Technically, a Woman

Image lifted from Mattel’s Barbie Twitter account.

There are two reasons I haven’t previously written about being a woman in tech.  First, it’s a difficult and broad topic to write about.  Second, and more importantly, I didn’t want to be labeled “that girl”.

You know the one I’m talking about .

She takes sexual harassment issues to HR or explicitly tells a male coworker that something he’s said or done is unacceptable.  She’s the woman who talks openly about inequality and in doing so, makes some people uncomfortable.

Once you’re labeled “that girl”, you’re excluded from conversations – important work-related conversations –  and people begin worrying about your reactions more than your contributions.  Bob got a promotion because his work brought in a large amount of revenue…is she going to think he was promoted because he’s a man?  John was put on a project that she wanted – am I going to hear about this from HR?

When you’re not around, you’re called a “man-hater”… or worse: “sensitive” or “emotional”.

And then it’s all over. Time to find a job at a different company where no one knows you because you’ll never be taken seriously again – no one lives down “emotional”.  But wait…this industry is small and incestuous, so you’d better leave the state. Hmm…unless you’re in games, like I am, then it doesn’t matter where you go because games are even more incestuous.  Better consider a different industry, altogether.

I know this all sounds ridiculous and over-dramatic, but it really isn’t.  I’ve seen this cycle many times and have even experienced it for myself.  Seriously, I’d rather be labeled something asinine like “stupid whore” than “emotional”.  It’s better for my career.

Ultimately, the reason I haven’t written about being a woman in tech and games is because I don’t want the label that potentially comes with it.  But that just exacerbates the problem, right?  By not constructively contributing to the dialog, I am, in essence, perpetuating this awkward and damaging cycle.

But no more. It’s a new day, a new year, and I’m going to treat it as an opportunity to be part of the conversation.  This month, I’m revitalizing Not Entirely Unlike Something Technical to talk a little about my experiences as a woman in tech.

First stop…my short stint at yellowpages.com.

5 Comment

  1. Erin Barry says: Reply

    Excellent! I look forward to reading your blog.

  2. Girl Gule says: Reply

    I’m a Solutions Engineer in IoT and after 16 years with my company, in technology, I just (minutes ago) had a co-worker tell me that he thinks that my technical opinions hold more weight with leadership because I’m pretty. On a team of 17 I’m 1 of 2 girls. I love my job, I love my current team. I have strong female leaders… but that does not change the attitude of men in technology.

    The majority of my career I have been the only girl or one of few females in my organization. Because of that there have been various levels of interactions. There have been times in my career, on teams where everyone towed the line and merit based on performance seemed pure and simple. There have also been times in my career when I have had incredibly lewd things said to me. I once had a lead who, when presented with information that differed from his opinion, would make a gesture to me to “blow him” using his hands like they were on the top of someones head while thrusting his groin in the air at me. I did eventually go to HR and the result was me being moved shifts. I became “that girl” that you are referencing and even worse, because I stood up for myself I became untrusted. I had to move departments eventually because of the backlash and even then it took years for me to regain the trust of my peers.

    Now, as much as I hate to admit it, I find it easier to be the “cool girl” and just let the sexist stuff go. I hate it, I’m disappointed in myself for not being a better champion but ultimately it makes my life easier.

    I’m interested in this conversation and ideas and solutions that may come from it.

    1. Meg Chaney says:

      Hi! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I totally understand what you mean about being the “cool girl” – that’s 100% my safe zone when things get really inappropriate and I don’t know what to do. And when in one of those situations, I sometimes can’t tell what’s more productive: just laughing it off and moving on in the interest of getting shit done, or speaking up as an investment for the future?

      I salute you for going to HR regarding the “blow me” guy. I know the experience of being “that girl” had to be horrible, but I’m sure several people learned from it. And I bet other women in the company admired you for it – even if some were too afraid to say anything. Thank you for being brave!

  3. guitarplayingbard says: Reply

    And then, every once in a while, or maybe just once, you get that HR partner that believes in you and believes that you can be successful because you bring a great set of skills and attitude to the table that make you a better fit for the job then anyone else, regardless of what that HR partners peers may think, they stand up for you even when you have no idea they are 110% in on you running the team.

    1. Meg Chaney says:

      For sure! In my experience HR has been a very strong ally. The bummer is the way some coworkers react if they find out you approached HR about a sexual harassment / inequality issue.

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