How do we talk about women in tech?

Did you see this post about The Finkbeiner Test? It’s a test similar to the Bechdel Test that is applied to movies and TV shows. The Finkbeiner Test, however, relates to the way media writes about women in STEM fields.

Here are the basic guidelines of the Finkbeiner Test:

To pass the Finkbeiner test, the story cannot mention

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”

Here’s another trick. Take the things that are said about a female subject and flip them around as if they were said about a male. If they sound ridiculous, then chances are good they have no business in the story.

I read about the test yesterday, and then I saw Sheryl Sandberg on 60 Minutes last night. Part way through the interview, her husband appeared at her side. And, sure enough, there were some shots of him at work and some discussion of how HIS accomplishments had been important in HER career. It was couched in terms of how his support and encouragement were important for her, and how important it is for a woman to choose a life mate who will support her career. Nevertheless, it means 60 Minutes failed the test.

Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, came out today. I just downloaded it. I can’t wait to read it. I’ve read so many comments and reviews of it already, I’m burning to see what I think myself about her plans to improve the work situation for women. When she’s speaking for herself and not interpreted through the lens of an interviewer or reviewer, I hope to find my own meaning there.

If I write my own review of Lean In, I’ll have to see how hard it is for me to do while passing the Finkbeiner Test.

Here are a few of my previous writings about women in tech. How am I doing in terms of the Finkbeiner Test?