Up until last week, I thought I was a unicorn: a woman who had never experienced gender-based harassment in the workforce. There are no chips on these shoulders, no axes to grind. However, after talking to many former and current female coworkers over the past few weeks, women in tech (WIT) have been in the forefront of my ruminating and I realized with each of their stories that . . . I've experienced that too!
But I had forgotten. . . Why?
Because good men stepped in.
My career and goals were not handicapped by the malicious meddling of uncultured, immature misogynists, because good men stepped in and didn't allow it. I’ve never been "held back" by being a woman in a male dominated workforce, because good men mentored me. I'm where I am now because good men had faith in me and took a chance on me.
Here are a few personal stories that I’d like to share with you.
I first started in IT working in a call center that was toxic with gossip. After four individuals sidled up and whispered that word on the street was that Joe claimed to have bedded me, I took matters into my own hands and informed him directly and with the utmost clarity that this was unacceptable and was going to stop. Joe went to HR and claimed I had created a hostile working environment so I was dragged-in-by-the-ear and told my side of the story. And then, a good man stepped in: my boss shielded me from being fired.
Shortly thereafter, still in the call center, I had a personality clash with a teammate who we will call Bob. Bob had been overly eager to show me the ropes, but was also spreading rumors implying that our relationship was more than platonic. I had begun dating a coworker (Pro Tip: don’t do this) who caught wind of the clash and thought it would be funny to create a spoof website with an image of Bob, add a less than flattering caption, and send it to our support team where it would spread like, well, gossip.
I begged him not to do it. He assured me no one would find out. I assured him it was idiotic and I’d take the heat for it regardless of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and I needed my job. Three guesses on whether or not it was linked back to me, and the first two don’t count.
He had used his AIM screen name to host the site nameservers. I can’t even. . . .
So, I was dragged in to see HR, again, and my sense of loyalty would not let me rat him out. I left that meeting pretty certain my job was in jeopardy and furious that I couldn’t defend myself without hurting someone I cared for. Then, a good man stepped in. Someone close to the situation knew the whole story, went to HR, and cleared my name. I owe this man my job.
Two promotions later I found myself on a 6 pm - 6 am shift, working alone to monitor company systems and call out when issues arose. My boss would leave the office, drink heavily, and once he was thoroughly inebriated would get on the company Instant Messenger and berate me, insult my fiancé, and generally say things a drunken bad man would say. I snapped and shot off a colorful email to his and my boss; back to HR, who was much more concerned with the language I had used in the email than the content itself. Two managers told me that if I wasn’t happy, perhaps this was not the job for me. I refused to press charges, knowing I’d lose my job. And then a good man stepped in. A database administrator (DBA) lead had noticed the quality of my work and my attention to detail; he asked if I wanted to learn SQL and join his team. Yes!
The SQL Family Includes a Lot of Good Men
Not a single HR incident since I joined the SQL Family, and that was in 2007—because the SQL Family has got a lot of good men. In fact, after my role had expanded from "writing some ad hoc queries" to include performance tuning and keeping a temperamental OLAP system churning out mail lists, I researched appropriate salary and my boss took that and got me a 30 percent raise.
This is my voice amidst the chorus of voices on WIT. I have dealt with men who were horrid and malicious and sexist and belittling and controlling, but I’ve met even more that were mentors and didn’t stand for it. My message today isn’t for women. It is for good men: Thank you.
I challenge you all to step in and don’t let the bastards get her down (Nil Carborundum Illegitimis).
Do you have experiences to share? Please add your comment below!