I'm 5'8", average weight, blonde hair, blue eyes and quite fair. I work in an office, dress in business casual clothes and am not a receptionist, sales person, teacher, secretary or PA. I'm a tech.
Yesterday a visiting instructor asked me to book a cab for him. Would he have done that if I was a male tech? Probably not. A few weeks ago my coworkers started making period jokes about our SQL server on the main company e-mail list. The implication was all women, once a month, cease to function. Was I a little offended? Yes. I also told them so without moaning to my boss.
I'll print things out for people, show them the photocopier and give them a hand with the many USB flash drives that cross my desk. I'll install Service Packs, drivers, configure their networks and draw them little diagrams. I open ports, drop images, give them IP addresses and copies of software. I'll consult with our clients to see if onsites are a minor possibility or will raise holy hell. Yet I'm still expected to answer the phones in a polite voice. I won't make as much money if I don't wear make-up and my breasts are a topic of staring when I replace a light bulb.
I know there are others like me. I know that my friends face the same issues, the same problems and the same difficulties that I do. Day after day I watch a few sour faced young women attend courses and be surrounded by men who show little mercy. They get asked if they're an assistant or an office manager as well. They get asked to sort out biscuits, hotels and taxis too.
There's a certain feeling of comraderie amongst women in technology. The Systers e-mail list is full of CTOs, CIOs, System Engineers, MIS Techs, Developers, Math geeks and designers who all feel the pressure. We know each other is out there and we know each other's stories all too well. So, some enterprising young ladies have put together resources to get us communicating. That's the idea I like.
What I've found though, is a lot of these girl power forums tend to charge. Some women actually believe that their seminars on 'getting ahead' or dealing with workplace discrimination are worth a tidy fee. Webgrrls charges 55 USD for membership. That includes access to:
# Local meetings, classes and events
# Search the Webgrrls JobBank for job listings;post your resume for potential employers to reach you for free.
# Local community listservs and websites for information exchange
# Discounts on local and international industry trade shows and events
# International listservs and newsletters
# Subscribe to other Webgrrls chapter lists using the Chapter Locator
# Join an international community of women who share your interests!
I'm sure I don't need to point out the inherent silliness of that. I've never paid to find a job, or join an e-mail list, or even find people who share my interests. Are there really people desperate enough to hand over that fee? It appears as though at least some are. What does that say about the state of women today? Do men pay money to meet other men and share job advice? Would someone even consider their gender to be a charge-able asset? Probably not. It all smacks of exploitation to me.
I've mentioned her before Farrah Ashline ran a similar site without the technological bent for women in Washington DC. For a slightly higher fee, women could be notified about upcoming events. The cover charge didn't actually get anyone in anywhere for free, it just told them were things were happening. As silly and mid 90s as it sounds, she had a few members. She had a few who believed in it as being a viable business. Making money out of women desperate to meet other women.
I'd venture to say that as long as we feel isolated enough, sites like Farrah Ashline's and the Cybergrrl.com network will keep thriving. As much as these sites have a feminist bent, I'd also venture to say that they're just as much part of the problem as my period crack making coworkers are. By implying that it's necessary to shell out money to locate women in technology, you're further setting us aside as a group of workers. Women working in hard science or computer related fields should be integrated and not tucked away in an exclusive environment.
We shouldn't have to pay to make friends.
Non gender specific, the agile manifesto