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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Dolly Babes, Manifesto Backlash & 'Brotastic' Failures

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Even children's shoes are unfairly gendered; backlash galore for Google gender memo author; can being female be used as an advantage in tech?; and more.


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  • British shoe maker Clarks hit a rough spot this week as it was called out for marketing their boys' and girls' shoes in particularly gendered ways. BBC News reports that Clarks released boys' shoes, called "Leader," with footballs (soccer balls, for the Americans) on them; yet the girls' shoes, called "Dolly Babes," had an insole covered in hearts. Furthermore, the Leader line was noted to be comfortable and weatherproof, while the Dolly Babes were far more delicate and impractical. Customer backlash was swift, especially on Twitter, and the shoes have since been pulled from the Clarks website. The retailer followed up by saying, "We are working hard to ensure our ranges reflect our gender-neutral ethos." (See WiC Pics: Speak Up & Wear Fabulous Shoes, WiCipedia: Rise of the Female CDO & Adidas Flip Flops and WiCipedia: Short Skirts & Back-Up Plans.)

    The Dolly Babes Have Spoken

    (Source: BBC News)
    (Source: BBC News)

  • There's been no shortage of outrage after the release of last week's Google "gender manifesto" by former engineer James Damore. In fact, it's come up in most articles written about women in tech this week. Salon penned an article essentially stating, "Women in tech are leaving because of idiots like Damore." The News Minute wrote, "Even the tech giants foster an environment where heteronormativity and male privilege is so rampant." And Google spoke out as well, as captured by Phys.org, where Google CEO Sundar Pichai made it clear to young girls that everyone is welcome at the tech mecca. In an important message at an event for young girls who code, Pichai said, "I want you know that that there's place for you in this industry, there's a place for you at Google. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you." (See Google Fires Engineer Over Gender Manifesto.)

  • Back in the UK, one woman in tech says that being female helped -- instead of hindered -- her career in gaming. In an iNews article, Jude Ower, founder of Playmob, the "global gaming for good platform," admits that it's not like she hasn't experienced all sorts of inappropriate comments and assumptions because she's a woman in tech; she certainly has. But she also contends, "My gender has never been an issue or held me back. If anything, I have seen success from bringing new insights to an industry ripe for disruption and diversity." We hope the next generation agrees with Ower's stance on difference creating opportunity, and this recent roundup of studies about female millennial CEOs on Forbes looks promising. (See WiCipedia: 'Build Up, Never Tear Down'.)

  • On the other hand, one former female technology consultant, Megan McArdle, penned a Bloomberg article titled, "As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People," which sides with the recent Google gender memo by Damore. Her experience working at a "brotastic" (our new favorite word) tech company made her realize that what separated her from her male colleagues was a desire to live and breathe tech, day in and day out. She suggests that there may actually be a biological divide between women and men and where their passions are directed. And while McArdle doesn't agree with everything Damore wrote, here's what she does say: "James Damore should probably have used fewer words with high negative emotional indices, when more neutral ones were available. But he was basically making the same point that I am: that women seem to have less interest in working with inanimate objects, and that ignoring this is going to lead to a lot of useless or even counterproductive diversity initiatives." It's a fascinating article, whether you agree with McArdle or not. (See WiCipedia: Gendered Job Descriptions, Glass Cliffs & Gaslighting.)

  • Along with mentoring, diversity initiatives (wherever you stand on them) and a bevy of other perks and standards that draw and retain women in tech, remote work and egg-freezing may increase the gender ratio. In a TechRepublic article, the case for remote work is made, using some strong industry study numbers as evidence. Whereas women only make up 14% of leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies, they comprise 42% at remote companies. That's a pretty big difference. Furthermore, in a recent survey, "76% of women surveyed said businesses offering remote opportunities would be more likely to retain top talent." Adding on to that, TechRepublic also published an article on how egg freezing can help women in tech stay on a career path longer by delaying motherhood options. In an industry where taking a break to raise children is often looked down upon, this is a benefit that many cutting-edge companies are starting to offer, with good reason. WiCipedia: 'Persona Non Grata' Tech Moms & the Refugee STEM Pilot and WiCipedia: After-School Coding, Salary Probing & Pro-Parenthood Companies.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

  • Mitch Wagner 8/18/2017 | 3:29:58 PM
    Re: Foot in mouth I still recall a conversation three or four years ago with a woman friend who was the mother of a toddler. She says she was shocked, going into a clothing store, how gendered everything was. 

    I should note here that my friend is a tough, lesbian, self-described tomboy -- but she is simultaneously a nice Italian girl from working-class Brooklyn and knows how the world works and expects that when she goes to a children's clothing store, she will find girls' clothes that look different from boys clothes. 

    All she wanted was something for her little toddler daughter that had the logo of their favorite sports team on it. And she couldn't find it on the girls' side, she said -- everything there was pink and frilly and ultra-femme. 

    It's a small point, but sometimes the small things become a big deal precisely because they're so small. 
    Sarah Thomas 8/18/2017 | 11:58:21 AM
    Re: Foot in mouth It is pretty bad -- and then to claim they already had a gender-neutral ethos! My 15-month old son has a real shoe fetish right now, but I won't be buying him these. 
    PaulERainford 8/18/2017 | 9:54:53 AM
    Foot in mouth Clarks is a byword in the UK for 'proper' children's shoes - parents across the land take their kids there to be fitted properly with footwear, particularly as the new school year approaches. But now it seems they want to put their fine reputation in jeopardy by employing marketing nitwits. Shame.
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