Thursday, March 2, 2017

Being a Women in IT

I have been doing IT for about 10 years now. I started out in the shipping department at a company that sold printing press parts, and I was very very bad at it. I will tell you that story how I ended up doing IT there another time. But, what I didn't realize when I started down the career path I ended up on was that IT was a "man's job". Who the hell knew fixing computers could belong to a gender! The first place I had started at had never ever shown any sort of gender discrimination, they had male and female sales people, I had done the same job in shipping that a man did and was yelled at often for sucking at it just as any man would have been. They truly did not care if you were male or female, they just expected you to do your job, no matter what it was or what gender you were. I had gone to school online, so I never entered a class room and got to see that I was a minority. So when I moved onto my second job doing IT, and before I was promoted to "Big Shot" status and was just the lowly help desk girl, when the HR person said "You were the only girl that applied, so its cool that you got the job", I just thought "huh, that's weird I wonder why I was the only girl." After a while, I got to go to a few IT seminars, and I started to meet other IT people and work with 3rd party IT vendors, and I was working in an environment that had worked with IT people before, and I started to notice......the comments started. It wasn't much at first, a couple "oh wow your a girl" remarks, and a few quirked eyebrows when I would talk and actually know what the hell I was talking about. I didn't pay attention though, I was confident in myself and I knew where my knowledge was solid and when I needed to ask questions and I was good with it. For 5 years at the press parts place, I had been the only person in the office that knew what to do on a computer, those years with them had forced me to rely on myself, Google, and YouTube, and my lack of penis had never been a factor in any of this. Then I got promoted to "Big Shot" at my second job. At first my magic ability to be female and know stuff was largely avoided, sometimes stubbly, sometimes less so. I was treated with kid gloves, no cursing in front of me, no showing obvious anger when I could overhear it, conversations went quiet when I walked into a room. Again, I ignored it and even took advantage at points. Why the fuck not take advantage, I was in my first Management position and I needed peoples patience so I could figure out my way.
Then one day I couldn't ignore it any more. They had a "Managers" meeting and I wasn't invited. Not only was I a manager, my predecessor had always been invited and it was detrimental to my fucking job that I wasn't there. So I went first to my boss and asked why I wasn't invited. He said something like "you being there is distracting to everyone else. Its a very testosterone heavy environment, you don't want to be there." Now please imagine my most sqwinty eyed pissed off bitch face when I replied "are you telling me I wasn't invited cause I have fucking tits?" to which he actually said "Yes". Now I wish I could tell you in that moment I gave a very smart stinging reply that blew him away, but really, I was just so stunned I couldn't even believe it. I stiffly said OK and walked out of his office back to mine and I closed my door. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. This was something I had read about in big cities and big corporations with glass ceilings, this was something that was detached and not real to me, it was a newspaper story, not something in my life. But here it was, I was being discriminated against. I was smart, competent, I was good at my job and everyone knew it, but I was being held back because of my fucking gender! I then got up, walked to the owner of the company's office (who was and is a man I deeply respected and truly enjoyed working for) and I asked him first why I was not invited to the meeting, and he gave me a few sentences of malarkey, then I said "Paul said it was cause I was a women, is that true?", "Well I definitely wouldn't have said it like that" he tells me "but yes that's a big part of it." So I looked him right in the eye and I said "Fine, but soon, you guys are going to beg me to be at that meeting" then I walked into my Bosses office and told him the same damn thing. Guess what? Within 6 months, they did. And I am proud to say by the time I left that job they all had started cursing around me, conversations didn't end when I walked into a room, and I truly believe all the men in that company had a change of view on a women's place, not just in IT, but at work and life in general.
Now that was just one of the big obvious instances of what happened at that job, there was more at that place and there has been many more at other jobs and dealing with vendors and in my work life and real life. But when I talk about what its like to be discriminated against, that situation stands out because its obvious. What people don't understand about discrimination is that most of time its not big obvious things like that. Its more about the kid gloves they treated me with, and the quirked eye brows when I would walk into a meeting and they said "Oh, sorry I didn't realize you would be a girl". I largely ignored these things because I thought, what are you gonna do, I cant change the world. But after that big incident I realized its not about changing the world, its about changing MY world, and the people around me. I also realized that fighting the discrimination against me wasn't going to be done by gathering all the women I knew and marching with cleverly worded signs and putting Pussy cat hats on and marching down the street. Me, Katy, I was going to make a difference by being the difference I wanted to see in the world. Seriously, I know that sounds kitchy, but its true. I changed the mind of a large group of proud testosterone driven men by being me. I didn't do it by wearing pants and acting like a man, I did it in a skirt and well fitted bra and didn't give a fuck. I stood in front of them as a women and proud to be a women and dared them to listen to me. I gave them a chance to see what a strong powerful women can do if you give her respect. I gave strong handshakes and looked them in the eye. I learned to become prepared and I held on to what I knew I was good at and expanded on it.
When I look back, I question if I got the big shot job in the first place because my predecessor was kind of a perv and wanted work closely with a women (many signs pointed to this). Being discriminated against makes you question everything like that. Have you accomplished things because they saw you as a women and let you pass, or did you accomplish it in spite of their seeing you as "just" a women? Should I have ignored the signs of discrimination or did I handle it right? Should I have made a bigger deal out of it? Did I get paid less because of being a women? Would all the hard core feminists have agreed with how I handled it and been proud of me? Answer: I don't care. I am super proud of myself, and every day I continue to fight gender discrimination at work, online, every time I meet someone that quirks their eyebrow at me. I tell my story and I try to empower other women every chance I get.
This is me. I am just Katy. I am a special ed student who was hospitalized twice for mental issues as a teenager. As an adult I had worked my way up to be an IT Manager at a nation wide company despite being discriminated against for being a women. I started out in IT without a college degree and then only going to school online. I own my own house and pay my mortgage on time, I have bought and paid off a car on my own, I have lived by myself in the past and I paid the down payment on my house out of my own savings. I am in a healthy marriage to a Union Boilermaker and we are planning on starting a family soon. I have good friends, I have a family and in-laws that love me. I curse, I get crazy sometimes, and I often make mistakes. I have a lot to learn about life and everything, but I am a strong, proud women and I don't give a fuck what anyone else thinks about me.

2 comments:

Jz said...

Interestingly, I've found myself less ostracized by gender than by platform.
I would say at least 50% of the people I've worked with in my 20 years in IT have been women... and the men I've worked with haven't found that at all problematic. (I've always worked outside the corporate world, however. I have no doubt that that is a very different kettle of fish.)

It's when I tell them that I'm a Mac tech that most people shift into, "oh, ok. So you don't really know what we're talking about" mode.
"Just use tiny words - I'm sure I'll pick it up."
;-p

Holding Daisies, Counting Stars said...

That's awesome it's not like this in all environments, it makes me want to get out there to conventions and stuff more so I can meet more chicks like me. I have to admit, I have never worked with a Mac Tech, but I can definitely imagine some Windows folks being all snobby, lol.