I am very happy today.
I decided to start this blog in December 2013. The reason was that people at power positions like professors, senior students were not only saying but defending that “women do not make programmers”. This drives me nuts. I started this blog to support women developers who get exposed to this kind of treatment. Actually “we” started the blog. Those who would like to learn the details, can check my first post (In Turkish). After this first post, I gathered the first team and we founded Kadin Yazilimci (literally, Woman Developer), and we gradually increased in number, with new people joining us.
At a local academic conference called Akademik Bilişim, someone who is a manager from an international company, said “Honestly speaking, girls do not make IT people” yet again. He said like it was a fact of life, as if it were a normal thing to say. This nonsense happened at a conference attended by students from many universities in Turkey.
But this time, we made him apologize cooperatively. The international company where he works published a statement about the event. Mr. Gökhan said that he gave the talk four times. I am sure he is not going to give it again.
I would like to declare my regret for the current perception of my words and I sincerely apologize.
— Ilker Gokhan (@rigokhan) February 11, 2016
As a global company we put diversity at the core of our company culture. pic.twitter.com/vBMY9vAwZt
— Siemens Türkiye (@SiemensTurkiye) February 11, 2016
We achieved this thanks to the efforts of Necdet Yücel and Aral Balkan. I would like to thank them both, especially Aral Balkan, on behalf of women developers. I believe that we have made a difference for women developers. And I think this is the first tangible result we attained since we founded the Kadin Yazilimci organization.
Let me give a short history of what has happened. Those who would like to know about the details can read on.
I saw the news over Facebook. But the news article was deleted when I tried to access it. I Googled it. I found another link, but that page was deleted as well. Then I saw Professor Yücel’s tweet. He says “One needs to ask women at #Siemens management whether this really is the situation #ab2016”.
— Necdet Yücel (@nyucel) February 10, 2016
The translation of the slide is as follows:
10 reasons to pursue a career in IT…
10 The IT person is a brain man. He is the cool guy (ağır abi). He knows the best. The best job is the job where you have the last word.
9 The IT person is busy, his time is precious, he pads his working hours without getting caught, he misses no episodes of any TV series, he guarantees his personal improvement.
8 The IT person doesn’t care about budgets/crises. IT is expensive.
7 The IT person tests all kind of trendy cool gadgets like iPhone 6, iPad Air in self-sacrifice.
6 The spouse, family and relatives are proud of their IT person children, home made baklava carries the Bayram feast even.
5 At work, those who have a buddy in IT are undaunted.
4 The IT person never goes hungry, he never works for the minimum wage, he is never unemployed even if he plays hard to get.
3 To be honest, let me say that girls can’t become IT people. If one exists at all, she is a rare flower, the queen of the team, everyone’s darling. The IT person, refrains from the IT girls.
- “Ağır abi” is a colloquial term. It is used for men who act stoically. They are cool. You almost never use the female form. I can say it also has a macho connotation.
Afterwards, many people started to tweet about it. The second news was by İlden Dirini. Meanwhile a copy of the news article was found. Neslihan Turan was at the talk and she expressed her reaction during the q&a after the talk. This is what she wrote over Twitter:
“My reaction was answered as that he was actually in favor of positive discrimination. But it is obvious that what was written on the slide is not that. It was added that this was not the place to preach feminism. My reaction to the talk was perceived as surprising, as if the items writen were very ordinary — this was the actual problem. Even though the presentation was given at four different universities and the person hadn’t thought about this all his life, the participitants (almost 400 people) not reacting and seeing this as normal was another serious problem. At the end, he stated that he was open to corrections for the presentation, I must add.”
If you know Turkish, you can read it in separate tweets in the thread below:
— NeslihanTuran (@neslihannturan) February 10, 2016
Meanwhile, at night I translated the slide and the talk summary . https://docs.google.com/document/d/1iZ8Lmq8tVJkNVFq9Xp5lYyVFVdbXVpe8sRDiEiXTGI4/edit?usp=sharing and I also wrote a blog post. But I followed Yaşar‘s advice and decided not to publish it. I went to sleep.
The next day around noon Aral Balkan started following me on Twitter. Then he started tweeting tweet after tweet. An avalanche of tweets about the presentation ensued.
— Aral Balkan (@aral) February 11, 2016
Aral would not stop tweeting. I have only quoted a few of them here. I had never been mentioned on Twitter that many times in a single day. There was a person asking for a second translation. I sent the translation I had prepared the night before.
— Aral Balkan (@aral) February 11, 2016
Finally the tweets stopped in the evening. We had an introduction meeting for Kadın Yazılımcı. I went there. Let me also mention that it was a great meeting! We did not talk much about the presentation. Before we could leave, another news article about the talk was published. This time it was on a website which they could not have it deleted. Then we saw Mr. Gökhan’s apology tweet. He apologized like a “cool guy (ağır abi)”*. That’s OK. Apology accepted. Siemens Turkey says it is wrong directly, and they say that they have been working on diversity for years.
[* I said apologizing like an “ağır abi”, because he doesn’t sound convinced but he does it because he has to.]
I kindly request Siemens to look closer at diversity in tech in Siemens Turkey. One of the women I talked to at the Kadın Yazılımcı introduction event said that she did her internship at Siemens. When she was leaving, the guy she worked with said that “girls don’t make programmers”. She is a tough girl, and she talked back. But not everyone is tough, and they don’t have to be. This second story gave me the impression that this might be a recurrent theme in Siemens Turkey.
What’s the point here? Programming is a human activity. It’s not a woman’s job. It’s not a man’s job. It is a human’s job.
Update 1: I received word that there’s a claim saying that on the next slide there is a text stating “These are incorrect opinions existing in our society, which have no basis in reality” This is an extraordinary claim, because you don’t start a statement which you are going to deny shortly with “Honestly speaking…”*. I think the maxim “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” applies here. 😉
*Literal translation: “Why should I lie”
Update 2: There is a comment by a Siemens employee under the Turkish version. Here is the translation:
Hello Ms. Kuş. I perceive the presentation by the Siemens IT manager quite negative and unfortunate. However that it gives an impression that the general attitude at the company is as such, as a woman developer working at the R&D department of Siemens I would like to emphasize that I never witnessed a sexist approach within the company. Moreover, the ratio of women is quite high among IT employees. But of course it is not sufficient, because we will win as we multiply. Come on girls, come to IT!
Update 3: I corresponded with another friend who attended the presentation. From what he said what I understood is that he actually was trying to encourage women to enter the field of IT, but that he made the matters worse while he was trying to be helpful. That’s why the apology above is actually a sincere one. I feel really sorry for the way things have come to be for him. But people who have come to occupy such positions should know better, and we expect better of them. Fighting with discrimination is not as easy as it seems. One has to be careful while choosing the idea to defend, the way to defend it, and the way to present it. Both men who try to support women and women themselves fall for these mistakes. We need to put more thought into this, as well as be more aware about these matters.
By the way why don’t you publish the presentation somehwere, for all to see?