Geek Feminism Wiki

The Glass Door is a similar to the Glass Ceiling. It is a term for a common pattern of resistance against women's multiple attempts at entering certain workplaces. There is no formal barrier preventing women from entering (hence, the glass door, the one that you don't see until you walk right into it). A glass door experience is also quite similar to a grunch, happening by surprise with no prior disillusioning taking place. Not all geek women are familiar with the feminist movement, and may accidentally stumble upon it only after the grunching incident.

What makes the door so invisible[]

Myth of meritocracy[]

  • Some people simply subscribe to the belief that sexism no longer exists in the 21st century
  • The mistaken belief that IT or other STEM fields are meritocracies

Belief that women lack interest[]

  • It is the unshakable myth that women simply don't want to enter certain industries like IT, engineering, or other STEM fields. The absence of female employees does not immediately raise suspicions of sex discrimination. (See: Invisibility)
  • Too much emphasis in the media about geeky stereotypes driving women away from IT
  • Not enough political will to change discriminatory hiring practices in IT for the women that are actually interested in the field, resulting in few women being in the field, which repeats the cycle that causes people to believe that women aren't interested
  • Lack of awareness of other women in a similar situation due to silencing


  • The burden is on on individual female potential job applicants to raise the issue, and this is risky for the following reasons:
    • They can be coerced into silence due to the risk of being labeled trouble-makers
    • This can prevent them from being hired by other companies, depending on how tightly-knit the local community is
    • They can fear for their financial independence and thus personal safety due to threats
    • They have male friends working in the same industry, whom they rely on for networks, so they can't risk upsetting them or be seen as harming the community
    • The more cutting-edge the technology, the smaller and possibly more tight-knit the local developer community because not many people have adopted it yet - enterprising women that want to jump into a new language may be under more pressure socially not to piss the local community off
    • A woman facing a glass door situation is most likely a new grad fresh out of school with heavy loans to pay off
    • Catch-22 situation: she might not be able to afford keeping silent about discrimination if it means she'll be able to pay off the debt, so a backlash against her is a form of blaming the victim
  • Ironically, the more the woman networks, the more people may think that sexism doesn't exist anymore because she is out, engaged, and under pressure to put on a positive facade about her job hunt - it may be against her interests to reveal just how long she has been unemployed and searching
  • Pointing out the glass door is seen as being negative or too emotional
  • Being negative or too emotional is blamed for lack of success

Co-op programs as a band-aid solution[]

  • Co-op programs have been heralded as the solution to the problem, even though their effectiveness is debatable.
  • Co-op placements are limited, and even with satisfactory performance, getting a job offer with the company is not guaranteed.
  • In some countries, privacy laws or regulations may prohibit employers from accessing students' grades, so there is no way to verify a candidate's academic performance. On the whole, men benefit from higher perceived competence, so male applicants who exaggerate their grades are less likely to arouse suspicion than female applicants.
  • Female applicants can be subject to the usual processes outlined in this article
  • Co-op term durations may not necessarily overlap the minimum amount of work experience required for entry-level junior programming positions. This means that some students may not technically graduate with the right amount of experience to apply at a different company if their own company doesn't hire them back. Male applicants may be forgiven for this, but female applicants are vulnerable to being filtered out.

Visibility for some, invisibility for others[]

  • There is usually a high number of male programmers excitedly expressing how easy it is to get a job in any hot new coding language, and their enthusiasm is contagious
  • Women unaware of the glass door may become very enthusiastic themselves, dedicate months to skilling themselves up, and be in for a nasty surprise when they blindly walk into a grunch situation
  • If people assume sexism doesn't exist, they would naturally come to the conclusion that these women could have just as easily gotten a job it if they wanted to
  • Highly visible, generous relocation packages suggest that there are not enough skilled programmers in the area
  • In comparison, the rejected job applications by individual local women go ignored and remain invisible
  • Women being funneled into traditionally female jobs as a temporary measure against unemployment in the IT field, and this being interpreted by others as a permanent plan
  • This fuels the myth that "women don't want to be there"
  • Heavy use of outsourcing IT labour suggests that not enough local people are interested in applying
  • The presence of women in the company, though in strictly traditional female roles like secretary, human resources, or public relations, suggests no discrimination, even if they were really pigeonholed
    • It's not unknown for women to take any job available to them in an IT or gaming company they wish to work in, only to remain stuck in that job forever and never transferred to a technical role
    • Technically, they got in through the "glass door" but not through the "glass cube"
    • Even if there exist women in the company that originally intended to work in the traditionally female roles and are content there, it doesn't automatically rule out sex discrimination for the technical jobs against other female applicants
    • Selective hiring is at work
  • Public relations
    • In the interest of maintaining a positive public image, a company may include some perks and benefits targeting women in a compensation package
    • The company does little to actually employ many women in technical roles or change its hiring practices to be more meritocratic
    • It may employ tokenism tactics

The Glass Door in effect[]

For the glass door to be as effective as possible, it must simultaneously invite and discriminate. Its job is to mislead outsiders into thinking that the industry is wide open for participation. In doing so, it deflects criticism. Here are some of the ways in which the glass door works.

Emphasis on Open Source participation and self-teaching[]

The availability of free downloads, screencasts, e-books, and documentation online makes it seem like the door to the IT industry is beckoning anyone interested, with open arms. Unfortunately, once you've spent countless of weeks and months skilling up, it still takes a living, breathing hiring manager to actually let you through to earn a wage. Contributions to Open Source projects is rapidly replacing formal education as an indicator of merit in the job application process, which is sexist (See: Open Source Male Privilege Checklist) as well as classist.

  • Open Source projects are judged on a case-by-case basis and possibly just as subjectively as work portfolios in other industries, despite programming being seen culturally as objective work
  • Developers are known to have "religious wars" amongst each other anyway for having different coding styles
  • At school, you pay the professor to teach you and it's his/her job
  • You're accepted into schools based on academic merit
  • Participation in Open Source, by contrast, is based more on privilege
  • In the Open Source community, nobody is under any obligation to help you out and its members may resist the participation of women
  • You have to be able to afford the time and the computer to contribute to Open Source projects
  • Cultural biases discourage women from IT subjects at an early age

The cherry-picking of qualifications as a form of discrimination[]

Cherry-picking means using the same data on a résumé to argue for the fitness of the male applicant and the unfitness of the female applicant. This is how the process would work:

  • When faced with two resumes from two qualified people, choosing the job criterion matches the experience of the male applicant and presenting that as the most important qualification
    • If he has great technical experience, that trumps her managerial experience.
    • If he has great managerial experience, that trumps her technical experience.
    • If he has a CS degree, formal education trumps her self-taught background.
    • If he is self-taught, that is better than her "useless" CS degree. After all, aren't university programs out of date anyways?
    • If he has a liberal arts background, that makes him unique and an asset to the team. The company can look forward to seeing new perspectives and profit from his outside-the-box thinking. Besides, technical skills can be easily taught to an innately rational, left-brained person. That's how men are wired, right?
    • If she has a liberal arts background, that makes her an outsider with the wrong qualifications.
    • For the man, the long list of requirements on a job description is just a "wish list" and the company can make an exception for him not meeting them all as long as he shows promise. They have placed faith in him after an interview.
    • For the woman, it is a perfectly legal justification to reject her application if she doesn't meet all requirements. She has no case for discrimination and it is extremely unlikely she will ever find enough evidence to prove it in court.
    • People would just simply assume that the male applicant met all the job requirements.

Going through the motions to seem inviting[]

Company management can go through the motions of being friendly to women, offering them tours of the office, interviewing them, but decide to go with other applicants without giving a clear answer as to why. There is no way for a female job applicant to know how the evaluation process she went through differed from that of another job candidate. She relies entirely on transparent accounts from male friends in the same industry applying to the same companies to tell her that they were evaluated, so that she may compare their experiences with her own.

  • For example, the male friends may had been evaluated and hired on their coding skills only, and asked questions at the interview that were directly related to their code.
  • At an interview, her resume may have been picked apart for gaps that had specifically to do with her identity as a woman.
  • Her entire background was also scrutinized, from where she went to high school, which part of the city she grew up in, and other irrelevent information.
  • The hiring manager then showed her the way out without going through her coding portfolio or asking her any questions about her Open Source projects.
  • He says he will tell a work colleague to review her code online, at a distance, before getting back to her.
  • He does not give her any contact information to reach this colleague and she receives no feedback on her code. She isn't even asked further questions on her portfolio outside the interview.
  • She is rejected in an e-mail in a vague way.

Company promotional materials can include faces of women and visible minorities, even though the composition of the workforce remains homogenous, so outsiders aren't aware there is a problem until they go behind the scenes.

Never at the right place at the right time[]

Some people say that dumb luck is a part of success. When a glass door is in effect, women consistently have worse results with their luck than men do. It can then be questioned whether it really has anything to do with pure chance at all. Those blaming bad luck for a woman's career difficulties can also employ the isolated incident tactic.

  • For example, an inexperienced male applicant expresses interest in the company and is given a job on the spot for networking with the CEO. He had no prior connections to the company. He merely contacted him.
  • A female applicant, his friend, finds out. She also finds out how easy it was for him.
  • She tries the exact same thing.
  • She has a lot of trouble meeting the CEO face-to-face and being able to talk with him. He simply ignores her e-mails.
  • She meets with an employee of the company instead.
  • He splains to her that the company's needs change over time and they conveniently want people with more experience now. Her friend was hired so easily because he was at the right place at the right time.
  • Three weeks later, another inexperienced male arrives and suddenly the company can accomodate training new employees again. He is hired.
  • She finds out and tries again, then is told she is being too pushy.
  • If it weren't for her friends being honest, she would have never known about the other hires. Even if she does know, she can be dismissed for not being an insider or silenced so that her friends are not emasculated.

Chalking things up to luck protects the company from claims of discrimination because the treatment of two applicants applying at different times cannot be easily compared. It may not be easy to prove, but it doesn't mean that privilege is giving the male applicant an edge and that discrimination is covered up. "Luck" is also convenient to blame in a swiftly-changing field such as IT, where timing can be paramount.

Game of revolving hiring managers[]

A revolving set of hiring managers can adjust the standards for hiring in an unpredictable fashion, making entrance into the company hard for some and lax for others.

  • One hiring manager, or even the CEO, accepts a male candidate with little experience.
  • A female applicant with similar experience is directed to a different hiring manager. His standards are higher.
  • As she leaves and another male applicant arrives, he meets with the first hiring manager with lower standards.
  • The glass door is so effective that she never learns that the process was unfair until a friend in the industry tells her it happened.

The revolving glass door[]

A revolving glass door situation is one in which the woman is spun back out by the same momentum that drew her in. This is one example that neatly illustrates how glass doors simultaneously invite and repel. An example of a revolving glass door situation would be a woman receiving an extremely beckoning response to a job application. The hiring manager pitches the company's supposedly progressive policies, says there are women in management, and basically milks tokenism for all that it's worth. He might even go as far as to say he placed her resume at the top of the pile just because she is a woman. Perhaps he'll offer her some insider insight that software and gaming companies everywhere are tripping over themselves looking for female candidates.

The general themes are these:

  • Women are in demand in the industry everywhere
  • The applicant is benefiting from affirmative action
  • She is receiving preferential treatment in some way
  • Sexism no longer exists

The phone interview progresses. Encouraged, the woman begins asking questions about the company and the role, and the further the conversation goes on, a form of entropy takes place. Perhaps she asked about crunch time, which is an accepted industry norm. The hiring manager latches onto this and treats it as a red flag. The conversation goes downhill and he implies that she is not as grateful for the preferential treatment as she should be, she's not serious enough as a worker, she's too timid, not geeky enough, or any stereotype placed on geek women. The conversation eventually ends.

Soon after, the woman is rejected. Without her prompting, the hiring manager offers a list of defensive reasons that are directly connected to what intially gave her a supposed advantage:

  • Women are in such demand that she could easily leave the company for another
  • The company does not want to invest in employees it will lose
  • The company has such a great reputation that even if the woman trained there for three months, she would be the first on any recruiter's list
  • Basically, he passive-aggressively blames affirmative action while promoting his company brand

Due to the initial pitch on the phone, the hiring manager has claimed that

  • His company is not sexist
  • Affirmative action is to blame
  • It's her fault because she asked the wrong question and didn't seem geeky enough

In a revolving glass door situation, the female applicant does not request that she be treated any differently than a male applicant. Affirmative action is sprung upon her in a dizzying manner, rejection comes in a resentful way, and the whole ordeal results in no job offer at the end of it.

Awarding contracts to women in place of full-time positions[]

A hiring manager may place a woman on a temporary contract with no intent on hiring her full-time when the contract ends. The same company may normally hire male workers on a full-time basis with full benefits. Without an insider in the company informing her that her experience was an outlier, she would not have become aware of this.

No response[]

Quite simply, nobody responds. Despite a qualified female job applicant doing all the right things such as getting trained for the role advertised, having experience, networking with people working at the company, getting informally mentored by employees at the company, showing up to social functions thrown by the company, her job application is lost in a void of some sort. This can even occur in situations where the industry is hungry for talent.

Get more experience[]

A woman participating in Open Source is advised to get more experience and try applying again in the future, even though she applied to an entry-level internship role that required no formal experience.

Chips in the glass[]

There are times when a company employee slips and inadvertantly tips off the job applicant that she is being unfairly evaluated. These are some of the things that can happen:

  • The company employee seems uninterested in the applicant's job application or Open Source repository and seems to have made up his mind that she won't be hired before he has even seen her code.
  • Upon seeing her code, he admits that her projects are more advanced than his were when he applied and was hired at the same company.
  • He actually learns something new from her code because she did something that he never did before.
  • He tells a colleague to invite her to an interview, and she is rejected after a long series of questions that had nothing to do with her code.
  • When asked how the company selects new hires, the company employee says something vague and hard to measure, like "We look for people with passion to code," which subjects the woman to geek gatekeeping and No True Scotsman.

Connections that lead back to square one[]

Job seekers are often told that it's not what you know, but who you know. Connections supposedly lead to unadvertised jobs. If a person is really desired, a company may create a position tailored around that person even when they were not even planning on hiring. However, a woman in a glass door situation may find herself in a world of completely different results:

  • Her friend, the connection to a company, informs her that he has no power to hire anyone, so he introduces her to someone who has it
    • The hiring manager or CEO simply tells her to check the company website periodically for new openings
    • She may be asked how she met this friend, in a suspicious manner
  • Her friend advises her to go out drinking with the company guys because it's a great way to get to know them and network
    • She approaches one of them and he informs her that he has a girlfriend
  • Her friend offers to pass her resume off to someone in the company
    • No further communication occurs

In short, networking is said to be the best way to land a job. When a woman does it, though, the reaction is somewhat similar to one towards a person trying to cheat the system, jump the queue, or infiltrate a club.

Overdocumented worker[]

A pre-emptive measure against a woman trying to enter a workplace can involve a denial/pollution of agency attack, such as labeling her as a spy:

  • A scout for the feminist movement and therefore not a real geek
  • If she happens to be a visible minority, a spy for her ancestors' country of origin
  • An anarchist working undercover

The investigation may not even be founded on any solid evidence that she is a threat to national security, but merely used as an excuse for privacy invasion and harrassment.

PDU Intersectional Oppression[]

A woman that discovers a botched investigation may encounter another pollution of agency attack that targets her race, mental health, or sexuality (See: Intersectionality). The attack can be prolonged and layered, similar in concept to a data packet traveling through the layers of an OSI model:

  • White male psychiatrist misdiagnoses her as a paranoid schizophrenic for seeing racism
  • She objects to this and is transferred to a male psychiatrist of colour who attacks her for seeing sexism
  • She is then sent to a concern trolling female doctor that pathologizes any personality trait seen as unfeminine

The attack is a sophisticated one that exploits many isms while separating responsibilities into different layers.

Who profits from the glass door whether intended or not[]

People that sell training materials or services[]

  • Authors of programming books
  • Owners of websites that offer coding lessons for a monthly subscription
  • Tutors

People with stake in the meritocracy myth[]

  • Companies defensive of potential lawsuits
  • Programmers with privilege

Universities and colleges that offer co-op programs into STEM fields[]

  • Receive co-op fees without guaranteeing results
  • Receive tuition fees at least to the point of the co-op term when the glass door is discovered

When the tricks are exhausted[]

Concern trolling[]

After a female job applicant experiences enough resistance, and company employees inadvertantly tip her off enough times, she may see the glass door. She may approach industry people and career counselors about this and receive a resigned confession that systemic barriers do exist. Rather than offering solutions to correct the inequalities, the process of concern trolling may then begin, all in order to steer her in another direction.

Here are some of the things that may be said to the female job applicant:

  • Are you really sure you want to work there?
  • It sounds like they manage the company really badly, so find a different one.
  • Why do you want to work for a company that doesn't recognize your skills as a programmer?
  • They'll just give you all the boring work.
  • You have so much potential, so go someplace else where you can shine.
  • You have marketable skills.
  • They need you more than you need them.
  • There are so many other options.
  • Have you tried moving to another city or country?

The concern trolling is usually done with the presumption that a meritocracy exists out there, somewhere, and that the woman, if she is a good programmer, will eventually be able to feed herself due to an infinite number of choices. The priorities are also given out of order, with boredom-relief and having a "fulfilling career" trumping justified fears of homelessness and starvation (See: Maslow's hierarchy of needs).

No meaningful solutions are given in regards to the glass doors themselves, nor is addressed the very real possibility that the woman would simply continue to run into other glass doors elsewhere, since it is an industry-wide problem. The trolling sticks to a common theme of choice when hers are actually somewhat limited.

  • The companies have the right to choose who they hire.
  • You have the choice to work elsewhere.

Glass door amnesia[]

There is also an insidious way in which the woman's qualifications may work against her. The brighter her potential, the less her situation is taken seriously due to the meritocracy myth. In fact, it illustrates the strength of the meritocracy myth because an acknowledgement of the glass door must first take place before the concern trolling begins. It is almost like the concern troll had a case of glass door amnesia.

The female job applicant's potential as a programmer is a moot point, since in many IT glass door situations, her educational background and Open Source repository are not actually the focuses of the job interview.

High expectations[]

The reputed high salaries offered to IT employees may also mitigate any sincere concern the concern troll may have for the female job applicant. The mental picture of her eventually getting an IT job with a fat salary overrides the possibility she might give up out of desperation and live below the poverty line on a minimum wage job, or go back to school to re-train in another field with twice the debt.