Recently, it was announced that SXSW had cancelled two panels about harassment and online gaming due to threats of violence. In reaction to this decision, a few notable media companies, including Buzzfeed and Vox, have withdrawn from the festival. As the producer of an accepted panel, “How to Diversify Tech & Hack the Unconscious Bias,” we know very well the costs of unequal opportunities on women in the workplace. The goal of our panel is to discuss the root causes of this inequality, and one of them is a cultural climate hostile to women in STEM and other male-dominated spaces. Our panel focuses on fighting bias in the workplace, but we advocate for fighting bias and harassment toward women in any environment.
(Photo Credit: eschipul/Unsplash)
There is no arguing that SXSW Interactive is in a delicate position. Of course the organizers of the event want to protect all attendees and speakers from danger, and that is the obvious priority. However, the harassment of female gamers is analogous to the experience of women working in tech and gaming. While women are rarely faced with threats of violence in the workplace, they do struggle to overcome biases and mistreatment, sometimes on a much more subtle basis and sometimes in a more obvious fashion. Unfortunately, this is the current reality of being an outspoken woman in a male-dominated industry, and it’s why we, as employers, co-workers, managers and as a community in general need to address them.
Our panel focuses on the unconscious: how we learn and perpetuate attitudes and behaviors that undermine women in STEM fields, usually without realizing we’re doing so. However, before we can begin to discuss the unconscious, we must first acknowledge the conscious attitudes and explicit behaviors — such as digital harassment — preventing women from succeeding on par with their male colleagues.
Hopefully SXSW will reconsider its decision and reinstate the panels. Digital harassment is a significant and growing issue relevant to every woman in technology, and these very threats demonstrate why we cannot afford to ignore them.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your take on SXSW’s decision? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.