Context, for those who missed it:
- Node.js maintainer (note: I’m unclear on who did the original deed and not gonna go look through all the commits) commits with “he” instead of a gender-neutral pronoun.
- Alex Gaynor adds a pull request to fix that.
- Maintainer Ben Noordhuis closes pull request with comment, “Sorry, not interested in trivial changes like that.” (same URL, further down page)
- Project Lead Isaac Schlueter accepted the pronoun fix.
- Ben tried to revert Isaac’s commit, which would re-add the sexist pronoun.
Joyent employee Bryan Cantrill writes blog post about how this is unacceptable and also added a contributor guideline.
But just so you heard it from us: if this were the act of a Joyent employee, we would—to deliberately use a gender-neutral pronoun—fire them.
- Ben wrote a clarifying comment. I want to say this: props to Ben for volunteering in a mentorship program to help get women into the field. That’s important stuff, and shouldn’t be lost in context. Hat tip to @goodwillbits for alerting me.
I have a few short comments.
- I worked sixteen years in the field before I worked on a team with another female software engineer. Please try to imagine that everyone of your sex that’s your peer vanishes for sixteen years and what your professional life would look like. ‘Cause that’s what mine did.
- The highest percentage of female software engineers I’ve ever worked with is a large team that had, at its peak, about 1/3 females, but, over time, it bounced back down to 25%.
- The largest team on which I was the sole female software engineer consisted of 38 people, of which 33 were software engineers. There were two other women on the team: a tech writer and a technical support staffer.
- More typically, I’ve worked on engineering teams where there were about 10% female software engineers.
It’s an incredibly tough business to be in and stay in as a woman. Thank you to all the people who spoke up about this issue pointing out how important it is.
Kent Brewster points out that a better way to have solved the problem would be restructuring the sentences entirely. It’s not always possible to avoid pronouns, though Kent’s right about this case.
I kept the scope of my own post deliberately narrow. While I have always enjoyed working with men, sometimes it’s not obvious to them how they push women out of the field. Many women really do need to feel welcome in order to participate, and what may seem like a little thing to you may not seem like a little thing to them.