“Why are they all white men?”

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge. I’ve been writing blog posts for IWD for several years now, and somehow I find something to talk about each time – even though I think I might have nothing to talk about. But hey. It turns out inequality is still an issue.

In 2019, I wrote about how there is nothing surprising about a woman in tech, and how it’s mentally exhausting being the minority. Two years later, unfortunately, I still feel the same. It’s exhausting being a woman. I’m tired of it. Many women work hard to fight for their cause and to be treated equally to men. Having conversations to fight for equality is tiring. We do the research, we point out the facts, we use our voices. We deserve more.

A woman with long dark hair wearing a black and white patterned jumpsuit, standing at a podium delivering a talk. She has a microphone headset.
Me speaking at Laracon AU in 2019

It’s not by way of protesting or trying to “be different” or “stand out” or “get attention” that the things I’m interested in are “not for women” or “a men’s thing”. I’m into bodybuilding, and I work in tech, and I like metal music, and I used to be into video games. My passion for all of these things has often led me down a road of being gawked at by men, laughed at by men, and made to feel unwelcome and inferior by – you guessed it – men. Then when you finally see a woman take part, and rise up and inspire other women, they cop a lot of shit in the form of mansplaining and bullying. Then women get stereotyped. Supposedly, bodybuilders who are women are into building their glutes and nothing else. People assume that women who are into metal music all wear the same dark eye makeup and have some kind of gothic inspired wardrobe. Every woman in tech has to be unfashionable and nerdy. These are the stereotypes that further alienate women when they pursue their passions and dreams. We need to stop perpetuating these stereotypes.

On days when I feel burned out from all of this – arguing why I deserve to be here, why I deserve to be treated better, why so much of what I care about lacks powerful leadership figures and role models who are women, and pointing out the inequality issues that still exist today – there’s one question I keep in my back pocket. A question that is simple. A question that also states an observation. A question that doesn’t attempt to draw attention to myself, nor other deserving women, but one that draws attention to the majority, and questions why – in 2021 – we’re still not seeing enough diversity.

Why are they all white men?

Or, in case I’m feeling a little more cordial, “Why are they all white dudes?”

It’s a question that my husband, Nick, undoubtedly hears time and time again. We’re watching Formula 1 racing. We’re looking at the website for some new startup. We’re reading a news article on… who knows what, really. We’re watching a television show. Or a movie. We’re out and about, maybe in a cafe or a restaurant. Perhaps we’re at an event. (Nick – for the record – is white.) But it’s a question I ask elsewhere, too, and around other people. It encourages discussion. Why, exactly, are there so many white men, in so many various different scenarios and industries?

Never mind the “token person of colour in an indie film” (this is one I’ve been throwing around recently), or the intelligent woman they added among a bunch of juvenile men in a film cast – they had to exaggerate her cleverness by dumbing down the men, didn’t they? – or the stereotypical gay or queer person. Asking why something has an abundance of white (and possibly cishet) men is the uncomfortable question that truly starts discussion.

We can easily point out, “Hey! There’s a person of colour in this!” or, “Nice to see a lot of women speaking at this event”. But we can’t see the forest for the trees.

How diverse, really, is what we’re seeing? What can we do to get people to realise that there is still a lot of work to be done?

And can we facilitate discussion by encouraging others to see things from our perspective – a perspective we’ve lived our whole lives?

Other posts I’ve written for International Women’s Day:

  • 2020: I mentor people, because I want to give them the opportunities I didn’t have.
  • 2019: There is nothing surprising about a woman in tech
  • 2018: I can wear whatever the hell I want, and no matter what you say, I’m still an engineer
  • 2017: Passion is immeasurable
  • 2016: Women don’t think they’re better than anyone. They just want to be respected

This year for International Women’s Day, the theme was #ChooseToChallenge. I chose to write about something that I do to challenge the inequality we see on a daily basis.

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Walmart introduced the “Great Workplace Plan” to ‘make the workplace better again’, and they trimmed management as part of it. Fewer females held higher managerial positions and it felt like a major letdown.

I know it’s not tech, but it feels a bit…relevant, considering. I want to see more women in business, but it’s like…men are always chosen first. Or they’re the default. It’s quite disheartening.

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