Why point out they're women?

A time honored tradition on this blog happens every one in a while – a Jake Rant. Bear with me… it’ll all be over soon.

We all know that the tech industry is dominated by men. Most of us want to see that change, and do our best to help that happen. But an annoying trap that too many of us men (and plenty of women) fall into is our  inability to not call attention to the sex of the successful. Even TechCrunch Michael feel into this trap recently with his post: "All Women Team Takes Yahoo Hack Day Top Prize".

Why do we have to call attention to the fact that this smart group was also women? I’m sure men do it mostly to help highlight that success comes in both genders, and I’m sure women do it to provide clear examples that girls can be smart/geeky too. But I’m pretty sure that when there’s a picture of three women holding a trophy next to some copy about them being top winners, we can all make the leap that the two are connected.

When we specifically point it gender, time after time after time, here’s what I think may occur:

  • Men’s instincts kick in and drive them subconciously to pound their chests and find a way to dominate another situation to make up for the loss…"to girls"… in order to regain their masculinity.
  • The women involved in the winnings are instantly placed into a situation where they have to question the motives of the judges, thus never really giving them the amount of "success confidence" they deserve.
  • The conversation immediately takes on a hobbled position. The context is not about the top achiever, it’s about the top achiever within a certain category. "She’s the best CEO in the world… for a woman".

My fear is that in our desire to encourage women, we unknowingly hobble their confidence in their own abilities.

What do you think? Am I spot on or way off base?