We like to think of the tech sector as a colorblind, gender-blind meritocracy; unfortunately, this simply isn’t an accurate picture.
Women in tech often have different experiences and encounter different challenges than do their male counterparts. The same goes for people in underrepresented ethnic groups.
I’ve worked in tech since the late 1990s, and I’ve always been that girl who played with computers. Part of me gets turned off of MMOs and other games because of the skewed demographic of a boys playground (trying to find men, not boys, and women to play with is complicated). But at work, I’ve found myself in the rare exception to the rule: I have a job where the fact that I’m a woman is generally ignored.
I’m very lucky, and while the whole political BS of my job grinds me down, my team members and coworkers treat me fairly, and just like everyone else. The sports guys and I talk about baseball, the car guys leave me out when they talk about cars, the women talk to me about ‘girl stuff’ ™, we all talk about relationship stuff. Basically we’re all people.
This doesn’t mean I don’t get smacked with discrimination now and again. I’ve mentioned it before.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m over-sensitive to people being dicks and treating me differently because of that. It’s the old adage about being paranoid: It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you! Then I think about how I wasn’t raised to see my gender as anything more than a fact. It’s like being right-handed, or wearing glasses. It’s just what it is. So when I notice someone treating me differently, I do a quick rundown of what I’ve said, compare it to what someone else has said, and come up with a short list of whys.
Alas, most of the time, it’s the boobs. And it’s no better in tech than it is anywhere else. But at least I have friends who go “Yo, you know, she knows of what she speaks.”
Advice to my male friends, though: If you see a woman in tech starting to get really pissed off at someone over how they said something, go over it in your head. It’s very easy to miss your own unintentional discrimination, your own actions that aren’t intended to treat her differently because of gender. This is because you can only see life the way you do. And guys, the world really was made for you. Very few of you mean to be sexist, but your assumptions of how the world works are based on how it works for you. Every woman who reads this will tell you “That’s not how it works for me.”
This isn’t your fault, and you (alone) can’t magically fix it. But you can keep in mind something that political correctness tries to teach us and fails miserably.
Treat people fairly, be aware of your own biases, and try like hell to keep everything in perspective.
It shouldn’t be that hard.