lady, you're actually correctly interpreting the fact that they don't trust you simply because you're a woman.
Serenity: There's a different approach when someone's doubting your credibility versus someone's just teed off. In general, if someone want s a problem fixed and they're just mad and they think that you're incompetent, just plain incompetent, It's like, "Get me a manager. I want to talk to a manger. I want this fixed." When it's, "What does he think? What does that person think," it's much less confrontational.
The people who are actually mad at you act out as they're mad at you. The people who just don't trust you are a lot shiftier and that's really mflat
Guy: The people who are mad are just upset that their hard drive has died and they want to hear something else, anything else, they want to hear.
Georgia: Anything else but something like that.
Jessie: Yes. You'll encounter that also. People who are just plain angry, I understand that. I would also be angry. Let's be honest. I wouldn't be angry. I'd just feel like, "OK. That's careless." I understand just like, "I want to talk to a manager," like escalating it up to the second tier of employership and not just to like another rando who's standing right next to me, like one of my peers. That's annoying.
Georgia: I'm going to throw something out because I think this might also be a factor. You are all pretty girls. If you looked like Amy Farrah Fowler, maybe they would think that you are geekier and you'd have more geek creds, and you, again, get that question. There's also this dynamic that if you're a pretty girl, then you mustn't have used your brains to get to where you're going, which is completely ridiculous of course, but that might also play a factor.
Brianna: Something I've had to learn. In tech, being a professional game developer, I worked in politics.
Georgia: Did you really? That's so cool!
Brianna: I did, believe it or not. The skills I learned to fundraise and do all that is actually very helpful when you're trying to start a company. Believe it or not, it was a fantastic background quart. My point is when I'd got to change field at first, I dresses a lot more pencil skirts and stuff like that. What I had to learn is there's a certain coded language to the way that you dress. I went to PAX this weekend and put this huge, bright red, neon, Anna Mae streak in my hair.
That's how you give yourself power and credibility, by coding and the way you dress, if that makes sense to you. I find that I'm very conscious to send those cues to people. I don't know if you guys do this, but when I'm in a professional situation with someone I will...
Guy, I wasn't trying to establish this with you last night, but we were talking about open GL and iOS and material shaders and powers of two and unreal. I will actually very deliberately use language like that because it sends a code. It gives you power. It establishes your bonafides. Do you guys have to do that, too?
Do you find yourself learning ways around this?
Serenity: No question. Especially when I first got into the tech writing industry -- I came from a completely different career -- I knew nobody. You feel like you open your mouth and stupid brain comes out where you're just repeating random words. I'm basically just listing off keywords in the hopes that if I check these 10 boxes I'll get a stamp of approval and then I can just be myself and they can see that, yes, I actually do know my stuff.
Jessie: My word was "algorithm." I would just say "algorithm" in a sentence and then people would get it.
Georgia: She actually knows what she's talking about.
Jessie: Yeah, and I don't.
Georgia: You just knew that one word.
There's definitely a difference. Unfortunately, still, with just being female, you're not giving the right away...a guy in tech, it's easier to get that kind of accolades that you probably know what you're doing and you're good at it. Whereas you kind of have to establish yourself first a little bit more being female.
You have to go through the tweets or the comments of your sexuality or being hit on. You have to go through the field. It's almost like going through a minefield. You have to find your path to make sure that you're respected by those around you and they understand that what you say means what you say.
Serenity: The somewhat depressing thing about that, at least for me, was I have never actually, as a writer, had a super bad experience at a conference, but I have to wonder how much of that is based on the male company that I keep.
When I came into this field, I had a couple of people who were very well-respected on my side who introduced me as, "This is Serenity. She knows her stuff. She's really smart. You should talk to her." Does that make sense to anybody? How much of it is based on your own credibility and how much of it is based on the shield of men who vouch for you?
Jessie: Yeah. I have my one conference anecdote. I have several others, but I don't talk about the other ones. It was Macworld. No, it was WWDC. I had gone to a party gathering thing at a hotel bar after work so I was wearing a sweater and jeans and glasses and a pony tail.
I was in line for the bar and these two guys came up to me and they were just like, "Excuse me, we just have to ask, are you an escort?" I've told that story on a podcast before so I apologize to anybody who has heard me tell that before.
Georgia: It's still a good story.
Guy: It's a bad story. I was there with you.
Georgia: It's a good acknowledgment of a bad story that can happen.
Jessie: Guy, you were there that night.
Guy: You came back and you were floored.
Jessie: I was floored. John Gruber, who was already hammered, was just like, "I'm going to go beat them up." He turned around and then other people went up and talked to him and he forgot. For a second he was ready to pummel them. [laughs]
Brianna: At PAX this weekend, one of the women that was working the show with me, somebody came up to her and asked if he could touch her butt. Again, it's a death of 1,000 cuts. I feel like all too often guys feel that sexism in tech has to be some awful Mad Men incident like having people ask if you're an escort at a tech party, but I also feel like all too often it's having your opinion invalidated.
I feel like it's having people tell you your perceptions are wrong. I've had seven rape threats sent to me this year just for being someone that's outspoken in the industry. That's certainly awful, but you can file that away in your mind under crazy.
It's when you try to make reasonable points about what you think or believe and there's just this army of people lined up to explain to you just how wrong you are.
Georgia: Or just dismiss you. Just not listen while you speak.
Georgia: Which is almost more painful. You can almost just write off being asked if you're an escort because it's so over the top and horrific and everyone will understand that. Often, unless you're going through it, you wouldn't see that if you speak and people aren't really paying attention.
Then a guy says the same comment you said before and everyone's like, "That's an amazing idea." You're kind of left sitting there saying, "That was actually pretty good when I said it, as well."
Serenity: They brush over.
Rene: I remember when Georgia was co-hosting the "iMore Show" regularly. She would often say, "I wish Apple would do this," or, "I don't think the iPad 3 is a good product. They should have done something else." We would get horrible feedback. "She's an idiot, she's stupid, why do you have her on the show? She has no place being there."
Every single time she was absolutely right, but she was given absolutely no credit for it. That's when I started to see if anyone else had said that we would not have gotten a single piece of feedback.
Brianna: You're held to a really impossible standard. You're held to double standards and triple standards over your parents, your competency, your ability to do work after you have children. Every bit of it. There's no other word for it but exhaustion.
Georgia: We spoke a lot about men versus female in tech, but I have to say, also, women, we're not by and large great to each other, either. We're kind of often pitted against each other. If two women are on a show there's always going to be someone...
I forget which show I was hosting but they talked about our chest size versus the other woman that hosts the show. We're often pitted against each other, and sometimes other women themselves...
Guy: Really? Sorry, I didn't want to interrupt that thought, but really?
Georgia: Yeah, really.
Jessie: Shenanigans, Guy. Life is shenanigans.
Serenity: Things other people think would be funny.
Guy: I wish you could see my face right now because I'm floored.
Jessie: I know what your face looks like.
Guy: I know.
Brianna: I've definitely experienced that, too. I find women in the game dev industry really fall into two categories. The first -- that I believe I fall into -- is I see every woman I run into in my field as an ally and awesome by default. Do you know what I mean? There's so few of us here.
If you need anything professionally, call me. If you need help networking or anything I can do for you, I'm here. We're all in this fight together. I think that's many of us.
I think the other group of us, unfortunately...to tell a quick story, I was out to dinner with five female colleagues in game dev a few months ago. One of the women I was with was commenting on some new intern they had at their very large Boston game dev company and it's just blasting her for "stripper hair," which is completely uncalled for.
Georgia: I'm sorry, what is stripper hair?
Brianna: It's just pretty hair. Big hair? I don't know.
Jessie: She conditions her hair. Everything.
Serenity: I wasn't aware that hairspray required stripper added to it.
Brianna: My theory about that is I think some women that go into tech...Do you know what it's like in high school when the girls are so mean and because of that they see guys as this better gender or are angry at being female or are conditioned to be scared of other women?
I do think you see that in tech with women that are actively hostile to other women in tech.
Guy: Do you think the culture sets up a "cat fight" sort of situation?
Brianna: Sometimes, I do.
Guy: For some people, right?
Georgia: Serenity, you were going to...
Serenity: Yeah. It's a weird sort of intimidation factor. There's the weird third category, too, which I don't think is necessarily people...I don't think this is women by and large, but I think everyone has these thoughts now and again, even when they don't want to.
When you run into a woman in technology who is either nervous or stumbling or someone who legitimately doesn't know their stuff -- whether they're just a newbie and trying to learn or whether they just don't care and they're just there to have fun at a party.
I hate myself when I find myself thinking, "Man, this is the person that is giving a lot of us a bad name." Then I feel horrible about myself because I'm thinking I don't actually believe that about this girl. I'm sure this girl is perfectly nice and I'm sure this girl is smart. You get defensive, not even consciously.
Georgia: There are plenty of guys that give guys a bad name.
Jessie: There's enough of that.
Guy: You ruined my show, you jerk.
Jessie: We have one of them on our show.
Serenity: Everyone gives Guy English a bad name.
Georgia: His Twitter followers will double from this.
Guy: It just occurred to me, while you were saying that -- and I'm doing it right now which is why it's doubly long -- I often pause when I'm posing a question. I don't speak extemporaneously as well as any of you do and you're the guests.
It's occurring to me now, after that last comment, that if I was a woman I probably would not be considered, "Oh, he's a thoughtful interviewer." I think people would be like, "This person just can't get it together and she's a ditz." It's unfair.
I know I'm not great at formulating sentences quickly and I do choose my words carefully, but that's just me. I'm sorry. I think I get away with it because I'm an established white guy so it works. I can see that being a detriment to somebody who otherwise would be accepted as a completely intelligent person, but because they're a woman they're dismissed.
Georgia: I think that it happens in any field where women are starting to establish themselves, though. It doesn't mean that it's OK -- please don't send me a whole bunch of angry tweets -- but I think that that's what happens is that you are held, at the beginning, to a higher standard as you have to establish yourself.
The first pioneer women like even Amelia Earnhardt or many of the different doctors, a whole bunch of different women that went into the field had to be so much more brilliant and fight so much harder because they were the first. They're just looked at and seen and you can notice that we're female.
It's not like you can become invisible and not be known for who you are. It happens a lot in those fields and so the first set of women usually go through the wars to help establish. It usually becomes much more easy afterwards.
Guy: Is that true through? There is still massive pay gap.
Serenity: There still is, but there's this problem of your rush and you work yourself to death for a certain amount of time. Then some people, not all people, you get the respect and the acceptance of most of your peers.
You can let off the gas a little bit and maybe not work yourself 80 hour weeks or not focus on every single word you say and practice things that you would otherwise say flawlessly in the mirror because you were afraid of someone mishearing or misunderstanding.
It's less of that push, but the push is still there for sure.
Georgia: What do you do? How do we get more women to feel comfortable and accepted in tech? There are still so many fewer women that are going into technology versus men.
Brianna: I don't know if you guys know this but my company, Giant Space Cap, were one of the few all female pro game dev teams in the industry. I take very seriously the leadership role that we have. For instance, we have an 18 year old intern right now that's interested in being a game developer.
I'm making available my lead animator to spend time with her and to teach her how to do this. This morning we're going to be teaching her Agile and Scrum. Immediately, I think there's a real, I would say more responsibility for everyone here an all the women that listen to this podcast to mentor other women to make sure we're out there being supportive to other women.
When our friends want jobs, to fight for our friends to get those jobs. Guys are out there doing that and that is the way that the world works. First of all, we have a real moral imperative to make that happen. Beyond that, for myself, I understand at Giant Space Cap, how my decisions have been different, having all women on my staff.
For instance, I'm a non-parent, but my co-founder had a daughter two years ago. That's massively raised my consciousness about the need for sane employment policies in tech towards parents. She was actually working part-time when she was pregnant and was actually let go from that job as soon as she told them she was pregnant.
Guy: Is that legal?
Brianna: I wasn't there. They may have said they have a different reason. I'm just telling you what happened. I just think that once you get women up to management roles, once you get women in charge of venture capital, like looking at start-ups and granting that, I think we have to get women into positions of authority, of power, because we do have this different experience. We have this different perspective from our lived experiences. I think so many of these problems solve themselves.
Groups are better when they have people with both genders. Men bring a really wonderful great perspective. I have a husband. He does things and thinks things that I just don't think about and vice versa. It's that way for larger organizations to. I think we both have so much to offer each other that it's better when there is diversity.
Georgia: Brianna, what do you do when someone comes up to you and says if men did that same thing and had an all-male force, that wouldn't be right and no women would stand for it? What is your reply to that?
Brianna: I think that because game dev is so overwhelmingly male, there is a need for something like Giant Space Cap in the industry.
Georgia: You say all the other companies are already mostly male and so it doesn't really matter?
Brianna: I think there [indecipherable 0:35:52] those up there already. This is more for us as a start up at this phase, our game cost half a million dollars to ship. I looked at people that I trusted and could work well with and we really clicked. It happened to be women. As we're growing, as our capital increases, we're moving to the sequel. I'm certainly going to look at diversifying my team some.
Even still, I think that you do need something. I think there's a real role out there for Giant Space Cap. Here in Boston, I'm thinking very seriously about getting together all the women over at [indecipherable 0:36:30] and all these other game dev companies so we can come together and have these networking events together. I just think it's so necessary.
Serenity: It's like a women's union.
Guy: It's the Old Boys' Club.
Serenity: It's interesting because I have a lot of friends who consider themselves feminists and also a lot of friends in the queer community. I saw a post on Tumbler earlier this week talking about gay pride parades. The pride parade is not excluding anybody else. It's celebrating our right to be who we want to be. You don't need parade because you already have the right to be who you are.
You're not getting physically pushed down. You're not the one who's getting paid less or being told that you can't marry whoever you want to be married. I'm mixing my metaphors but you know what I mean.
Brianna: When you bring up your gay rights and I think something I've really had my consciousness raised about in the last few years is the same playbook that kind of shows women the door in tech. This is used for gay people. How many black coders do you know? There are things that are pushing them away from this field too. How many African-American female coders do you know?
I think this whole field really needs diversity. It really needs these opinions. We need to be really conscious about these power structures that systematically keep other people out.
Georgia: Jessie, how do you feel about how we can increase the women's role, especially with being a CEO?
Jessie: In an otherwise all male company... I've told my coworkers multiple times that the next person we hire has to be a girl because I just can't take it anymore, which I feel like they're fine with. It's interesting. I think of mirroring the liberal washing over of society right now. My company is mostly people in their 20's. I think one is 30, a younger crowd. One of them was saying to me one day that he's just like, "You know, it's weird. When I see a company with no women in it, it seems like there's something wrong with them or something."
I think that that's an interesting mentality. Women seem to legitimize a company. If you have a company and there are 30 people now and there are no girls that work there, it's probably because something is wrong with them.
Either that they have not interviewed any or that they have and offered jobs and they don't take them. Then, I can actually say this, that we worked with a client in the past where I think that they had gotten to 50 and two of them were girls. And oh my God, [indecipherable 0:39:36] was just horrible. Not because there was any sexism going on, but because the culture just becomes this weird cesspool.
It wasn't even fraty. I can't explain it. I can't explain how weird it was. I think that encouraging people to recognize that and see what it is like in a more gender balanced company where things are -- I don't want to say that girls make things a certain way and that men make things a certain way -- but in my own personal experience, I find that communication is often much better at companies that have more women.
Things are not moving faster, but maybe more efficiently. It's good for business. I think whenever you were saying that, it takes both genders. I think that it's better together.
Now what do people do? I think starting back at the thing that we kind of talked about in the beginning of this podcast, which is that conference that the Wall Street Journal is putting on, I think that the best way to do it is starting from the top and going down. Moving from the bottom up is slow and you have that constant pressure from above that is people pushing you down.
Sorry, I'm getting super bra burney right now.
Brianna: Preach on.
Georgia: I love that as a verb. It's great.
Jessie: The thing is that anybody who looks at that and is just like, "You know, they just wanted the most qualified." That's bullshit. That's not true.
Georgia: It would be hilarious if they asked like eight women and they all said no.
Jessie: That would be funny. I would love if they released a statement that was like, "Well, we tried."
Rene: I don't think that many people would say "no" to the Wall Street Journal.
Jessie: You have to start from the top up and I think that it's important for woman to see that it's possible. I think that you look at the industry as fashion. That's a thing where it's just like Anna Winters is at the top. For most girls, if you go into magazine editing then that seems like a really attainable goal.
As a girl going into to tech, being the CEO of a large company seems like a completely unattainable goal to me because there isn't any representation at top. It just doesn't seem like it's possible. I think that is a big barrier to entry for people.
Guy: Is it not troubling though that Anna Winters is most often portrayed as a bitch?
Jessie: That's another thing. I think she's rad.
Brianna: I think bitches get stuff done.
Georgia: That's kind of what happens. If a woman is really a strong and stands up for themselves, they usually get that label of being bitchy when compare. If they look beautiful and wear something that's form fitting, then they end up getting the other that they must be slutty and they must have slept their way to the top. It also becomes difficult.
I think something that you mentioned Jessie, like about seeing other women that are there and knowing that it's possible, I think that's a really big deal. When CSI came out, a whole bunch of people went into forensics and there was a huge boom. I think the media can play a really good role a well in saying that it's possible to be a female coder.
If you watch The Matrix, Trinity was a coder, but then her entire world became nixed except for the real cool part at the beginning.
Jessie: They ended it all.
Rene: She became the girlfriend.
Georgia: She became the girl. I think that bringing your daughters and stuff to work, teaching them to code and program and to let them know that they can do whatever they wanted is also really important as well. You see other people and it makes it possible for you as well. It gives you something else that you think that you would be able to do if you wanted to.
Brianna: I couldn't agree more.
Rene: I wanted to ask Serenity something because Serenity works in media. I've noticed several times, or at least became very evident to me, that I would get emails where it was addressed to Renee, and they would have a very different tone than the normal emails I got.
Rene: Most of the time, I would just ignore it, because we get a lot of email that needs to be ignored. When I would write back I would sometimes, just at the end, not always, but sometimes, I would just say by the way, it's Rene with one e. It's the male version.
The female version has two e's. The entire conversation would change immediately, shockingly sometimes. That, for me at least, just saying I was male would change a conversation. I was wondering if you noticed the same sort of thing when you get communicated to as a member of the press.
Serenity: Definitely. I think most times when it's people pitching a product, they wanted to get on your good side, so I find that it's a lot of smoozing. Sometimes, it goes the other way. It goes a little bit creepy. I got one email, I want to say four or five months ago, that was like, "Oh, hi Serenity. I noticed that you really like space and I think..."
Jessie: I'm going to say that the next time I see you...
Georgia: Everyone should say that as their opening line to Serenity. "I hear you really like space."
It's so funny because actually I got a tweet which I didn't reply to but it was from last ad hawk that we did that was on The Avengers and Captain America. It is, "Thanks, Georgia. Is that the one where you shower in the review? If not do you have a pic?" It might have to one of my reviews as well.
Guy: Do you know what? I got that same tweet.
Georgia: That's OK then.
Guy: Who would tweet that? That's bananas.
Rene: On your reviews we have to delete a lot of comments. Not as much now, now it's actually better. For a long time we had to delete a lot of comments on a lot of your posts.
Georgia: Didn't you for a while just block my name?
Georgia: If they put my name in it, you had to block it so that you could go through and any of the reviews you could take a look because they could be so biting.
Rene: Not biting . They were beyond disgustingly offensive.
Jessie: That's bananas.
Georgia: Sometimes when they're really cruel actually used to -- I don't have the time anymore -- but, I used to write back and say, "Listen. That's not cool." Then they would totally turn face and I'm suddenly human again and apologize profusely for acting that way. It's almost like it seems like that would be OK to do it.
Rene: You weren't a human being to them.
Serenity: It's all well and good to make fun of somebody on the Internet until you realize that person is flesh and blood. Lots of people do this, but unfortunately, I feel like we sometimes have prominent target plastered on our foreheads.
Brianna: I was going to say I had the opposite experience where my email address is briannawu@giantspacecap. Someone wrote me when we were hiring voice actors for our game. They wrote, "Hi Brian Nawu." It was this voice actress who did all these different voices of herself.
Brianna: I'm showing them to my team like, this is kind of awkward. I didn't know what to write to her. "Hi, this is Brianna." This is my one experience of being on the other side.
Serenity: I think it does have to do with area that you exist in, too. I noticed Macworld, as a whole, I'd say 95 percent of the community that we have on that website has always been very respectful to me. I never saw the "Oh, Serenity's cute." I saw a little bit on Twitter, but I never saw it on Macworld.
The first time that I went on This Week in Tech, I made the mistake of having the IRC Chat open. It was weird because none of the comments were disparaging about what I was saying which is always my back fear is, "Oh, God. I don't sound competent."
A lot of it is just slightly off and slightly creepy comments about my appearances. It's like I would rather you actually talk about what I'm talking about and not what earrings I'm wearing or how I'm wearing my hair, or how you think that shirt would look. I'm not even quoting the good ones.
Georgia: I don't mind if they comment on my earrings or my hair. I figure if it's they can see me, it's like what people will do as a way to comment on things. I would much rather they talk about what I'm talking about, which is just hint to guys. Girls would be much more impressed if you don't just go up to them. Comment on what they're saying, that means you care.
Serenity: Not what they're wearing.
Georgia: I don't mind that as long as it's done in a respectful manner.
Serenity: And not "I'd hit that."
Guy: The fact that it ever comes up is weird. People very, very seldom make comments on what I look like.
Georgia: Not publicly.
Jessie: Not to your face.
Guy: Jessie gave me a six on ten on her podcast I think.
Guy: With Mike Monteiro. It was a good episode.
Jessie: I don't remember it at all.
Georgia: She doesn't remember it all.
Guy: You know I listen so you cracked a mean joke.
Georgia: She didn't think that you listened. It was just her test to see that you listened.
Guy: She does know because I sponsor the show every now and then and she reads out my name at the top.
Jessie: That's true.
Guy: I'm just being combative...
Jessie: I just want to talk a little bit about the clothing thing. Brianna, I think that you talked a little bit about this before, dressing the part.
Brianna: It's exhausting. It's exhausting.
Jessie: Some of you know me. I dress pretty femininely. I wear dresses a lot, pink dresses, I dress like Zoe Deschenel. I dress like Suri Cruise. We have all of the same clothes.
Georgia: That's adorable. I'm going to be taking a look at all of your clothing now.
Jessie: There was a point I think a year after I moved to San Francisco where that's how I was dressing. I started realizing this is not how people are dressing around me. People are dressing much more conservatively, jeans and sweaters, which to be fair, I am wearing jeans and a sweater for today.
I made this conscious decision to be like, "You know what? Fuck it. I'm just going to wear the craziest shit I want and make people deal with it." I don't like this notion that girls who are blonde are dying their hair brown, so they can be taken more seriously. I don't like that people are wearing pants instead of shirts just because they don't want creepy comments from their co-workers. I hate that. I think it's dumb.
Georgia: I agree with you. You do dress really cute by the way. Just saw your picture. It's adorable. I think that you're right. I think that, that's a great way of making your stance of saying that...And helping other people be able to dress the way that they want, and that they should still be taken seriously even if they're wearing a Hello Kitty T-Shirt. I might have one.
Brianna: I think over here on the game dev side I think there are...I think there are all these messages out there that if you are a girly girl, or you do like dressing up, or you like makeup, or if you put effort into your appearance that, that somehow makes you less legit, and it's just a lie.
You have to be the most true version of yourself, but what you find is you're kind of altering yourself, or just the second guessing yourself in you're dressing, or how you're presenting yourself. It's this entire layer of politics that you have to navigate.
Georgia: Brianna, can it go too far though?
Brianna: How so? How so?
Georgia: Can someone dress to scantily, and it's just not professional at all...
Brianna: Of course.
Georgia: ...Or do you think that they should be able to dress no matter? You know?
Jessie: Oh yeah. I think that scantily is different then the style of it I guess. I wouldn't bee wearing a leopard print, super tight cleavage dress to work everyday because that's just not work clothes, but I think...
Georgia: God, I'm changing my outfit for tomorrow now. [jokingly]
Brianna: I actually have a story about that. I did the keynote at i360 this year and I made a friend there. My particular friend, she's absolutely gorgeous. I friended her on Facebook, we talk a lot, and like totally love her, but she was posting stuff on her Facebook, and it was really, really out there. I had to pull her aside, and be like "Look, I think you're gorgeous, I totally support you. I'm your friend, but I've also got to tell you, if you present yourself this way constantly out there on Facebook it's going to have consequences to your career."
I do think that, that line exists, but I just think that this message that you can't be girly, or you can't be feminine, or you have to wear a daring fireball T-shirt and jeans, and have unwashed hair for three weeks to be a legit coder, I think it has consequences.
Georgia: I love that you pulled her aside and said something because a lot of people would let them sink themselves. I think that's so nice because if I have food between my teeth, and I'm going to go on, help a girl out. Let me know so that I'm not going to sink my own ship. A lot of people might not want to have to go there and say "Maybe that's not as appropriate," or "Your skirt is stuck in your undies let me help you out here for a second."
Serenity: That goes back to what we were...Go ahead.
Brianna: I was just going to say it's being a good friend to them. Earlier when I was talking about being a mentor to other women in tech, that's not just drinks and dinner uptown. That's sometimes telling them the hard stuff too.
Jessie: I have seen this thing where...Because Twitter is all tech spaced, if I ever do tweet about clothes or shoes, I've gotten weird comments that equate plain old feminine dressing with slutty-ness, and that's what bugs me so much. They think that wearing any dress is super sexual, which I don't think it is. There are lots of really non sexy dress...
Serenity: Like Moo Moos? [jokingly]
Jessie: ...Like tons of them. They abound. Same with...There was this incident where I had bought these goofy, glitter Keds.
Georgia: What are Keds?
Jessie: Keds are like tennis shoes. Like '80s tennis shoes. They're usually white Keds. I don't know. I bought ones with glitter on them. I tweeted "Just bought some glitter shoes." Somebody was just like "Oh, polishing up your stripper pole?" It's like what the fuck? These have shoe laces on them. It's frustrating.
I think part of it is that there's such under exposure, I think for some basement dweller types to feminine things that it's just really all or nothing. Like "Oh, if she's wearing something sparkly she must be ready to go," and...
Serenity: I think it interacts with the dressing culture that's shifted. It's a tangential topic in that the majority of people out there are aged. Maybe they dressed up when they were younger and, "You put on the nice dress to go to church or to a fancy event." As we get older, the line has blurred so much between what's formal wear, what's office wear, what's casual wear that people, automatically, associate things with sparkles as being slutty.
They always see things with sequins in a Forever 21 discount bin, when you're like, "No! This was once a wonderful thing, it was of the multimillion dollar dresses...costuming!"
Jessie: There've been funny ones, where I was wearing a plain headband once and somebody was like, "Why are you wearing a tiara?"
Jessie: ...I'll take that! It's pretty funny. They just didn't know.
Georgia: Guy or Rene do you get a lot of comments about what you wear?
Guy: I wear a lot of sparkles.
Serenity: You look fabulous, darling.
Guy: Only when I'm stripping.
Rene: I do, but only because I'm in video a lot. Whenever you're on video on YouTube, people have to leave comments. I'll get comments about my hair or what I'm wearing, but they're just "Internet Jerk" comments.
I don't think it's the same thing. I think a lot of times, at least when I've seen it, some people feel threatened and they use those tools as a way to try to disempower you. I try to just never give that any acknowledgement or credence because no good can come of it. I'm sure I get it to a far lesser degree. I know for sure I get it less than Georgia does.
Guy: I've only ever got a few comments, and they would always just be either a joke or nice in some way. It's a different world.
Jessie: I would love for people to just joke about. That would be the best! If people made fun of the way I dressed, I would welcome that, I would join them.
Georgia: I'm often welcoming. I have a shirt on in the video, you could see my belly a little bit when I was on that shirt. People are like, "The muffin top."
Georgia: I was like, "That hurt! That caught!"
Guy: That's just not polite. To anybody.
That's not even a gender thing. That's being an asshole! I think the window is a little bit...not a little bit, it's not even a window that's a little bit open, it's the door. It's flung wide open when it happens to be a woman that's being commented.
Rene: The other day someone was just holding a phone in the picture and the comment was, "Well, those are real sausage fingers. You're going to have a heart attack in the next few days." He took that really badly.
Guy: We're expanding to, basically, Internet, "Stop being a jerk!"
Serenity: Don't be a dick, Internet.
Rene: A comment on that. I don't have...not experiencing sexism based on that, but I'm not having my opportunities curtailed because of that. I'm not being put in awkward or inappropriate situations because of that. I'm not being exploited because of that. I think it's still different in kind.
Georgia: Yes. It's not a character assassination just because of the way that you're dressing. They're not saying that you shouldn't be there.
Rene: They're coming after me, not my gender.
Georgia: Or your skill, or your talent.
Guy: I think Brianna made a good point a while ago. I think she said, "Dead by a thousand cuts." You can take one or two of these things and just roll with them. If it's day in, day out, just little jabs, it adds up. It doesn't just add up in a natural way. It's like "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." It changes the way you have to live your life. It changes the way you expect things. When you get on stage to speak at PAX, you're thinking different things than your male colleagues are.
Brianna: Yes. Sometimes I have something particularly nasty sent to me or emailed to me and my husband will come home and I'll just be in tears about it. It has an effect after a while. It hardens you in a way, and it makes me that much more hell bent that the bastards are not going to push me out of this field, but it definitely takes away your happiness to a certain extent.
Georgia: I love that you say it toughens you up too. I love that fierce kind of thought that because you have to deal with this, because you know that right now that's the way it is it kind of makes you stronger for it in knowing that by you sticking it out it makes it easier for everyone else that comes after.
Guy: I like that, but it makes me sad at the same time because that's a mental effort, and deficit, emotional deficit. You're spending emotional capitol overcoming this thing that you shouldn't have to when you could be using emotional capitol to overcome the stresses that you've got in running a start up in the games business. A start up in the games business is stressful enough. You're doubling down on the stress at this point, right?
Rene: There's this great Maya Angelou line about being pecked to death, and at some point realizing, or at least she realized that she wasn't in there, that if she didn't exist in this world that person's sentiment, or comment would've gone on anyway. I thought that was fascinating.
Brianna: I feel like particularly in my field, I think the Mac crowd, generally speaking -- like Serenity, I don't have your job -- but to me, generally speaking, being on the outside it seems a lot more civilized than the games world from my point of view.
Serenity: Without a doubt.
Brianna: That said, I feel like over here in the games industry, I feel so strongly that we are at a turning point in history. Like we were talking at the beginning about 50 percent of gamers being women nowadays, and that gives me so much hope. When I was 18 this just didn't exist. This conversation was not happening. It was 100 percent guys.
What really gives me hope, and makes me feel like the battles that make getting death threats sent to me worth it is knowing that our 18-year-old intern at our company is going to have opportunities to go and do things that I didn't when I was her age, and I think it's so imperative that we don't let people intimidate us, and we stay here, and we speak up for our experiences, and we change things. It will have a cost, but it's so important to fight for.
Guy: I think it's been a big year for that industry. My oldest industry, I worked there for about a decade. The work that Anita Sarkeesian...
Guy: ...Sarkeesian did this year was phenomenal with here feminist frequency stuff against women in games is great.
Brianna: I have to tell you, after you see that video, and you hear her talking about the Smurfette principal, you will never again watch a movie and go "Oh my God, there's only one girl in the cast," and not get angry again.
Brianna: It really enlightens you. It's awesome.
Guy: We should really try and find a link for that because she did a great job. She got an award from the...
Guy: ...GDC last week.
Brianna: A little longer than that.
Guy: Oh, I'm sorry. Whatever. Whenever GDC was. A little bit, a while a go. That gave me a little bit of heart. She went out on a limb, and man did she get hated. I did like that the industry, in the form of the GDC, recognized the risk and rewarded it because ultimately it's a pretty liberal industry except for women, or minorities. It's a weird thing. OK, sorry.
Brianna Because with here it's easy to...Let me give you an example. I was out to dinner with some friends the other day, and this as literally right the same time that she was getting that award. I was going out to dinner with somebody in my -- I'm trying to talk very vaguely here -- someone that's very respected in my industry, and we're talking about the Lego movie that's out.
I talked about how much this movie just drove me crazy because here it is again where it's all about the man. You have Emmett who's not as good a builder as Wild Style, and Wild Style was just turned into the girlfriend for him. You know, girls, there's like one woman for every 10 men maybe, and the message again is men are builders, and women are accessories. I love this movie, but the message of the movie made me very angry.
Here's a guy that's sitting there and completely supports the message of Anita Sarkeesian, but at the same time he's sitting there pounding on the table and telling me how I'm wrong, and telling me how this movie is awesome, and telling me how this movie is awesome and how women are not discriminated against, and how he's so great, and shouting me down.
I think it's easy for GDC as an organization to stand behind this woman who's been treated horribly, and said something that' so important. But at the same time trying to draw your attention to the real damage of sexism in our industry happened at that table with that person in my industry, who's my friend who I respect that's shouting me down and telling me I'm wrong. I just think it's really important to keep that in mind.
Serenity: I think there can be a difference where you can say "I like this piece of art, and it still has significant problems, and it's not where it needs to be, and we can have an adult conversation about this," but there's still that impulse by certain folks who may be quite supportive on the outside, but still have the instinct to immediately defend themselves, and be like "Oh, you're insulting..." you know "This move was so great, what are you talking about?" and it makes it seem like you're taking a much harsher position than you sometimes might actually be.
Georgia: It kind of goes back to the Bechdel movie test of having two women that actually talk to each other. They're not talking about a male, they're talking about something that's going to progress the movie forward. How many movies actually pass that test? The Lego Movie doesn't.
Brianna: It's a great movie though.
Georgia: I did really enjoy it, but I actually did notice there were only like two female characters, and again, it kind of reminded me of "The Matrix." Though she came in, saved the day, was amazing, and then her use in the movie became...
Brianna: The girlfriend.
Rene: Jessie, you run basically a design company. You deal with clients all the time. Do you notice that to... are clients...When you're the one who is engaging, when you're the one who's booking, when you're the one who's going over job offers and contracts, do they treat you properly, or do they try to defer to one of the male CEOs, or one of the male members of your company?
Jessie: Well, as the gatekeeper at Pacific Helm, they don't become clients if they don't respect me.
The people that we work with have all been fantastic. I have not had that problem at Pacific Helm, because I have the privilege of choosing who I work with. It's been really awesome!
My co-workers are pretty, I wouldn't say they're like sensitive about it, but they get it. I think that if they sense that maybe a potential client is trying to bypass me, they are pretty good at directing it back.
There haven't been any good anecdotes, but earlier on there were a couple of times when people would maybe try and circumvent my ruling by emailing Louie or emailing Brad. That was like in the days when there were three of us working out of Louie's living room.
It's just like, "What do you think you're trying to bypass here? We're all sitting together on our computers. It's just making you look like more of a dick. Like we're all talking to each other, we can hear you."
It's not really been much of a problem thankfully. It's great over here.
Rene: People who know Pacific Helm, and know Louie and Brad, people will joke and say, "You're the adult in that relationship."
Guy: It's not a joke, dude.
Hi, guys. It's not a joke.
Serenity: Deadly serious.
Rene: Coming from the outside, I was just curious if that was a dynamic that people would understand going in. If you just presented yourself that way, if they would accept it, or if you still felt that constant, almost the stereotypical treatment?
Jessie: I think having the title "CEO" in my email signature makes that go away immediately. We joke about how that's not actually legally my title at Pacific Helm as General Manager. CEO is kind of not serious. It's a five person company.
It's silly to have "C" level executives in a five person company, but there is so much gravity that comes with that title. People know what CEO means. It means that it's the top. There is no further point of escalation. I think that because of that, they know they're stuck with me, which is fantastic.
Rene: You've preemptively weaponized your title.
Jessie: Yeah. I just recommend that to everybody else. Just put CEO in your signature, and then it's fine.
Georgia: I wonder if that will work for psychotherapy?
Brianna: I've very deliberately stayed away from CEO, because like I say Giant Spacekat has six people.
Georgia: Brianna, you should probably be doing that...
Brianna: Yeah. I didn't think about that. Here is a question I would have for you. I have found that being in charge of people has really changed my demeanor over the years. Do you know what I mean? Like the helm of being in command and making decisions all day long.
I guess my question to you would be, how do you find your part of a leader being a woman in the industry? Like how do you feel it being different versus maybe the men that you know and respect that are your peers?
Like for me, I find that there's an amount of empathy. I think that when I'm talking to people interpersonally, because when I'm talking to my team members, I'm always trying to communicate with them as an equal like, "Let's make this decision together. Let me hear your input."
If I have to pull out that, "Look. I'm in charge. This is my decision. This is how we're going to do it." I'll do that. I find that as a female leader, you have to have a very different approach to it.
Jessie: Yeah. I think it's hard, because I've never been a male leader. I don't know what it's like for them.
Guy: I kind of reject the premise of the question. That's just being a good leader. It's the consensus building. At least it's like, "Tell me everything you know."
I've heard this from like five different people. The entire team has been telling me everything they know about a different problem, and then I'll make a decision. I'm going to try to convince you it's the right decision. If you're still going to refuse, then I'm going to get the stick out and just make you do it.
That's just being a good leader. I don't necessarily think that's a female thing. I think that's more of a leadership style thing.
Brianna: I guess I would say that with people outside of the company, like relationships that I have or people I can't fire.
Guy: Well, that could be different then.
Brianna: I've written emails that are like, "Look. This has to be done. This is unacceptable." I know, or at least I theorize, I feel very certain that being a woman in the industry, that's taken very differently.
We've talked here about the fear of being perceived as a bitch. I think that it can in sometimes women what action she can take sometimes.
Guy: Yeah. I think the process you described is great, especially internally. If you're working with a team, that's great. The perception is, I totally agree, where a man may say, "Just get it done," and it would be fine. They'll say, "Wow! He really put his foot down." A woman maybe perceived to just being a bitch.
Externally, things get a lot more muddy, because you're probably talking more of a partnership. That always confuses things, because there's no clear power structure in a partnership. That's the point of it being a partnership, right? Everything is up in the air. That does complicate things.
Georgia: I don't think that men would really would even think about it. I think that it just goes in the difference of mind frame, that it's more cognizant of the way that you interact and that it will be interpreted. Where I think that men don't have to do that. They and/or don't care.
Guy: Here's a luxury in a weird way. When I have to deal with other people, either internally or outside, most often the gender issues doesn't come up, because I'm in the majority gender. So I don't have to think about this. That's a total luxury. One of many that I enjoy.
I don't know. Let me just recuse myself again from this conversation. At this point, I've come to totally see where you're coming from.
Brianna: The point is very valid. Please go ahead.
Guy: Sorry. I thought you were talking about a leadership structured style. But, you're right. There are issues here that I haven't thought of.
Sorry, Jessie. I hope you have had time to collect your thoughts.
Jessie: Oh, no. It's OK. There are definitely certain, not necessarily direct leadership, being the boss of people, but persuasion things. I used to work at a company called "Mule Design." My boss was Mike Monteiro, who is widely known on Twitter as this surly grump.
Guy: Such a sweet guy.
Jessie: In person, he's so nice. At work, he would go into like Don Draper mode, where he would be persuading a client to go with a certain direction. That has been a thing that I have never been able to pull off.
I really do think that part of that is having a higher voice and being small, you don't have that gravitas that an old bearded man does. I don't think Mike is ever going to listen to this, so I can say anything I want about him.
Jessie: I think that type of thing, that persuasion, that gravitas, can help with leadership. It can maybe ease some of it sometimes, where you don't have to be trying so hard, or at least appearing to try so hard to get to people to do what you want. If you can grunt at them, and scare them into what you want them to be doing, that's just awesome and it's so easy!
Guy: That's interesting, because there is a physical ailment to that, that Jessie, you won't be able to get. Do you know what I mean?
Guy: Like you're not going to be a guy that looks like Montiero. He scowls all the time. He's got a big ass graying beard. You're not going to be like that.
Jessie: I would be more intimidated by him than by me. I don't even think that's necessarily a gender thing. I think that's a human thing.
Guy: That's a primate thing. That is one big monkey.
Jessie: Yeah, but then you have email-based communication, which I do a ton of. A lot of our clients are remote. I think that in a lot of ways levels the playing field for that, because you don't have that person breathing down your neck right there intimidating you physically.
By the way, Mike does not use intimidation tactics. I'm just saying that it's a different thing when there's a person staring at you.
Guy: He's a wise and old stint man that can sell an argument.
Brianna: I'm not sure if a woman went out and recorded a video called "Fuck You. Pay Me." I don't think that would be perceived in the same way.
Georgia: That would definitely be interpreted different.
Brianna: It would be a little different.
Guy: Brianna, if you haven't watched it, you should because it's good.
Brianna: Oh, it's wonderful. I love it! I used to work as a Graphic Designer, so I loved that.
Guy: This is a question that has been on my mind as I've been listening to this discussion. Game development and design are very different. They're similar, because obviously you need so much design in game development. As a design shop, I can see clients perceiving design to be a soft perceivably female womanly thing to do. Do you know what I mean, like stereo typically?
Jessie: Oh, yeah. Like art stuff.
Guy: Yeah. It's artsy fartsy, right?
Guy: Does that maybe make it easier for you? Does that change the way people address the situation?
Jessie: There has been times. Not in UI design, because that's so hand-in-hand with engineering, but definitely like in logo design.
What's funny, just as maybe an opposite reference to working at the Genesis Bar, where people would be like, "Well, what does he think?"
There have been times in designer views where Louie will be presenting his icon directions or logo directions, and they'll be like, "Jessie, what do you think?"
That was actually the first time that has ever happened to me, that somebody has been, "Well, what does the girl think?" Was any designer view at Pacific Helm? Which I think is hilarious. I think it was Biz Stone also, which makes it even funnier.
Guy: That's good.
Jessie: Yeah. I think there are some things, some parts. That's a little bit more in the graphic design art type world, less like UI design and stuff.
Guy: Right. I think it's interesting that your company is in a, let's just say a more touchy feely field. It's not, but it can be perceived as such.
Where I think both Serenity and Brianna are more in a results-driven I guess. I don't know.
Jessie: I think you mean a masculine field.
Guy: No, no, that's not...That's the perception of the field and that's what I'm trying to say without having all of you hate me, because I actually like you and I don't want you to hate me.
Serenity: You can say it.
Guy: You know what I'm saying? There are fields that are perceived to be more masculine.
Brianna: Something either runs at 60 frames per reel or it doesn't. Something either compiles or it doesn't. It is more results-driven. I agree with that. I find, in my field...let me give you an example. Right now we are playtesting our game "Revolution 60."
Where we've really had to go out of our way -- because most companies don't do this -- is to make sure women are represented in our playtesting groups. We have people that are former staffers of other large companies, and women are just simply not included in the playtesting, which explains these impossible breasted people in misogynistic imagery you can see in games sometimes.
Georgia: Most of the time.
Brianna: Most. Let's be honest.
Guy: Remind me to ask you about "Tomb Raider" after.
Brianna: I love that game. Well, the reboot. Every one before that was awful. I'm saying that yes, it is a more traditionally masculine field. That said, in the case of this playtesting results like showing our game to women, more casual gamers, to a wide variety of people made us get better data and refine the game in different ways that made it more accessible to those people than if we had ignored them.
I think, despite that masculine perception, it's still really important to get people of both genders in there because it leads to a better result.
Guy: You can't just make the box pink?
Brianna: No. Yeah, it's a little different than that. For example, you can't assume that players understand what a health bar is. You guys had talked about interface work, for instance. This is a fascinating field of creating a design, making a mock-up, making this beautiful graphic design, implementing it, and then testing it with users and seeing what they understand or don't understand.
It's a really interesting field. It's using this visual art in a game.
Georgia: You probably shouldn't be insulting 40 to 50 percent of the people that you want to buy your product by having the one character that represents them being only a sexual object or wearing skimpy things. Though, it was such a shock when Metroid came out and Samus was a girl. It was a huge shock to everyone, which was really cool because she was in armor and she really could kick butt.
Of course, then you had this secret code to have her naked after.
Brianna: I find it goes both ways. You certainly have the blatantly pornographic designs like if you look at Ivy from "Soul Castle." Her breasts have gotten more and more impossibly large and the physics to simulate their jiggling have gotten...
Georgia: The physics are strange.
Brianna: It's pornographic. That's an accurate word for it. I also find that you have the opposite argument where you have to throw a woman in tons of armor or completely desexify her. I think there's this line.
I personally like characters that are pretty. I like them to be attractive -- not in a slutty way, but in a way that's pretty to me.
Georgia: Like "Heavenly Sword." She was awesome. She could kick butt.
Brianna: Exactly. Gorgeous hair. The rigging on her hair and the alpha blades in that is beautiful to perceive. I find that because men sometimes look at a character and the first thing they see in a female character is if they are or are not sexually attracted to her -- which I think that's why you guys get some of the comments you do in your videos -- I think it skews the conversation.
I think the solution in games isn't to desexify or obliterate sexuality. I think it's to increase the number of perspectives that we have.
Rene: It makes me wonder if any male game designer ever looked at their main character like Ryu or any of them and said, "I think he looks too slutty. I think we've got to dial him back a bit."
Brianna: Maybe Voldo from "Soul Caliber."
Georgia: I think that more and more media is sexifying men as much as women, and there's more and more men that are having the same type of eating disorders and body dysmorphia as women are, which is not a good thing.
I think, Brianna, you're right. I like to look at things that are well made up. I can admire a beautiful woman just as much as I can a handsome guy, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, either.
Brianna: I've never gone to a character creator and made a frumpy girl with bad skin as an avatar in my game.
Georgia: It's not happening.
Jessie: Nobody wants acne.
Serenity: Not even pixels. We want the most idealized version of ourselves.
Jessie: I feel like there's a big difference between aspirational and sexualized.
Brianna: Exactly. That's the key right there. Can you imagine yourself as that character? That's the key.
Guy "Tomb Raider," I think, did a pretty good job of that, but I think it got a bit of headwind in the death sequences are pretty gruesome and people read that as torture porn, in a way. I read at least one article about that. You know when she's going down the river and she gets impaled in the face?
Serenity Or any of the parachute sequences.
Guy: Yeah, pretty much.
Brianna: I have to say, first of all, a lot of people on that dev team are friends of mine, including the people that made the animations you're talking about.
Guy: They did a tremendous job.
Brianna: I would argue that the "Tomb Raider: Reboot" is the most...that version of Laura Croft is the most empowered, awesome, most feminist character I've ever seen in a game.
Guy: I think so. It's "Batman Begins" for Laura Croft.
Serenity: It's fantastic.
Brianna: I think that that game works because they don't pull their punches with Laura Croft. She bleeds, she dies, she fights, she feels. I think that it works because of that. I don't need to be protected to feel like I'm being treated fairly. She's in a brutal, awful situation and that game works emotionally because it's speaking to the emotional truth of that situation.
Guy: I agree.
Georgia: It's funny because I remember Rene wrote a book -- a martial art book -- and we did all the pictures for it. One of the editors said that there was a knife scene...it was a martial art move and we were using butterfly knives -- which are huge cutting knives -- in it, and in one of the pictures it's just...
Guy: Aren't they illegal in Quebec?
Georgia: Butterfly knives? They're legal. They're not...
Guy: He's thinking of switchblades.
Rene: Not the swingy ones. Imagine a machete.
Georgia: Yeah. They look like two machetes. Anyway, one of the pictures Rene has the blade to my neck and one of the female editors was really offended and said that we should take it out because it's misogynistic and it's wrong because it was cutting on my neck and they wanted to change it or have a guy do it.
I said I am as equal to...I would not want you to take something out -- as long as the move is a proper and well-used move -- just because I'm female. I should be able to be attacked in the book equally, just like the guys would. I think that is what equality is about.
Brianna: I agree.
Guy: Can I be honest? I would actually be uncomfortable looking at that. I know both of you.
Georgia: It's like 1 of 1,000 pictures and it's a set of moves.
Guy: It'd probably be sort of weird. I'm willing to admit that that's probably some weird, engrained not misogynistic but don't be cutting women's throats kind of way.
Rene: In the opposite page she was putting my head into a wall so it was balanced out, at least.
Guy: Maybe in the context I get it. I can see that photo being problematic just in my gut.
Brianna: Can I say reasonable people can disagree?
Guy: Right. I don't think it's fair. Cutting anybody's throat, not good. Don't do that.
Georgia: There was no blood. It was just a martial arts attack.
Guy: I know. It's just something.
Rene: There was another anecdote from that book where Georgia -- and I don't know if you were married at the time or not -- it was with her fiancé or husband at the time. She was doing one of those jumpy, spinny kicks and she was putting him down. The editor's thing was, "That would never work. There's no way that she could stop that."
She decided to really do it and she just said, "Kick me."
Georgia: It wasn't actually the editor. It was actually Anthony that had said...
Rene: Oh, you're husband.
Georgia: He said, "I don't think you could actually do this move." He looked at me. It's a move where he does a jumping, spinning crescent kick so there's no control in that. He says, "I don't think that you could actually block it." We looked at each other and Rene's videotaping and it was a very uncomfortable moment.
It was do or die. One of us was going to end up very badly injured after this move. He said that it couldn't be done and I was like, "Yeah, it can be done." The great thing is in the book he spins up and I was going to die or take him out.
You see him on the ground grabbing his knee from my block to that move. We got to use it.
Rene: He did not get up for a very long time.
Georgia: No. I'm smiling in the picture.
Guy: That's perfect. At the top I said you could use me as your punching bag and I retract that now, knowing how dangerous you are.
Serenity: Contextual punching bag. No physical contact.
Jessie: You assumed all of us were physically weak and we could not actually provide harm to you?
Guy: No. I didn't think you were ninjas.
Serenity: One of us is an actual ninja, one of us can be a ninja on roller skates, and, Jessie, I fear your ability to do things with strings.
Serenity: The roller skates, that's so awesome. I've just got to say.
Jessie: I'll harm you with my words.
Guy: I'm looking forward to seeing a match when you come up.
Serenity: Yeah, it should be fun. Hopefully I will not embarrass myself and fall flat over all of Montreal.
Georgia: That is so awesome. I so want to watch.
Guy: I'll be rooting for the away team.
Rene: I have a quick question for Serenity. Brianna talked about how she could mentor people in development, and we have things like App Camp for Girls -- which is trying to get girls into development and mentoring. You were in media and media is as underrepresented, in most instances, as development, as design, as any of those other industries in tech.
I was wondering if you thought a similar strategy could work in empowering women or getting women more involved in media?
Serenity: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a lot to be said about getting...in my position right now where I have the ability to hire freelancers for certain articles, since I got put in that position I've been employing all of my female friends who I know are competent writers and write on that subject that maybe haven't worked with us before but who I know are excellent at what they do.
Just giving them avenues that they might not otherwise have. Being able to reach out like that. I'm not necessarily in a position in my job where I can hire people permanently or influence them in that way, but I really do try to make a point of reaching out to folks at conferences and things like that.
I went to talk at a college in Milwaukee last year, which was a very strange experience. Very different from talking at conferences. I got to basically hang out with four senior girls who are all going into...one wanted to be a writer and then the rest were going into design-related, specifically into print and technology design.
I hung out with these girls for the entire day and it was really, really awesome to be able to shoot the shit and talk about what they were going through and what they were nervous about and where you could go from there.
I just thought that was one of the most special things I did last year.
Guy: Along those lines, what can conferences do better to encourage female attendants?
Georgia: Invite them.
Guy: Just as a disclaimer, I run a conference here in Montreal.
Georgia: Are we going to ask you the stats?
Guy: I couldn't rattle them off. I should have looked them up. I couldn't rattle them off.
Jessie: Serenity and I have given talks there, though.
Guy: Serenity and Jessie have given talks. I think, Georgia, you've attended, or at least you've been around.
Guy: You're welcome to just drop in, of course. You know what? Let me know what you think. Honestly, if you want to rip on my conference and you don't want to do it publicly, we'll cut it. We'll cut it and that's fine. I need to hear it. Also, I'm one-third of the organizers so whatever I say I can't promise anything, but I really...
I didn't want to come up with a policy for what we were going to do about Çingleton until I had this discussion because I think that would be disingenuous to be like, "I figured it all out. This is fine."
I wanted to talk to people about it first. If you guys have any ideas about what conferences, in general, or if you've got particular conference suggestions for Singleton -- on or off the record -- I'd love to hear them.
Serenity: In terms of Çingleton, the one thing that I actually have always found really special about it is even my first year it felt very open and very welcoming, which is something I have not felt at any other conference.
The numbers, especially the first Çingleton numbers, I think were heavily skewed male, but it felt more like a coffee clutch, like a very warm, intimate environment where everybody was very much aware these are all good people.
Guy: The attendees were a lot of males, but many people brought their spouses -- in most cases, wives.
Serenity: Those spouses around, exactly. It wasn't a thing where all of the women were shoved into a corner talking to all of the spouses. Especially, again, the first Çingleton I went to -- what year was that?
Guy: That was three years ago.
Guy: You've been to every one.
Serenity: Yes, I have. 2011. That was my second year in the industry so I still barely knew anybody. I had seen people twice, three times at conferences and things like that. Despite that, there were people who came up to me like, "I think you're Serenity Caldwell, right? You wrote this article."
Not, "You're the token female at Macworld." Let's talk about this actual, interesting thing that you did recently, which I thought was really awesome. It's not to say that the conference was perfect and that there are no changes that need to be made, but I really appreciate the atmosphere that's there.
I don't know if it's necessarily because of the way that Singleton is organized and the fact that it's small and intimate or that—
Guy: I think a fair amount of it is that the community that it attracts is not full of assholes, by and large, I don't think. That doesn't mean that things don't maybe escape my attention. In the broad sense, Brianna, you've gone to PAX, which is the other end of the spectrum.
Brianna: We struggled so much with going to PAX this year because the Penny Arcade guys have...
Guy: There's a history.
Brianna: There's a real history. This last year before I wrote them that check for a significant amount of money, it was like I cannot believe I'm giving this amount of money to... that's affiliated with someone I think is straight-up sexist and homophobic.
Jessie: Dick Wolves...
Guy: They're oblivious to how bad they are. They really are.
Brianna: That guy needs a team of therapists working on him just all day long. The conference itself, the enforcers, 2000 out of 10. The crowd at my particular panel was great.
Coming back to your question about what can conferences do, I really think it's straightforward. I think make sure there's some diversity with the speakers. That sets a tone. I can tell you a lot of women care about having a harassment policy. I am not one of them, but I have a lot of friends that do look at that before they're going to attend.
Guy: That's one thing that I've struggled with, and we're yet to finish. We're still planning this year's so we haven't actually come to this point yet. This is something I'm going to have to talk about with my partners. I almost don't want a harassment policy because my point of view is if I invite you into my house and you're an asshole, you will not believe the shit that's going to come down on you.
That's basically the end of my harassment policy. I don't feel that I should have to lay that out for people. On the other hand, the entire point of this show is that I don't have the perspective from the other end of the telescope.
Georgia: The only thing, Guy, I think that all of us could say that we've been harassed before. I would assume that all of us have just being women. Have any of us actually brought it up to any type of manager? It's a 1 in 16 incidents ever come up to be brought up.
Georgia: You learn to grin and bear it. If not, you're the one that gets shunned.
Guy: That's what I mean. Maybe if somehow we made it clear that you can...I mean, you're my friends. I would hope that you feel you could come to me and things would get fixed quietly.
Jessie: I don't know. I've been to Çingleton twice. I've had no problem there.
Serenity: Çingleton is a very unique experience because it's so small. I think that in a smaller conference scenario you don't necessarily need as rigid or laid out harassment policy. The organizers are very present and if anything ever happened at Çingleton it's very easy to grab the people in charge and like, "Hey, Guy."
Guy: I want people to know that, that's OK. Most people have previously because it's impact mostly with my friends, and probably still will be, or at least people that I know. It does concern me that maybe some shit goes on that I don't hear about.
Brianna: If I could say this, beyond the conference organizers -- I hope my fellow panelists will agree with this -- but something I personally find really intimidating at conferences, and this may be more on the conference goers, and the conference makers, but I have been in a conference. It is so intimidating when you walk up to a group of like 20 guys sitting at a table, or like this group of all guys. It could be just like...I am a level 10 extrovert, and I think of myself as someone that's very reasonably confident in putting myself out there in those situations, but even I have to take a breath and go like [sighs] all right, here we go.
I sometimes wonder how maybe my more introverted female engineer friends would deal with a situation like that. I guess I would say if you are someone at a conference just make an effort to be inclusive to people around you because it is kind of difficult for women to penetrate that.
Guy: I will totally agree with that. First of all, you've got a double whammy going on there in that many engineers are introverted anyway. We have already discussed maybe this is telling that we've got three males and one woman helping us out, or organize at the conference is that we were like "Well, how do we get the introverts to mix with the other people?" before we considered what are the women's issues, so bad on us now that I think about it. That's kind of crazy.
On the other hand, by percentages there's probably more introverts than women, which is, again, bad on us. There's a two fold thing going on there right? Which is basically you want people to mingle and just talk to each other. Ideally gender can get out of the picture, but unless you're doing that Stephen Colbert "I don't see race" thing...
Guy: ...It's really hard to...You can't stand up on a podium and pretend that everybody's the same gender, and I don't know how to encourage that.
Georgia: I don't think that women want that.
Guy: I don't think so either, which is why I don't want to call attention to it by specifically calling out rules about, you know, this is how you will treat people of another gender because I don't want people thinking about their interactions trained in the way of gender. I think by laying out specific rules, that's drawing attention to it, especially since we haven't done it before and we're small.
On the other hand, I see the flip side of the coin of if anything goes wrong I need, I really need everybody to know that they can come to me, or Luke, or Scott, or Beth, or any of the volunteers, and just know that something's going to get fixed.
Serenity: Maybe it's an all purpose policy. It's not singling out...
Georgia: Women. You shouldn't be rude to other guys either.
Serenity: You should not be rude to other people, here's what happens if you disrespect, or otherwise treat another person at this conference badly.
Guy: That's kind of like what I was saying at the top, which was like you're in my house, if you're going to be an asshole, you're going to get shit on.
Georgia: Just having a girl on the team that, again, if a woman is being harassed she does usually feel more comfortable talking to another woman because they might be understanding, so just having someone that is female there is really nice because they'll be able to go to that, so that's a real nice boon as well.
Guy: Maybe it's as simple as that. Maybe it's as simple being like...Just saying at the top...You guys, a few of you have been, you know, I have that Friday introduction. Maybe it's as simple as saying "If you have any problems you can see me, Luke, Scott, or Beth Wallen," and make sure I point it out. Maybe that's enough information that people will be comfortable doing that.
Georgia: Because there's men that also get harassed, or get teased, or bullied, or picked on because of a whole bunch of other things.
Guy: Yeah, but that's always me doing the harassing, so that's nothing.
Serenity: You've created an avenue for your own harassment huh.
Guy: Exactly. I invite everybody over just to torture them.
Brianna: I think, Serenity, is your battery starting to die? Do you need to wrap this up?
Serenity: It's slowly dying. I'm sorry. My whole little Mac Book Air can only hold out for so long.
Guy: That's perfect.
Jessie: Perfect, we wanted you gone anyway is what I was trying to say. [Jokingly]
Georgia: Not at all.
Guy: No, none of that. Fellas, it's been a blast.
Georgia: Fellas! You didn't want to say "guys." That's hilarious.
Guy: I know. It's fellas. That's the joke of it.
Georgia: I like guys.
Serenity: Guys works. I used "folks" for a long time.
Georgia: Folks makes me feel old.
Brianna: I hate "ladies."
Serenity: Yeah, it feels condescending.
Georgia: No. I really do prefer "guys." It makes me feel like an equal.
Rene: You're in California. Is "dudes" OK still?
Jessie: I don't think that we have said that in a while. I think we say "guys."
Guy: I really loved listening to so much of this discussion. I enjoyed getting in where I could. I'm so grateful for this. There's no way that we could possible have done this show, on this topic, without the kind of input that you guys had. So I really appreciate it. I had a lot of fun and I didn't think it was going to be fun. Because it's a horrible topic.
Georgia: I don't know if it's that horrible.
Rene: It's horrible that it exists.
Guy: When you're getting threats in email, that's horrible. It's a horrible thing. If anybody listening to this even thinks about doing that and I find out...
Rene: He's coming to your house.
Guy: We just talked about the knife tricks that Rene knows.
Georgia: He'll take care of you.
Rene: In deference to Serenity's battery, I want to just ask her where people can read more of her writing and where they can find her on the Internet?
Serenity: At Macworld.com and then I publish my own stuff at iwearmanyhats.com. That one again.
Rene: And you're @settern on Twitter?
Serenity: @settern on Twitter, yes. I always forget about that.
Brianna: Can I tell you my favorite part? When you Google you, Serenity, because I was doing that before this...The very first thing that comes up is like, "For expert opinions on XYZ , Serenity Caldwell." That is so awesome. I wish that was my first result.
Serenity: I wish that I'd come up with that and that wasn't like default work tag. But I'll take it.
Rene: Brianna, what about you?
Brianna: My game is shipping soon. Revolution 60. I am speaking at i360 Intersect in Seattle. I'm doing AltConf. So if you didn't get into WWDC, like I'm guessing many in your audience did not, come hang out. It will be a good talk. I'm also doing Casual Connect in San Francisco, in about two months. I'm all over the place.
Rene: And you're @spacekatgal on Twitter?
Brianna: I'm @spacekatgal on Twitter. With a "K."
Jessie: Find me at pacifichelm.com, Twitter.com/jessiechar. I'm speaking at NS North in Ottawa next month. I think it is sold out though, so too bad if you did not get tickets. And I'll be around at WWDC. Just zipping around, not actually at the conference, obviously. Nobody got into that.
Rene: It's a big empty room.
Serenity: No. We'll hang out and have coffee or something.
Brianna: I'd love to meet you guys in person down there. That would be great.
Jessie: Yeah. We should make a point of meeting up.
Rene: Georgia, where are you?
Georgia: You can find me on Twitter. It's Georgia_Dow. And of course, also, not without the underscore. I'm a Bieber fan.
Jessie: That is very important.
Rene: Thank you, Jessie.
Georgia: Thank you for the slander, Rene. And if not, you can see me on iMore.com and ZEN & TECH.
Rene: Awesome, guys. I want to echo everything that Guy said. It's absolutely fantastic. And thank you for sharing your experiences with us and informing us.
Jessie: This was very much fun.
Georgia: It was awesome talking about it. This was great.
Brianna: I feel like I've let it all out.
Jessie: Thank you, Rene and Guy, so much for hosting us.
Guy: I'll see you next month.
Rene: Any time.
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