Wired can’t find women on the Internet because it’s not looking for them

August 15, 2013

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer might have a little influence in the tech world.  (HANDOUT/REUTERS)

Wired's 101 Signals list of "the best reporters, writers, and thinkers on the internet" is garnering a lot of buzz. But not the good kind. The first four sections of the list that were posted earlier today brought an outpouring of anger from women who cover and analyze the tech field over the almost complete lack of women on the list so far.

The critics, including Jillian York, the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), were upset with the gender breakdown of the list, which tech journalist Quinn Norton suggested was made up of people who "scream louder than they work."

Amie Stepanovich, Director of EPIC's Domestic Surveillance Project, has counted only four women among the 64 people chosen for the first four sections. And, beyond being a woman involved in technology policy, Stepanovich is in a position to know that the resources are out there for finding influential women in tech. That's because, after noticing the lack of female speakers taking part in the Aspen Ideas conference earlier this year, she created a Twitter list of influential women in technology.


(Twitter)

As Stepanovich noted, tech conferences often skew heavily male. But as her Twitter list -- and the voices of the many women working in technology who were outraged by Wired's tally -- reveals, it doesn't have to be that way.

Back in January, the Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen wrote an open letter about the issue on the publication's Web site and suggested a novel approach: Men should pledge to decline invitations on panels that don't include at least one woman.

Her pledge got spammed by trolls.

I'm sure I will get many responses to this post saying that I'm overreacting (as happened when I recently called out sexism in a Gmail advertisement) or dismissing the issue as "just the result of the meritocracy in the tech space." But when your meritocracy involves the systematic exclusion of women and people of color, it's not a meritocracy.

The truth is that the only excuse Wired could have for not mentioning more of the influential women who write about tech is that it didn't look for them.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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