You never know what is bound to occur in the comment thread of a Facebook status, and apparently, even Mark Zuckerberg isn't immune to things getting a little off topic. Sunday evening, Zuckerberg updated Facebook to inform us of his New Year's resolution (there's nothing like accountability when you have 47,226,286 followers, am I right?), which is basically to build an artificial intelligence system to run his home and help with his work (which puts my feeble resolution to drink more water to shame). Things got really interesting, however, when Zuckerberg made an awesome feminist statement about women and tech. And with 20,000 "likes" and counting, the response to his statement has been pretty awesome, too.
Consider this: We currently live in a world where 56 percent of women in tech leave their employers mid-career; furthermore, as of 2012, only 18 percent of computer science majors were women. And if you think those numbers are depressing, the statistics are unfortunately pretty grim across the board: Only 20 percent of software developers are women. The wage gap exists still exists for women in tech, too, as findings show that women average 16 percent less pay than their male counterparts in Information Technology. The ratio is terrible in Silicone Valley, where women make an average of 49 cents to a man's dollar. All of these findings (and, sadly, there's more where they come from) remind us why STEM outreach is a feminist issue, for both male and female feminists — and it's why statements of support from feminists who are men can have a significant impact.
The Facebook conversation, by the way, went down like this:
A Facebook user commented on his status, saying, "I keep telling my granddaughters to date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be a Mark Zuckerberg! Thanks for FB, I've reconnected with family and many old friends and classmates." Zuckerberg responded by saying, "Even better would be to encourage them be the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!"
The original commenter responded to Zuckerberg, saying, "Mark Zuckerberg I am going to do that!!", which is pretty awesome as well.
Feminism, unfortunately, has a pretty polarizing reputation. Men, especially, can have a difficult time finding their place within feminism, or struggle with whether men can identify as feminists, period. Of course feminism is for everybody, but not everyone is comfortable with that idea. For men who are curious about feminism, or support feminism but aren't quite sure how men can be feminists, the general rule of thumb is this: Listen. As a foundation, it's that simple; listen to women talk about their experiences with misogyny, body image and media representations, and sexual harassment, as well as the slew of other issues faced primarily by women.
Of course, from that foundation, activism — even just in the form of a Facebook comment like Zuckerberg's — can make a huge impact. While there's a lot of (often valid) criticism about male feminists not helping women, there are just as many cases of male feminists making positive changes with, and for, women — along with many more changes that ultimately benefit all of us.
Laura Bates at The Guardian, for example, writes about the need for young, male feminists, and her experience talking with young men about feminism — specifically why they don't outwardly identify as feminists. After interviewing countless young men, Bates surmises, "Instead of calling for feminism to be 'rebranded,' most of them point to education and male role models as the key to changing attitudes" — which, if you ask me, is a pretty reasonable request.
One awesome (and admittedly, pretty chuckle worthy) example of a male role model successfully encouraging men to identify as feminists? Ryan Gosling.
Or, at least, those feminist Ryan Gosling memes everyone spreads around. Research has actually found that when men look at Ryan Gosling feminist memes, their pro-feminism feelings increase by about 10 percent. While 10 percent may not sound like a high number initially, remember: We're talking about the impact of an Internet meme. Imagine how much good we can do through feminism education and outreach?
Considering women hold just 11 percent of executive positions in Silicone Valley, there's still a lot to be done for women in STEM. Facebook sets a nice example, with a notable 31 percent of women in their global staff, especially when other major tech companies, like Yahoo, employ only 15 percent of women in technical jobs. Zuckerberg's Facebook comment encouraging women to pursue STEM is definitely an inspiring one, and hopefully helps set an example for other leaders in STEM to embolden and recruit women into the field.
Images: Giphy (2)