And it has nothing to do with your software. It has to do with your new ad campaign, which I happened to see while I was at the gym last week. Here’s the gist: brilliant young girls express their ambitions to cure cancer and explore outer space and play with the latest in virtual reality tech. Then—gotcha!—they’re shown a statistic that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. They look crushed. The tagline? “Change the world. Stay in STEM.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
Microsoft, where’s your ad campaign telling adult male scientists not to rape their colleagues in the field? Where’s the campaign telling them not to steal or take credit for women’s work? Or not to serially sexually harass their students? Not to discriminate against them? Not to ignore, dismiss, or fail to promote them at the same rate as men? Not to publish their work at a statistically significant lower rate? Not to refuse to take women on field expeditions, as did my graduate advisor, now tenured at University of Washington? Where’s your ad campaign telling institutions not to hire, shelter, or give tenure to serial harassers or known sexists, as UW and countless others have done? Where’s your ad campaign encouraging scientific journals to switch to blind submissions and blind peer reviewers? Or to pay women at the same rate as men? I could keep linking articles all day. But I’m tired. Everyones’ noses have been pushed in these same data for decades and nothing changes.
There’s a reason women and girls leave STEM. It is because STEM is so hostile to women that leaving the field is an act of survival. It was for me.
Microsoft, do not dump this shit on the shoulders of young girls. It’s not their responsibility; it’s the responsibility of those in power. That means you.
Get it right.
About the author
Monica Byrne is a writer, playwright, artist, and futurist based in Durham, North Carolina. Her first novel, The Girl in the Road, won the 2015 Tiptree Award. Her work is funded entirely by patrons on Patreon, and she can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, and Facebook. (photo credit: Marion Ettlinger)