More than Appearances – Review of Goldman Sachs

18 02 2014

As many people have heard, Goldman Sachs recently got attention for providing cosmetic mirrors and nail files as swag at a WECode event at Harvard.

While I applaud Goldman Sachs for being “strong supporters of efforts to recruit and retain women in technology,” I can’t help but feel that their choice of items is a reflection of gender stereotypes and a reminder of society’s expectations of women.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter what anybody looked like.  But until then, the unfortunate truth is that appearances do matter.  And even though we’ve come a long way since the Mad Men days, in our society, the importance placed on one’s appearance is higher for women than it is for men.

Goldman Sachs’ furnishing of mirrors and nail files for an event for women is a reminder of that truth.  That, even if I’d rather ponder the best way to visualize a data set, I should probably put that off until I look good, but not too good, because then everybody will assume I’m stupid.  Is this the reason for the gender pay gap?  Are women in the workforce supposed to be setting aside a portion of each workday for grooming, and we all just missed the memo?

Luckily, machines do not care about our appearances.  There is no correlation between the functionality of my code and the style of my hair.  The results I get at work are independent of how my nails look.  Maybe I spend more time than the national average thinking about querying databases (actually, I’m pretty confident that I do), and less time than average brushing my hair.  But thinking about data makes me happy, so that’s what I do.

– Vanessa Cullinane