Lady Business: When Men Get Credit for Inventing the Internet

Women rarely get credit for anything, especially not in the tech field, and generally not in any field where women are in the minority.

So, when the New York Times wrote about Ellen Pao’s sexual discrimination lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, it will not suprise you that the lead essentially obscured women’s contributions to the creation of the Internet while also managing to be a pretty crappy start to an otherwise compelling story: 

Men invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.

Yeah. That happened. It made a lot of women mad.

At Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin has become my new personal hero for calling the Times out and gathering the stories of people who know, for a fact, that the reason that statement pisses so many people off is that it’s just not true. (Hat tip to Feministing):

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.

In case you’re interested in reading more about Ellen Pao’s lawsuit, I recommend skipping to the non-sexist, better-written paragraphs that follow that first one in the Times. TechCrunch has a thorough story, too.

TechCrunch has another good piece about sexism in New York Times tech coverage that’s worth reading, too. In other news, women rock the online landscape in a dozen different ways, particularly by dominating all over the social web. This is to say nothing of the growing rankings of female venture capitalists and online entrepreneurs. So not only did women help with that whole Internet thing, but we’re also making the Internet’s future online. Here’s to hoping that we’ll start getting credit for that, too.

Previously: Equal Pay for Women—Elusive Since 1963., Who Taught You About Work?

Joshunda Sanders, a Black woman with short black hair, smiles brightly at the camera
by Joshunda Sanders
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Joshunda Sanders is the author of I Can Write the World, How Racism and Sexism Killed Traditional Media: Why the Future of Journalism Depends on Women and People of Color, and The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. She lives in the Bronx, New York, and sometimes tweets @JoshundaSanders.

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