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Thursday, November 26, 2020

"How come they're all men?"

 It's deja vu all over again...

Last week, the software testing twittersphere exploded briefly with reactions to an article published on LinkedIn by Ingo Philipp. Prompted initially by tester Jenna Charlton calling it out, many women testers were angry at its portrayal of a "warm-hearted", "humble", and rather stupid girl called Alice, who wanders about becoming a better software tester by listening to the wise words of testing experts—all of whom, as quoted in the original article, were men. A few women’s names (including mine) appeared in a graphic at the end of the article, but none of those women nor any others had apparently said anything worth quoting in the body. 
The author has since revised the article based on that very public feedback. As I tweeted at the time, the original was likely the result of obliviousness on his part rather than deliberate sexism. I hoped that the justified storm of comments might do some future good. 
I went away and thought about that, and then I got very angry.
You see, more than 10 years ago I edited a special issue of Software Testing and Performance magazine devoted largely to the theme: “Women of Influence in Software Testing.” 
I wrote this in the editorial.
[This special issue] was conceived at the CAST 2009 conference in Colorado Springs. The July ST&P was just out, generating a happy conference buzz with its cover caricatures of ten software testing stars and the accompanying feature article.
ST&P publisher Andy Muns spent that Monday afternoon in Jerry Weinberg’s tutorial. At some point the magazine got passed around. Tester Nancy Kelln said, “How come they’re all men?” As Andy told me later, he turned beet red, and had no immediate answer.
Into the expectant silence, Jerry said quietly, “Well, now you’ve done a feature on the men stars in testing, you’ll have to do one on the women. It’s only fair.”
So, here we are—thanks to Nancy, Jerry and Andy, who reflects, “Even though we didn't have any conscious bias towards men, those were the strongest relationships with the magazine run by a male publisher and editor. We wanted to change that."
Since mid-October, when Andy engaged me as guest editor for this issue, I’ve pondered Nancy’s question: Why were there no women? And I have questions of my own.
Why did it take a woman to ask that question?
Why didn’t any of the featured men suggest women for the list?
Did any of those men notice there were no women among them? (Were they interested in that?) 
Do men think women in testing aren’t good enough? Not innovative enough? 
I don’t know the answers. Do you? 
There are many smart, articulate women doing interesting and innovative things in software testing. Women lead major testing efforts and organizations. Women publish testing books, articles and papers; teach public testing classes; blog and tweet about testing; and facilitate and post on testing forums. Women initiate, organize and participate in social media and peer conferences. Women speak and conduct excellent workshops and tutorials at all the big testing conferences in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand.
Now in 2020, even more smart articulate women are doing interesting and innovative things in software testing in even more places. Yet more than 10 years after that magazine came out—10 years!—a man can publish an article with a humble little girl protagonist being educated by the wisdom of testing experts, without quoting a single woman.
And I ask again: 
Why did it take a woman to call that out?
Did any of the men quoted in the article notice that there were no women among them? (Were they interested in that?) Do they care? 
Do men think women in testing aren’t good enough? Not innovative enough? 
Male obliviousness may be a reason, but it is no longer a legitimate excuse.
If it ever was.