No, Tech Innovation Doesn’t Depend On Tolerating Misogyny

Keep the girls out and the innovation will roll.

Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson offers some further reflections on the question of women in technology:

I think the tech world is just kind of—it doesn’t have a woman problem. Women in tech are great. There’s just not that many of them because tech is just a kind of thing that a lot of women aren’t that interested in, I think. I mean, I don’t think it has a problem. I’d worry more about taking away what makes tech great. The freewheeling nature of it is what leads to innovation. And my fear is that if we’re all going to police what we say, maybe we lose that innovation. And tech is important, it’s really important to this country and to the world. And I’d hate to see us kill the goose that lays the golden egg by turning it into a politically correct wasteland.

This bit about the “freewheeling” (i.e., misogyny-tolerant) nature of the technology culture as being key to innovation is some truly pernicious nonsense. Innovation is great, and it’s great that there’s so much innovation in the computer programming space. But the startup culture’s chest-thumping about it tends to encourage this kind of thing where “innovation” becomes an all-purpose shield against criticism.

At the end of the day, the innovative nature of the digitial technology industry isn’t some great mystery. Hiring some programmers and buying them a few computers is really cheap compared to, say, building a factory. What’s more, when your computer program crashes nobody dies. Engineers who build airplanes are held to a much higher standard and need to proceed much more cautiously. And this, fundamentally, is where the innovation comes from. People can tinker around. They can launch services without being 100 percent sure they’ll be able to scale them properly or handle edge cases. When the servers get overloaded, there’s no explosion, no oil spill, no wreckage, nothing but an error message. It’s nice! People can try a lot of new stuff, and talented people don’t necessarily need to spend years paying their dues to give their big ideas a shot.

But none of this has anything to do with people being jackasses to women.