By Jude Widmann
The New York Times’ recent article, ‘Something Powerful’ for Women in Berlin’s Technology Universe, brought international prominence to Berlin Geekettes’ efforts to inspire women to achieve, together, what is being denied to them. This male author believes women in Berlin’s technology sector do not need Angela Merkel’s boardroom quotas to achieve equality - they need Berlin Geekettes.
Why is BG Necessary?
Left out of most of the coverage of Berlin Geekettes (BG) are the obvious reasons why the organization is necessary. Hilary Clinton famously declared during the 2008 US Democratic Presidential primary that each vote for her nomination was a crack in the “Glass ceiling”. Tired and inaccurate, the glass ceiling is insufficient to describe new challenges women face in 2012, particularly in rapidly changing business sectors like technology.
More accurately, rise to public, private, and social power is like scaling impossibly high skyscrapers. While men have enjoyed private elevators for generations, women are left trudging up the fire escape, floor by floor. Women are stuck between being labeled ‘bitchy’ for asserting themselves, and giving in to discrimination in exchange for crumbs the system offers to those who cooperate. We must call this system for what it is: Patriarchy – a system of male domination in which women are prevented from gaining power.
Why Men Should Be Impressed (and inspired)
Most impressive about BG is not the subtle opposition they represent to male domination in the technology sector, but the positive sidesteps they are taking around it. BG does not take away from the opportunities men lavish on each other, but it certainly presents a challenge by propelling women within their professions. BG is not about anger at men, but affirmation of the incredible power women possess both individually and in groups.
How Should Males React?
BG is sidestepping male domination, not males, into irrelevancy. Men are certainly threatened by women who are inspiring other women to gain power. Perhaps, however, we are better off asking ourselves why we, men, are not inspired similarly? Do we recognize, on some sweeping, implicit level that we are not competent enough to hold the world together by ourselves? We’re certainly disheartened by the past: Banks led by almost exclusively men greedily scrambled over one another, racing to see who would be first to rake the global capitalist order over the cheesegrater. In light of global financial disaster, we ought to be relieved that women are quickly rising to public and private prominence.
Is it possible that female power could prove more effective in international and domestic business sectors? In fact, organizations need female vision and action to excel to their fullest potential. Female power includes incredible communication, organizing, strategic, analytical, cooperative talents, and a tendency to delay gratification – all vital to thriving governments, businesses, and families. When men ignore the obvious benefits of including women in the game, they are declaring their own cowardice and insecurity to the world. It is blatant sacrifice of success for medieval gender sensibilities.
BG is inspiring for women and men alike. We should align ourselves with Geekettes who struggle to balance our workplaces, our homes, our economy and political institutions. Inspired male allies could certainly be a potent force, most especially when we communicate our ideals with fellow men. When male colleagues make graphic jokes at the expense of a female colleague, don’t laugh along with him. Check him on it, and recognize harassment for its impact – Your organization will be less successful and you along with it. Don’t allow female intensity to be dismissed with a joke about menstruation. Recognize the power female ferocity has to benefit your organization. Challenge men in your life to stop reacting fearfully to female competency. Embrace it.
The truth is, however, that BG and organized women in every sector are quickly realizing that their collective strength is greater than the structures ordered against them. BG’s members are exchanging ‘exotic’ pseudo-prominence for legitimate power within an industry that will only expand sustainably, prudently, with the influence of women who know their due and organize to achieve it. I, for one, am inspired.