Don’t You Dare

After reading Rachel Andrew’s excellent post regarding “Women and the backchannel” I felt the need to respond. Rachel is always someone I have looked up to from a young age and her opinion is spot on.

Paul Boag has since released an excellent video regarding this, Criticise Work, Not People

Yesterday was the fabulous 200th Boagworld Podcast celebration, I think this is a huge achievement for Paul & Marcus and everyone who has been involved in the podcast in whatever capacity. I know a heck of a lot of work goes into each one and it’s all for the benefit of every single person in the industry, so hitting 200 episodes is something I applaud them for, the man hours of work must be astonishing.

I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of the 200th Boagworld Show and have known about my appearance since just after Christmas, I had no idea who else would be speaking or what we would be speaking on but just to be asked to be a part of their special celebration was an honor for me. I don’t want what I’m about to say to have any effect on the superb day that everyone put together, this should by no means take the shine off a fantastic 12 hours of broadcasting.

Boagworld 200th Show courtesy of Ryan TaylorPhoto courtesy of Ryan Taylor

Fast forward to yesterday, 12th February 2010 – my slot was at 3pm just after the fab Relly and between Andy Clarke. I made the decision after tuning in earlier in the day to turn the USteam Chat off completely while I was on air, the comments had been juvenile to say the least and were just uncalled for.

I was happy with my portion of the show, came off-air and was surprised to see so many Twitter @replies stating that many people had been disappointed with some of the comments of the members of the UStream chat room.

NB. My favourite light hearted comment was from Ben Bodien who DM’d just before I went live saying “The chatroom people are getting all excited, wear a conservative jumper or something”

Unbeknown to everyone, I had also sent out a message to my clients at the start of the day letting them know it was on and which speakers might be most useful for them to also tune into, Relly was one of those on that list and luckily I was straight after so they all stayed tuned in in order to see me as well, I also had many non-web friends watching. My friends obviously weren’t backwards in coming forward in telling me exactly what some people had said after I came off air.

Suffice to say, they weren’t impressed with some of the comments being thrown around the chat room and I almost felt like I had to justify my position in the industry to them. I always promised that the first comment to ever come out of someones mouth that I am where I am because of the “way I look” (their words not mine), that I would come down like a ton of bricks on that person.

I started my business at the age of 19, with £1000 that I had saved from my £100 a week job in acting at the time, that’s every single penny I could save from my £400/month job going into a little fund in order to buy a decent computer, desk, printer, stationery and basic chair from IKEA. Aside from not having money to go out and do things a normal 19 year old wanted to do, I was also working every hour god sent in order to build up to a sustainable income that would support me in what I wanted to do. I missed out on countless nights out with my friends, rarely saw my bed before 3am every night and forwent the normal trips to Topshop, nightclubs and restaurants in order to be a part of an industry I knew I would love.

I have never had anything handed to me on a plate, I come from a very working class family who have built up their business from scratch, my Grandfather passed on his business expertise to me and that’s where the fire in my belly comes from, not from the way I look and me thinking it’s a free pass to success.

I’m now 26, I’ve been a part of this industry for many years and to now have people think I am where I am because of the way I look, is frankly an insult. I work my socks off and the fact that is recognised by various people is a wonderful thing of which I’m always appreciative.

I can only assume if you were one of those making the comments yesterday, you have no idea of my background, my work ethics or indeed me as a person. So, don’t you dare say I am where I am because of the “way I look” as I’d love you to rewind, look that 19 year old girl in the eye who missed out on so much and tell her not to bother, as our industry is going to be a fickle, hard place for a woman to try and be a part of and that it’s you that’s going to make it hard. Quite frankly, I’ve always been a stubborn and determined so and so and I would have probably ignored you anyway, just like I did yesterday. The only reason I’m not ignoring it now is so that I can stomp it out before it happens again.

I realise on the flip side I also had a lot of support and people telling these commenters where to go so, thank you for that if you were indeed one of those.

We all need to pull together and stomp this kind of thing out of our industry, it’s not clever, it’s not nice and it’s just not productive. I’m not going on a big women’s rights campaign or anything like that but we do deserve to be here just as much as you fellas whether you like it or not AND whatever we look like without the need to justify it.

  • Couldn’t believe it when I first heard that people were leaving comments like this.

    You might (unfortunately) expect it from the internet, but from the web standards community…?

    I’m currently in the situation of ‘that 19 year old’ trying to make something out of this amazing career opportunity so feel quite put out that people would leave remarks like this to someone such as yourself 🙁

  • I think it’s important to note that persons who resonate at such a low level of thought have very little influence in the world; the vast majority of people follow & listen to people of higher thought, making those who choose the low road akin to ants in a world of humans. In my life I choose not to acknowledge the ants and give them no power in my human sized world of leaders; allowing the small voices to echo only in their own small hallways while I create a new bigger world for myself, my future children, and even …the ants. Cheers to great interview, insight into the industry through your experience, and future talks to come.

  • Here here, Sarah.

    Brilliantly written and I for one have lots of admiration for your continued ambition and talent in an industry dominated by men. Keep on ignoring the nay-sayers; Its like school ground bullying and often just comes back down to jealousy. (Especially if you can do the job better than them 😉

    I actually pity for people who concentrate their energies on trying to bring others down. Obviously by being the better person has got you where you are today. 🙂

  • Hey Sarah, I was one of the few who stayed with the BW200 all day yesterday from 10-10 and I was amazingly disappointed by the majority of the chat in the uStream channel. It was predominantly derogatory, impatient of minor technical hiccups and overall generally pathetic. My 3 favourite slots of the day were, by far, yourself, Relly and Andy Clarke’s first rant. (Come on, it really was a rant 😉 ) Unfortunately, these slots also coincided with a lot of unnecessary nonsense in the chatroom. Perhaps something Paul’s team might look into for future live shows (which I genuinely hope they do as this one was fantastic from start to finish).

    As a chap who’s only been in this industry for a couple of years I look up to people such as you, Andy, Colly and many others and in the past couple of weeks I’ve been very disheartened by comments directed towards such people. The whole ‘clique’ debacle the other week and now the sexist, rude and ignorant remarks made yesterday have really made me raise an eyebrow (Almost Tom Seleck like. He was brendondawesome in Magnum. I digress.)

    I don’t claim to know you and certainly don’t claim to understand you (neither would I), but from what I read above and from what I heard from you yesterday, I’m fairly sure that you’ll take all the nonsense with a pinch of salt and realise it is only people who are jealous of your (very well earned) reputation that make such ridiculous remarks.

    It was always an anonymous chatter that made the remarks. I wonder if any of them have enough self-worth to read your post, admit it was them, hold their hand up and say “I’m sorry”. I doubt it. But I’d loved to be proved wrong.

    As I’ve waffled elsewhere, this industry that we love is one which is very easy to step into but it is an incredibly hard one to be considered good at. You have put the effort in and it is now paying off (it appears!).

    Great post Sarah. A good point, well made.

  • Authenticate users with a Twitter/Facebook account and the comments stop. It’s because of the anonimity that people think they can do this.

    It’s a real shame as it taints the whole industry, especialy the Boagworld participants (of which I have been one for about 3 years)

    As I mentioned to Elliot Jay Stocks, many people in the industry were at work and couldn’t tune in and stop the comments unfortunately.

    These juvinile people are in the minority, but that doesn’t excuse it.

    The nature of the industry means that there are many young people, but the ones I know are incredibly hardworking, mature and professional.

  • Sarah — Until yesterday on Boagworld’s 200th episode I actually never heard of you (sorry lol) however was enlightened to hear what you had to say about the industry and your success in the iPhone sector.

    Coming from someone who wasn’t part of the chat room I have no idea what they had to say but from reading this post I have to wonder, why even give them any attention? There will always be people who are jealous or childish and therefore impossible to rid them of any field. (IMHO)

    I am in no way saying there comments were justified in anyway so please don’t get me wrong but what I am saying is you don’t need to clarify yourself to anyone. In my humble opinion your work speaks more than you could possibly say.

    Yes you are beautiful, yes your an accomplished and respected business owner and yes people will be either polite or disrespectful.

    Personally I am happy that I can add another influential person to my follow list on Twitter, my Inspiration list needed more female tweeters and therefore I am glad and thankful that I have been introduced to you via Boagworld. Thank you for your unique influence in the field of web design and development and I will look forward to seeing your work in the future. =)


    – Franksta

  • Good for you Sarah! I didn’t know anything about your background before today but have always been impressed with how you conduct yourself with such professionalism. Our industry needs women like you who are gutsy, sparky and talented. Be proud of how you look, it’s part of who you are but is not the reason why you’re where you are. Keep up all the good work x x

  • Stephen

    Let me pull the wool away from your eyes for a minute here: People don’t say those things about you because “they don’t know your background” – they say them about you because you’re average. Your designs are average, and your apparent knowledge of the web is average – as was perfectly proven yesterday when asked “what do you think, the web will look like in 4 years” and you repeated the same old crap that gets recycled at every conference across the world: “the way we interact with the web will change, it’s going mobile”.

    No guy would ever get away with such mediocrity and still be pushed onto such high pedestals in the industry.

    So if it’s not to do with your sex, looks, ability, or knowledge, then what is it?

    • Dave McDermid

      Enlighten us Stephen, please, where will the web be in 4 years time? Most “industry experts” traditionally get this wrong, and Sarah was asked this out of the blue.

      More mobile is probably the most informed answer, given the current exponential rise of location aware mobile devices supporting web standards.

    • You’ve never heard of the iPhone, or the mobile app industry in general? Or Africa, or South Africa, or Japan, where there are far more mobile web users that users through a desktop device? You don’t have an ability to look up information about the uptake of web-capable mobile devices?

      It’s a fact that the web is going more and more mobile. It’s likely that mobile devices will be the primary way we interface with the web within four years. It’s already in the process of happening. I’m sorry if this is news to you.

      • By South Africa, of course, I meant South Korea. Have you heard of South Korea?

    • Also, if talking about the progress of the mobile web is “the same old crap that gets recycled at every conference across the world” – well, guess which sex makes up the majority of speakers at pretty much every conference across the world? Yet they’d never get away with such “mediocrity”, would they? Foot, meet deepest, darkest recesses of mouth.

    • Ben

      “Your designs are average, and your apparent knowledge of the web is average”

      Who are you like?

      no-one has heard of you so don’t come on other people’s blog’s and disrespect them because your jealous.

      There’s a word for people like you ….. t***a

  • I would like to state right now that the actions of some people in the chat-room were childish, unwarranted, and something I don’t condone in any way. However, this whole situation is very interesting, both with the commenters and with the response to the comments. There is much to learn from both sides.

    This issue has been discussed at length on Twitter and the general consensus is that these comments manifested simply because the chat-room was anonymous. Because there was no physical tie between comments and real people, it meant that anything could be said without fear of attribution. Basically it was a free-for-all the strongest feelings could be vented with ease, wether they are warranted or not.

    An unfortunate aspect of crowds is that as soon as one feeling is made public, anyone else with those feelings feels better about joining in; becoming one of the mob. As this mob grows the feelings get stronger and stronger until they lose all focus and erupt into personal attacks.

    On the flip-side, most of these comments were undoubtably made by young and immature people who have a bad case of jealousy. Or at least you’d hope that is the case! The reason this didn’t happen to any of the male participants is because the majority of this industry, and in turn the chat-room, is male. I would bet money on 100% of the bad comments coming from males. But why the attack on females? Well, because when you’re jealous the best way to feel better is bring the other person down, at least in your own mind. The only way they could do that was by attacking the biggest difference; gender.

    I am not condoning what happened, I simply believe a little understanding of the issue will prevent the targets of the comments coming to knee-jerk conclusions. It seems to me that the response to the comments has turned into a defensive backlash about how woman deserve to be in the Web industry and how hard they’ve worked for it. Why has such a small number of anonymous comments required this much defending? Especially if the majority of the industry supports equal rights.

    I can’t see equality being reached if there is a backlash every time a comment is made seemingly against said equality. If you highlight the difference then the difference will persist.

    In conclusion, none of this would’ve happened if users of the chat-room were required to register, attributing a real name and email in the process. A sense of responsibility results once a physical link is made between the user and his comments. The user must think carefully about the impact of their words before joining the crowd. I believe a majority, if not all, of the comments yesterday would not have happened if this simple requirement was in place.

  • Seeing how you handled this situation impressed me to no end. You were professional and honest, things that are conspicuously missing from some people on the Internet.

    I admire you for your design skills you’ve honed over the past 7 or 8 years. It sounds to me like those people who insulted you were jealous that you are more successful than they are (and will ever be).

    I’m anxiously looking forward to your next design.

  • Hi Sarah

    I first like to say that I was saddened to hear of the comment from the chatroom from yesterday. I thought it was a really good day and for a few idiots to spoil it is really not on.

    I am with you on this. I can see how hard you work and hope you do well in the future.

    I really thought the industry was different but I supose that every industry as to have a few idoits in it that reck it all of the hard working people.

  • I wouldn’t take website comments seriously mate

    Just look at the “quality” of comments you see at the bottom of the average BBC, Daily Mail or YouTube item.

    Some people are so ignorant that I wonder sometimes how we ever managed to evolve out of cavemen.

  • Don’t even give those assholes the dignity of a response. I thought the live chat was a great idea and hope it’s not ruined for the future. Really enjoyed what I saw of yesterday’s Boag gathering.

  • Rich Quick

    Please don’t assume these morons are representative of the industry – or even part of it. They had NOTHING to do at 3pm on a Friday afternoon – other people were working. So they’re either teenage boys, unemployed or struggling to find clients.

    I didn’t listen to hardly any of the show, not because I wouldn’t have wanted to .. but because I’ve got loads of work on. These morons obviously don’t have the same problem.

    For what it’s worth, I once had a rumour spread about that I’d made my millions (what millions?) because my millionaire dad (not even close – he was actually bankrupt at the time) gave me a million so I could set up an internet porn business (which never happened).

    So – bizarrely – I kinda know what it feels like for people to assume you’ve had things handed to you on a plate when in fact you’ve had to work bloody hard.

    It’s just jealousy – and I don’t think it’s limited to (a very small set of morons in) our industry.

    I think people find it hard to believe that someone could be talented, hard working and yet not look like Comic Book Guy of the Simpsons. It’s not just a tech thing.

    I don’t know who these losers are who were on the chat yesterday, but all I’ll say is I think they’re a tiny, tiny minority in the industry and in the Boagworld community.

    I don’t know anyone who’s successful or even moderately employable in the industry who thinks like them, so all I can guess is that they’re either teenage boys with nothing better to do or people who are struggling because they’re not very good – and would rather blame someone else and say that they’re getting unfair opportunities than look in the mirror.

    As girlfriend’s dad would say, “F*** ’em.”

  • I watched this yesterday but the chat-room wouldn’t connect up so I didn’t actually see any comments. All I can say is that I look up to people such as yourselves, Elliot and Ryan (just a few of the people I have been looking at) and not just in a design sense, also in the way that you run a business and can manage clients so well (something I’m still learning).

    As many of the people above have said, I doubt if these people were messaging under their real name they’ll have been saying what they did. Your work clearly shows you have worked hard and deserve to be as well recognised as you are. Very good post 🙂

  • Hi Sarah, I just followed a link to this blog that I saw RTed on Twitter, and I don’t know much about your background but from your story I can see that you are a strong woman that is so far above the type who would stoop to that level in a chat room. Whenever scums catcall or act inappropriately as a result of my (or a friend’s) beautiful ladylooks, I remind myself that there’s no reason to let it make you feel down. You’re still the one who’s got it going on and those men are just the ones howling like dogs about it.

  • Wow. I don’t know much about you Sarah, but a few minutes looking at your work and/or reading your writing makes it clear that you’ve got talent and a strong work ethic.

    I wish I could say this kind of behavior is surprising, but no matter how professional the content (I’m sure in this case it was top-notch) the trolls will come out if they can be anonymous.

    You’d think these commenters don’t represent the average professional. And let’s hope they really don’t. But sometimes is hard not to think that. These people are all anonymous, lending them voices they’d usually not have. Most people aren’t willing to say what they really think with their real name on the line, which is also sad.

    This in indicative of a few problems our community has. We’ve clearly got a big issue with jealousy, which seems to be the issue here. You see that all the time. People get jealous. Hell, I get jealous. We all do, it’s natural. The answer, in my opinion, to jealousy is to work harder. Jealousy is an awesomely amazing motivator. In fact, I’d bet that most of the people i’m jealous of are people who probably were, at some point, jealous of someone else.

    (There are also many other great motivators, I don’t think most successful people are fueled by jealousy. Haha.)

    What happens is those cowardly, lazy folks who aren’t willing to work hard to better themselves say things like oh, “it’s your looks” or “your friends helped you” to make themselves feel better about their lack of talent or work ethic.

    (Don’t get me wrong, those things can help, but nothing replaces hard work and practice.)

    Another huge problem is anonymity. I think we need to end that, even if it means eliminating comments. Regardless, folks running a blog or podcast and who’ve got anonymous comments need to look into changing that situation ASAP. Sure, people can just create fake accounts, etc. and it won’t stop the problem, but maybe it’ll help it a little bit. You’d think that maybe professionals would be above taking anonymous comments seriously, but you’d be wrong. These kind of comments bother a lot of us.

    I actually turned off comments altogether on my Project 52 site and on my Tumblr you need to login via Facebook or Twitter. I never really had much a problem with anonymous comments, but comments, in general, can be a bear to manage and, quite frankly, if you’ve got a large enough following, tend to become more noise than anything else.

    In addition to anonymity and jealousy we’ve got a problem with honesty. I think there is something to the whole “web design is a big love fest” thing. We do see honest negative comments, but… well, see my point about anonymity. People generally don’t want to say anything bad, about anything, when their name is attached.

    Often, when they do say something critical or negative, they’re ripped for it. It becomes a pretty nasty cycle. In my opinion we should have more honest debate, negative or no. I think to do that we need to do what we can to hold people accountable for what they say, but at the same time allow them to feel ok about saying it.

    If someone is wrong, let’s try and teach them to be right. You know? 🙂

    Ah, but I digress and have wandered way off topic. Sounds like in this case you’ve got a bunch of jealous losers popping off because anonymity lets them get away with it. As much as I feel for you here, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Heres to hoping one of these people reads this post and realized they should be better than that and makes something of themselves.

  • Chloe

    Hi Sarah
    I was appalled at the comments you and the others received however not terribly surprised. I’m a web designer/developer for a large Internet company which shell go unnamed. You would be surprised at the amount prejudice not just from clients but also from other members of staff. Being a young, slightly attractive girl seems to make some men (in the industry) ether treat you with no respect, or believe that your work sub-standard somehow.

    One thing of note however, and please don’t take this personally is the amount of recognition lists that you have on your about me page with the words “women” “female” in the title. Every time I see one of these lists it drives me crazy! Where’s the ten top male web designer’s lists? I find it amusing that all of these lists have being compiled by men, who obviously respect our work and perhaps don’t realise that there “lists” are slightly demeaning and very patronising

    Anyway gone a bit off topic there and could write a whole article on the topic! However I wanted to give you support and in the words of Faith Whittlesey “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.” 🙂

    • Sarah

      Hi Chloe,

      I know what you mean about the “female” lists but I am proud to be female in a predominantly male industry so the lists don’t bother me, it’s when people judge me by my looks and not by my work that gets my goat 😉

      Thanks for your input.

      ~ Sarah

  • The only way this situation will reflect on you personally is in the way you deal with it and I think you’ve done admirably. Unfortunately the lack of respect and general idiocy from a very small minority is a side-effect of the popularity of Boagworld

  • *must ignore Stephen, must ignore…* – arrrh, no can do. Asshole.

  • EJS certainly wouldn’t be where he was now if he didn’t wow everyone with his fro.

  • Rich Quick


    Sorry – what century do you live in?

    a) Sarah’s designs are far from “average”. In fact, I’d bed good money they’re better than yours. Why don’t you prove me wrong by posting your portfolio?

    b) I know Paul Boag fairly well, having done freelance for Headscape in the past, among other things.

    Basically what you’re suggesting is that Paul only got Sarah on the show yesterday because he fancies her or because he thought other people would, when in fact he knows she’s “average”.

    That’s absolute bullsh1t.

    I don’t know Sarah at all – other than following her on Twitter and being aware of her work – but I DO know Paul – and for you to question his integrity like that is totally out of order.

    I know Paul wouldn’t have anyone on the show if he didn’t rate them and their work.

    Couple of questions for you, “mate”:

    a) Are you actually a professional web designer or developer?

    b) Are you struggling at the moment?

    If you’re so good, why don’t you post your real name and a portfolio site up here, so we can all look at your wonderful work and marvel at how much better you are than an “average” designer like Sarah?

    Or are you not man enough?

  • Stephen (not that one)

    Hi, I watched/listened to most of Boagworld and loved it I wish that it was a weekly thing, maybe not so long.
    It is such a shame that a young industry like ours is still so immature.
    We must work together to make the UK web industry the best it can be. So lets forget the idiots and encourage the great web developers we have in this country (whether they are male or female). The Boagworld 200th podcast was very inspiring, lets ignore the idiots and be proud of the work we are doing. Good luck Sarah and the other girls on Boagworld yesterday keep up the good work.

  • Argh…must…ignore…troll. Nope, can’t. Stephen, I hope (and I imagine I’m giving you too much credit here) that you’re playing devil’s advocate. If not, back up your statement somehow. With anything substantive. Perhaps a link to your portfolio. Perhaps a link to a site you’ve made. Anything, really. I would hope that the vast majority of people that have read this (and the overwhelming majority of people in our fine industry) wouldn’t dream of leaving such a comment without actually ‘saying’ anything. All you’ve done is openly criticise someone without any actual substance in what you’re saying.

    Well done. I’m sure you feel very clever.

    Please do prove me wrong. I honestly would love you to. I’ll openly admit that my work isn’t as good as Sarah’s. However, I always strive to produce something that my peers (and of course clients) approve of. And I always try and improve myself. Have some stones. Stand up and show us your work instead of being one of the bog-standard anonymous trolls that really get my back up.

  • Hi Sarah,
    I generally wasn’t following the chatroom comments because I was concentrating on the quality discussions being held between the talented professionals (like yourself) on the podcast itself. However, I couldnt help but notice some of the embarrassingly infantile banter being thown around, especially at moments like when you or Relly were on. I did throw in a comment at one point in your defense, but the comments were going so fast I’m not sure how many of those it was directed at actually saw it.

    I’m shocked to see the comment by Stephen here and am provoked once again speaking up, as I know how hurtful these comments can be – hard as we try to ignore them. I commend you on having the courage to put yourself out there in the face of this kind of behaviour and I hope you will not be put off. You did a really good job on the show yesterday, well done. And congratulations on your speaking engagements lined up for later this year, you deserve them.

  • Steve Avery

    Sarah I met you briefly at WDC2009 in Bristol.

    I enjoyed your talk yesterday as I did at WDC2009.

    Ignore the nasty cooments made yesterday, whatever they were. Rise above them!

    I’m sure your strong enough not to let these comments dent your proffesionalism.

    Your a talented woman. Keep up the great work.

  • Sarah


    As a woman in the tech industry, especially from a GIS and developer background, where I am frequently the only woman in the room, I know how it feels to be dismissed as someone who doesn’t know her stuff, just fluff.

    From my experience the best thing to do is not look ruffled, as getting irate only serves the the satisfaction that they made some kind of impact. Keep calm, carry on and prove them wrong.

    And a little Brucey bonus to annoy the more small minded men further, here is a little quote from the film ‘Legally Blonde’ YES! Legally Blonde, “If you’re going to let one stupid pr*ck ruin your life… you’re not the girl I thought you were”

    Keep going girl 🙂 x

  • Sarah, first, thank you for your informative presentation at the Boagworld 200th podcast. I will say, I was distracted by the ugliness in the chatroom. As I’ve communicated to both Paul Boag & Rachael Andrew, I feel this type of behavior might be a contributor to the lack of females given the spotlight/leadership roles in our industry. I can only hope that through persistence, we can change this in the future.

    Again, kudos to your spot on the show and best wishes to you in the future.

  • Sarah, I was watching the chat room occasionally during the live show and noticed some of the comments. After I read some of the things a couple people said I had to check out some of your stuff to form my own opinion. I found that your work was great! I also listened to you during the broadcast and you seemed very intelligent and I quite enjoyed your talk.

    I think it’s just the anonymous nature of certain things on the internet. I think you should just ignore it and not let it get to you.

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  • siba

    I’m in a similar position to you. I’m considered to be attractive by others (I hate to say this about myself) and I even did a stint of modelling whilst at uni purely to earn a bit of extra money. I’m in the tech industry and the majority of my colleagues are guys.

    To be honest though, I find women to be far far worse than men. Wherever I work, women, especially older women or those overweight, just turn against me almost immediately! They’ve even made comments to my face about my being ‘skinny’ and inappropriate comments regarding men. I had major problems with my direct colleague at my old workplace. She was used to being the youngest and only girl in the team, then I joined (younger, prettier, slimmer) and she did everything to try and make me look bad. Always behind my back though. I only found out through a mutual friend the things she was spreading. She would steal my good ideas, and any questions I asked she would go straight into my bosses office complaining of the things I didn’t already know.

    I distanced myself from her as much as possible and stopped asking her anything. I made a new group of friends and I worked hard. Gradually people realised I was hardworking, happy to help anyone and clever and she was lazy and a trouble causer. By hard work I proved myself and i’m sure you’ve already proved yourself.

    I really look up to women role models like you. Keep being a fantastic role model! Keep rising above the bitter, jealous comments.

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  • I was listening to the show all day, and popping in and out of the chat-room now and then. For the most part, from what I experienced, comments were either on topic or just harmless banter, but yeah, some did seem a little personal at times.

    Anyone who takes a minute to view your work can dismiss the comments as nonsense. Plus, with your acting background, who better to get to talk on such subjects as someone with experience and confidence in front of audiences 🙂

  • I have no doubt that a large percent of my 2500 or so Twitter followers don’t respect or even know my work and assume I got where I am because of my looks. Males in the industry who are just as good as, if not better than me don’t have nearly that many followers.

    At college, I had male classmates actually say that I got certain marks because the teachers fancied me. In reality, I taught myself PHP while classmates were doing ColdFusion because I thought it would be more useful in the long run.

    I had to struggle to succeed as a freelancer. There were many nights I couldn’t go out because clients hadn’t paid invoices. I rarely took holidays and often worked weekends, driven by my passion for web design and excitement to learn more.

    Sadly though, I think we’ll have to deal with this stereotype for a long time coming.

    • Rich Quick

      Hi Amy,

      I think the “struggling to succeed as a freelancer” thing is pretty much universal, I’ve had clients who hadn’t paid invoices too and worked plenty of weekends .. so if anything that’s a sign of equality in the industry.

      I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if a percentage of your Twitter following followed you in part because of your looks / gender. But I don’t think that’s that same as saying that they assume you only got where you are because of your looks.

      Also, while there are probably plenty of men in the industry who are just as good as you and don’t have as many Twitter followers, there are probably others who are much worse than you and have plenty more.

      Being followed is more to do with being interesting and standing out than your actual skills, and being a woman helps you stand out – hot or not.

      I actually can’t see how anyone who’s in the industry could honestly assume a developer or a designer got given a job because of their looks.

      I’ve been – and am – an employer and I can honestly say that you’d have to be nuts to employ someone on looks as a web designer or developer. It actually requires talent, so why would I want to waste £20-30,000 of my company’s money on someone who didn’t have any talent but was hot?

      No business owner I’ve ever met thinks like this. You MIGHT hire a receptionist who was hot .. if you were a sexist moron (and I’ve met a few of those, though not really in the industry) .. you’d have to majorily stupid to hire a for an important position like a developer on anything other than skills, personality and rate.

      In fact, you’re FAR more likely NOT to get given a job because you’re a woman than the other way around, mainly because of the “babies question” (which, trust me a lot of people still consider, even though it’s illegal).

      I can see that people outside the industry – and I include college students in this – might assume somebody only got opportunities because of their looks.

      But surely nobody in the industry would assume being attractive made things easier for you? I dunno .. maybe people are that dumb?

      FYI, I follow you on Twitter but it’s not cos of your looks, it’s cause I was at Bathcamp earlier this year and so were you. I try to follow people I meet until they start boring / annoying me .. which you haven’t managed to do as yet.

      • Hey Rich,

        Yeah I remember hearing your Bathcamp talk – that was a wicked fun event 🙂

        Fair points there – it’s good to hear an employer’s perspective on the issue. If only everyone saw it that way! £20-£30K is a lot of money to waste on an employee who isn’t worth it, but unfortunately industry peers still make assumptions that women get jobs because they are women, even if they’ve got merit.

        I certainly wouldn’t hire someone because of their looks either, but given my situation with Chris being both my partner AND my boss, it’s easy to assume. However, if we didn’t respect each others’ work, it would make working together exceptionally difficult and would have destroyed our relationship long ago.

        Anyways, I think the people involved with the woman-bashing comments on Boagworld *are* really that dumb! Thankfully there are plenty of fair and unprejudiced men like you 🙂

  • Scott

    sadly, this is a male dominated industry and i think you’d be naive to say that if two people with similiar skillsets / experience etc went for a job, looks wouldn’t have _anything_ at all to do with it.

    hate to play devils advocate on such a touchy subject, but hopefully no ones intention was to detract from the quality of your work….

    • Rich Quick

      I totally disagree. Why would I spend my company’s money on a hot developer over a talented developer? It makes no sense at all.

      Likeabity comes in to the equation .. and looks / presentation are part of that. But If I choose an likeable, well-presented man a over an annoying smelly, scruffy one it doesn’t make me sexist any more than if I chose a likeable, well-presented woman over a scruffy smelly one.

      But the idea that business owners honestly recruit web developers on looks is ridiculous.

      Just look around any conference .. it’s hardly America’s Next Top Model! (no offence, guys)

      If anything, women are likely to be discriminated against. A design studio owner might not want to employ a 22 year old woman because they don’t want them to go off on maternity leave.

      This sucks and is an illegal thing to do .. but I know it does happen .. because if you run a small business losing an employee for several months on maternity pay could be a massive – even fatal blow.

  • Dan

    I think it’s important to differentiate between actual business success and notoriety within your profession. It’s clear that your success in business has come from your hard work and dedication. The same hard work and dedication that has sustained and grown your business over the years. Without these things you wouldn’t have been in business very long let alone reached the levels of success that you have.

    Notoriety, however (Followers on twitter and traffic to your blog) is a different story all together. This will be enhanced by your looks and gender. Sadly, in this testosterone saturated industry, short of putting on 200 pounds or sprouting a wang and some chest hair there is diddly shit you can do about it, at least at present. So reap whatever benefits this unfortunate byproduct renders and carry on regardless.

    I applaud you for rising above the twatbags like Stephen (On whom I personally wish a plague of festering boils). Jealousy is a hell of a thing, and that’s all these guys are; jealous of a successful woman.

  • WSZ

    Some people are truly talentless. They can work their little butts off, but sadly, will never reach greatness. This is just a fact of life. Persistence alone does not make one great. However, one can have an abundance of raw talent, but through complacency and arrogance, they don’t develop their skills and ultimately fail to meet their potential. Raw talent alone does not make one great.

    The interaction between raw talent and work ethic is often mirrored by Einstein’s famous quote: 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Yet the simple fact is not everyone is created equal, some simply start out farther ahead than others.

    Yet, this is but only one facet to consider. We must also factor in all the extraneous variables. Luck, peers, looks, etc. Basically everything in the world. Now to eject one of them, and say it doesn’t matter, is nothing short of absurd. Everything matters. Greatness is not achieved by dedication and commitment alone. Sometimes the defining quality is nothing more than sheer luck. As much as we want to think we are in total control, that’s simply not the case.

    Now as for looks, they too play a roll. If my BA in psychology has taught me anything (and it has), is that human beings are generally quite stupid. By that I mean, we are cognitive misers, choosing rather to take shortcuts rather than truly dissect every decision (we simply wouldn’t have the time anyway). We don’t like to think. There are actually two extremes, low need for cognition and high need for cognition, but no matter where you fit on the scale, most decisions are based on heuristics. Think about it. You can research a product all you like, finally settle on a brand, but ditch out at the last minute because your good friend said, “it suck balls.” Not a very quantifiable statement, but it’s enough to buck even the most rigorous data. Why? Human nature.

    Additionally looks are synonymous with positive traits. When psychologists ran an experiment, they found attractive teachers were rated better by the students even though they were scripted to say the exact same thing (other variables were also controlled for). Good looking people are also rated taller, smarter, and with more leadership qualities than their unattractive counterparts. Even good looking products are better received (See Donald Norman’s book on Emotional Design). In evolutionary psychology, there is a theory called the “good gene theory”, which states that good looking people are a looking glass into their genetic code. Good looking outside = healthy inside. Consider this in mating rituals when the only thing your genetics care about are producing offspring with the highest rate of success.

    The sad fact is human beings aren’t all that clever in their day to day decisions. We operate on very simply principles. Think about it. When you buy a home, a major purchase that will significantly impact your life, what you consider? The price? A few “emotional” thoughts about the houses and their neighbourhoods? Do you construct a pros vs. cons list? Not many (if at all) do. Even in the biggest decisions, we basically fly by the seat of our pants. What’s a decision in your job compared to the house you’ll own and most likely have kids in?

    When people are hired, it is assumed they’ve met some basic bar. When you show up at an interview or a discovery meeting, your potential clients or bosses obviously assume you’ve met some basic criteria to be there. In that, you aren’t just some chick off the street. So to them, it’s not a matter so much of making sure they hire A web designer, but rather WHICH web designer. I’m sure to these people (who are outside design), one is just as good as another.

    Anecdotally, how many stories have you heard about men hiring women who weren’t the most qualified, but they were just so gosh darn too good looking to pass up? It happens; more than anyone would probably like to admit. That’s just a case of human nature. As much as you want to denounce it, it’s prevalent. After all, what does it matter to some CEO or CIO whom they hire? They’ll still retain their jobs. And that’s doubly so for the owner. After all, it’s not like they are turning over their design requirements to a plumber or tow-truck driver.

    I read someone above try to dissect the phenomenon through logic, but the decision itself is irrational and therefore, illogical. Thus logic does not apply (just like in cases of love).

    I admire you for not taking the easy road out and just playing off your looks (many of your female counterparts try and coast through life using this strategy). And I don’t doubt that your skill and determination DON’T play a role in your success, but they most certainly aren’t the ONLY thing that have been lining your wallet. You have to be real to yourself. As much as you don’t like hearing it.

    Whether you like it or not, this is the pitfall of being attractive. It’s not all sunshine and bubblegum. However, you could certainly consult a makeup specialist and make yourself “ugly” for a spell and see how that works out for you. It is common practice in psychological experiments (used to control for confounds) and you’d be amazed at how ugly even the most beautiful person can become with a little bit of make-up.

    Run a social experiment and blog about. “How I became ugly for a month.” If you have the slightest bit of hesitance, it’s because you do know deep down that their is a ring of truth in all this 😉

    • Rich Quick


      Actually, it was Thomas Edison who said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

      Not Einstein. Not 10%.

      If you’re going to talk b*ll*cks using clever-sounding arguments, it would probably pay to check your facts.

      You’ve obviously never worked in this industry – or to be frank any industry.

      The idea that a business owner doesn’t care about getting good staff is total crap.

      And the idea that women have an easy ride .. FFS.


      • WSZ

        What’s with the attitude bro?

        It’s a shame you offer nothing of value but bitterness and arrogance. I brought some food for thought. Oh well, to each their own. I see you like to troll.

        You have obviously not read my entire post or are simply incapable of processing on a higher level. I’m incline to think the latter. You are the typical, myopic little child that can’t see past their emotions. And you have proven my point beauuuutifully, thank you for that. You think you’d hire me if I could do the best job? Doubtful buddy, seeing as the hair on the back of your neck is already standing up and all I did was throw up one post on a blog.

        Life is far more complex than you make it seem. But keep living in your little hermetically sealed bubble.

        And women don’t have an easy ride, dunce. Attractive people have an EASIER ride. Read my post again, when you’ve calmed down and can think like an adult. *shakes head*

      • Rich Quick

        Are you honestly suggesting the people go round hiring attractive web designers?

        Have you SEEN any web designers?

        Go to any web design conference or barcamp and tell me that web designers get hired on looks.

        If what you were saying made any sense they’d be full of hot girls, or at least attractive men.

        Your post shows a total ignorance of the web design profession and of business in general.

        I read your post all the way through and I’m actually pretty clever, so that wasn’t the issue .. I just thought, and still think, were were talking nonsense.

        I don’t think you’re really in a position to be calling me a dunce. I’m not the one who just attributed a quote to Einstein that came from Edison and had the wrong percentages.

        The reason for the attitude, “bro”, is that what you’re basically saying is that Sarah should “get real” and accept that she DOES have an advantage being an attractive woman.

        Just because you wrap that attitude up in long words doesn’t make it any less condescending and frankly wrong.

      • WSZ

        I’m saying that attractive people have it easier in many respects. Period. Not web design; life. Get off it already. There is much more happening than people hiring attractive web designers. Seriously. You are so one dimensional and myopic. Can you handle more than one variable in that skull of yours?

        I’m saying that in some cases, attractive people will get hired over unattractive people. And in some cases, when skills are controlled for (that means, the same), an attractive person may get hired over an unattractive person, on no other grounds than their looks.

        I’m saying that in some cases, people will hire an attractive person regardless of their credentials, on no other grounds than their looks.

        It is correlational data, which means there exist many factors (and does not provide a causal model). I’m not inclined to list them all. Attractiveness is not a causal variable; there is no cause and effect here. Moreover, it is unclear whether it a moderator or mediating variable. I’m sure theories exist that use both in their models.

        Does attractiveness guarantee success? Absolutely not. Does ugliness guarantee failure? Absolutely not. Is attractive the only variable to consider? Absolutely not. This is all correlational data with many potential confounds.

        You assume that only successful and intelligent people have money or operate a business. That’s not the case. There exist many people that will at one time be in a position to hire a web designer, but will not succeed (obviously due to their poor choices). These cases exist.

        Clearly, you’ve brought nothing to the table but confrontation and a dunce cap. Moreover, I don’t know who made you Sarah’s unofficial protector, but I imagine she’s a big girl and can handle herself. Or are you feeling a little threatened because of my appearance? Is your self-esteem in jeopardy?

      • Sarah

        I appreciate healthy debate guys but lets reign it in a little, there are many viewpoints in this world, many I don’t agree with but everyone is entitled to hold whatever opinion they like about me whether I like it or not.

      • Cheers Rich, we love you too… 🙁


        From all this I’m wondering if the only reason Sarah hired herself for her own business is because she’s attractive? hmm.

      • Rich Quick

        Obviously I didn’t me you or anyone else associated with Boagworld!


    • I think you bring up some interesting points, though I would like to add some thoughts and view it through a slightly different lens.

      Humans are indeed notoriously affected by their emotions; an emotional response from a human (or any mammal) is based off of raw instict, a learned response (or ‘story’ in their head), or a combination of the two.

      One person may have made up the story (through past influence from peers, parents or experience) that women cannot be tech savvy or capable. Lets say that person is a man. That man may interview a woman who he finds attractive, which will cause an emotional response from him (instict) which may cloud his logical thought process. That man is now conflicted between his emotion, his experience (story) and his raw logic in the moment evaluating the skill and appropriate fit of that woman for the project/company. All three of these things will now play a part in his decision.

      In this particular example, the woman’s gender and attractiveness has caused both an advantage and a disadvantage to her potential acquiring of work, even though those aspects have no relevancy. Other variations can be logically extrapolated, however the point remains that the person doing the hiring was biased, though the sway of the bias will vary from person to person.

      It is no psychological secret that looks are a part of how people are perceived. A male for example will likely be viewed as more ‘charming’ if he is physically attractive; for him, holding the attention of another person will often be easier than if he was not – this is not limited to any one profession (that would be a ridiculous conclusion). It is only limited by the people he interacts with and their individual biases.

      A personal example:
      I use this very much to my advantage; I am attractive, I dress well, am well spoken, and have learned the psychology of human interaction. These factors in combination absolutely give me an advantage – if ANY one of them were lacking, I would be less effective at ensuring my message/proposal/etc gets absorbed and understood in my favor (and if any were in more abundance, it would have the opposite affect). The flip side is that I also do have barriers of entry in certain situations due to those very same factors; other ‘alpha males’ potentially see me as competition even if I were to be hired ‘under’ them (instinct), and because of my outgoing nature / dress-style and age (29 but been in professional IT for 15 years), sometimes I am not immediately take seriously despite my extensive and powerful references and past results.

      My only point is the physical attractiveness (as well as dress, posture, speech, gender) potentially has an effect on every human interaction, though whether that effect is ‘positive’ or ‘productive’ is entirely based upon the individual situation and persons involved.

      As in my first comment (2nd comment on the blog post), I will re-iterate something in a different way in light of this context; people who are swayed more by these biases and emotion than clear reasonable thought are less influential and often do not reach very high nor achieve very much (with a few notable exceptions) as compared to people who rise above their reactionary minds.

      To make a personal statement: does physical attractiveness, gender, etc. affect me? yes. Do I allow it to cloud my judgement in business? not a chance. Did that take effort and awareness of my own thoughts to master? yes.

      Finally, no one gets a free ride on those external factors. In this particular industry, it is the work its self that will speak and BUILD a business and a reputation. Before I was good at any one thing, I did in fact charm my way into industries – but then I worked harder than anyone; in light of it all, I’ll take any advantage I can get; then I’ll make good on it and work my tail off, giving back more than any leeway I’ve received. If I get hired for being charming, so be it, but no one is going to regret it.



  • Honestly, what petty and irrelevant points to make! You work speaks for itself, I would not know what you looked like if I hadn’t found your work and been so impressed by it that I googled your name. Anyone saying those things are just jealous.

    Jealous of your design skills. Jealous of your career so far. Jealous of your potential future success. Jealous of your ability to communicate so well through design, writing and public speaking. And, jealous of your looks.

    I mean, why wouldn’t they be jealous??! To be clever, talented and beautiful is obviously something these people are not at all. Unfortunately, the only way they can see to make themselves feel better is to make immature comments. So sad.

  • I must admit I do find it a little odd that you’re happy for your gender and looks to play a part in your “Recognition” section on your web site, even listing the following:

    But you seem to dislike them playing a part in this context? I fail to see how they differ, in all honesty.

    It smacks of typical psuedo-feminism.

    • Sarah

      Thanks Spencer but Lee is not actually referring to “hot” as in “attractive” – that’s why I don’t have a problem with that being on my “about” page, it’s quite clear from following the link through that this is not the context it should be taken in.

      • I’m not entirely convinced, to be honest. It doesn’t state that in the article anywhere.

        Regardless, allowing yourself to be singled out based on gender for merit should in effect null any complaints you have in being singled out based on gender in a negative manner.

      • Sarah

        You are missing the point entirely Spencer. I don’t have a problem being singled out as a female in a mans industry whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean I need to put up with comments that are fit for the school playground just because I am a minority in this industry.

      • Happy to accept the benefits of being part of a minority but vocally unhappy about the drawbacks.

        And this is precisely psuedo-feminism. Not equality.

      • Rich Quick

        OK firstly, it was pretty clear to me that “hot” in that context meant “popular right now” as opposed to “sexy”.

        Secondly, you’re damn right that someone who’s in a minority should be able to accept the benefits and be unhappy about the drawbacks.

        My 4-year-old niece is black. Overall, I hope it’s not a negative, but I know that sadly, it will cause her more problems than the benefits it brings as her life goes on.

        There will be times being a black girl will work to her advantage, I’m sure.

        Does that mean she has to put up with racist comments?

        Cause that’s basically what you’re saying an attractive girl should have to put up with the equivalent.

        I’ve got a friend who’s in a wheelchair. There are some pluses to this, like he sometimes gets upgraded to first class on the train.

        Is it OK for me to call him a “cripple”?

        Cause I don’t see how that’s different.

      • I’ve worked with Lee in the past, and I’d be fairly certain that you’re right Sarah… Perhaps hot was simply an unfortunate choice of description given the potential for different connotations.

  • Tyler

    First off, just like to point out my name isn’t Tyler, and the email address I provided is a public one. Why you ask? Simply because I want to express my opinion without the hate mail affecting my work.

    I am a web developer, and have been for over 10 years. I have worked in all kinds of studios with all kinds of people. Throughout my career it’s always been best person for the job, and that’s how it should be.

    Being ‘heckled’ is apart of life, whether your hot or not. Take going out to a nightclub as an example. If you’re hot then you’ll get more attention and maybe some unwanted attention. If your ugly for example, you may be laughed at.

    This being said, comments like this are apart of life. It’s how you handle them that shows you as a person.

    Personally, I think complaining in this format means that all your ‘fans and followers’ will see this and it won’t get the fair share of viewers to get a real opinion of the market. I mean no disrespect Sarah, but out of all your followers and friends, how many are going to make a nasty comment about it on here? There are all going to be more biased towards you.

    I forget what my point was, but seriously I am not a hater. I just think you need more unbiased comments to make this a more educated read.

    • Sarah

      There have been plenty of unbiased comments in this thread “Tyler”, as I’ve said before, everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether I like it or not, but I’d urge you to watch Paul Boags video regarding this, judge me on my work, not my looks.

      • Stephen

        I judged you on your work – and you didn’t seem to like that much based on your tweets. So which is it?

      • Sarah

        Judge me all you like but the fact you still remain anonymous speaks volumes.

      • Tyler

        I choose to speak anonymous to avoid the backlash of spam and hate emails from your herd of oh so local followers.

        I was expression my opinion, whether it be anonymous of not it is still mine. I’m not looking for acknowledgment or praise, just thought I’d SHARE but obviously this is frowned upon

      • Tyler

        This is turning from a healthy discussion of a bad turn of events into a quite spiteful comment bashing, so for that reason I apologise for the tone of my last comment and am out.

      • Sarah

        No no, Tyler you expressed your reasons, I have no issue with that but “Stephen” is criticising my work but with no benchmark for others to judge him. That’s all I’m saying.

        There’s no reason for this thread to turn sour, a healthy debate is good but getting nasty and petty isn’t productive for anyone.

      • Tyler

        Hi Sarah, I understand completely, but my apology still stands.

        I kind of agree with that, but at the same time feedback or criticism doesn’t always have to come from someone within the industry and the integrity of the feedback doesn’t necessarily depend on the sources work. Just a thought.

        Peace out

  • So ridiculous. At the end of the day whatever how good looking someone is, he/she is judged based on the work accomplish.
    Sure the look can be used to give a certain image to the clients (cheerful, honnest, creative, etc.) but it can never replace professionalism.

  • aurel

    i have a feeling that the comments in the chat room might have been from those that dont really care about the industry. instead of commenting around the subject of what was being said, some commented on the looks which to me shows a lot about those people, wasting their time commenting on someone looks (which in this context) is pointless.

    from your post, is obvious that you dont really need (me) to say that you are right; though, as i was reading this post, i was thinking about girls at my university, they share the same problem, of feeling “out of place” whilst trying to study web development. as so, it afects their works and have noticed that their “love” for the subject they are studeing, is fading out. few have said, after their studies they are going to try to work something different.

    so it be nice if these messages were made a bit more mainstream

  • Ben

    Sarah your an absolute inspiration to me , 19 years old to start your own business is very risky but you have proved it can be done ….. I’m 18 and you’re story is the biggest inspiration i have in this industry so thank you 🙂

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