I am so sick of being a woman in tech.
I’ve only been properly in the industry for 12 weeks, but I’ve been putting up with this crap all throughout my degree. I just don’t know if I can imagine myself doing this for the rest of my career.
Over the course of the 4 and a bit years that I’ve been a woman in tech, I’ve put up with some horrible things. I’ve been accused by friends of flirting with tutors for better grades, I’ve been accused of friendzoning people, I’ve been told that I should come around to a male friend’s house so he can play with my breasts while he was watching TV. I’ve learned to put up with the kitchen and sandwich and rape jokes, because my friends weren’t going to stop making them, and really, they were better than not having any friends at all.
During the first few weeks of my first internship in the industry, I had a significantly older man trap me in a communal area and refused to let me leave until I agreed to go and have absinthe shots with him. I have had a significantly older man follow me around at a work event, invade my personal space, and put his hand on my thigh. After asking him to stop doing this, he apologised, but continued to touch my arm or my hand despite me saying it made me feel uncomfortable.
I have had men in the industry send me dick pics after I rejected them, and then proceeded to call me ‘stupid’ or ‘delusional’ for not wanting them after this incident. I’ve had male coworkers refuse to look at me during conversations. I’ve had male coworkers refuse to keep me in the loop with things that were going on, and only speak to my male coworker (who has the same, shared role as me) about issues.
I’ve had male friends, during a discussion about the importance of women in tech, remark that a typical career for a women is stripping. I’ve had male friends claim that if another female friend and another male friend of ours went for the same job, that she’d get it over him despite him being more qualified than her (which wasn’t even true). I’ve had male lecturers talk down to me, refuse me marks, and generally be rude to me for no reason. I’ve walked into communal computer science spaces and seen objectified drawings of either myself/women in general on a whiteboard. I’ve had many, many remarks of “you can code??” or “but you’re a girl!”. I’ve had many people question whether I actually am a coder, or be in disbelief about my abilities. I’ve had people claim that I’ve only achieved what I have because I’m a woman.
Before even getting to university, during high school, I had a male teacher refuse me admission into the highest level maths, because he felt that I couldn’t handle it – despite me having done the pre-requisite a year early (when usually, it’s done concurrently). He also refused me entry into Information Technology (programming) as a subject, despite me having gone to the National Computer Science School, but instead allowed me into Information Processing and Publishing (Excel/Publisher). I had been the editor of our school’s magazine/yearbook for the previous 3 years.
I spent a good amount of time in computer science without friends. I had to work very, very hard to make friends, and had to push aside my own beliefs to be able to do this at the start. I had to work very hard for people to respect me – they seemed to respect me as soon as I received an internship at Google, but that same respect didn’t immediately transfer over to people who had achieved the same. In group situations, many people outright ignore my contributions, or attribute the contribution to a male on the team, or when planning things, refuse to assign anything to me, because I’m not seen as a technical person (despite usually having contributed over half of the technical work).
But believe me, this isn’t limited to just guys. I’ve had female lecturers belittle our whole gender because I failed to meet their expectations. I’ve had female friends tell me that I’m “too masculine” and that I’m a “better rape deterrent” than one of our male friends.
It makes me not want to be an advocate for women in tech – because I don’t want other women to have to go through what I have, to have to put up with what I have. And I know not all women have had the same experiences as me. But certainly, others have.
For the most part, people are okay. My team is fantastic, they all believe in me, they don’t talk down to me, they make me feel like I’m welcome and that my opinions/thoughts are valid and wanted. I have made some absolutely fantastic friends in tech, and I love them dearly. But I do have to worry that my playful nature will be misinterpreted as flirting, that my feminine dressing will be misinterpreted as being slutty, that my opinions and thoughts aren’t being taken seriously simply because of my gender. And I’m fed up with it.
I may only have been in the industry 3 months, but I already know what needs to change.
This post originally appeared on Sami’s blog. We’re reproducing it here with her permission.
Main image: iStock/RobertoDavid