Since I majored in Computer Science back during the start of the tech dotcom boom, I was always the only female in many of my computer classes and even the video game and electronics clubs, so it didn’t surprise me that many of the careers I held were also male-dominated.
One time I worked with an Architectural Construction firm as their computer network system administrator. The job was fairly easy, laid back, and for the most part, I enjoyed the people I worked with. And as suspected, I was surrounded with co-workers of the opposite sex because the industry lacked females. I didn’t mind, but sometimes women were judged more harshly in this industry.
One of the Architects I worked with was a real Dick, no literally, his name was Richard.
Richard always complained, never had anything nice to say, and thought his computer system should be the first to be fixed over anyone else. He was a yuppy kind of guy, drove a Mercedes Benz, in his late forties and he and his wife didn’t want children because they thought it would interfere with their careers. Somehow, I knew he would be a challenge to work with simply because he seemed to hold himself in higher standards than everyone else in the office. To him, I was his secretary, I was to make him coffee every morning, make copies whenever he needed them, and fix his computer immediately. Even my boss would roll his eyes or mumble under his breath whenever Richard made a statement.
Sometimes I would go in early and log onto his system just to change the password. Then as my co-workers dragged themselves in and hovered over the coffee pot, I would wait in anticipation for Richard to start yelling and screaming that he couldn’t log in. He would demand I fix his system immediately and I would conveniently have morning meetings to attend. I received much joy in listening to him moan for an hour and I didn’t feel bad one single bit. I had to show Richard I was more than a secretary to him. Luckily for me he realized I did play an important factor in his career and he could either respect me or find a new job because I was too important to replace.
Eventually he and I learned to tolerate each other and when I last spoke to his wife, she said “He seems to enjoy his job a lot more. I think he’s beginning to like the people.” I smiled sarcastically and said, “Yes, well we all want nothing more than for Richard to be happy at his job.”
Now mind you, I’m not a wretched woman, but if I learned anything working in a male-dominated industry, it’s that respect is earned through actions and not words. Being polite and asking Richard to be patient with me was not going to work. He needed reassurance that I knew my job and I could control what was in front of me. In fact, I enjoy working with men. I find them funny, less offended, and more apt to trying new things. It’s the women I find more difficult to work with.
Women seem to feel more threatened when another woman is in the workforce, they cling to the old ways because change might mean something they did was not working, and they form groups to reassure each other or lift their own self esteem. Maybe that’s why I didn’t have a lot of female friends. I wasn’t in a career field many women enjoyed or even understood and, as women, we tend to get more emotional when we see another woman playing video games or talking intelligently with our husband’s over things we don’t understand. That’s always understandable. Nothing hurts more than feeling left out. Trust me, I was the nerd girl. I experienced first hand through college and the workforce seeing all the other women huddled together at the tables while I sat alone with my computer.
Today though, I’m hoping now that my own daughter and other females are into computers and growing up in a technologically advanced society, they won’t find themselves struggling to fit in the workforce and not without a few friends either. Unlike my experiences, today many other girls her age are into computers and video games. I see my daughter’s classes are filled with a diversity of men and women working together in technology.
Most women worry about “breaking the glass ceiling”, but I never worried because I was always happy with what I was doing. Sure, if “Joe Schmoe” got paid more than me and he did the same thing, then I’d have to discuss it with my Boss. If not, I’d move on and find another company who did appreciate me and if that didn’t work, then I’d start my own business, which is precisely what I did later on, but for other reasons.
I found that it was never a good idea to emotionally attach myself to a dollar sign in life and in a career. If that was the case, I’d have lost it long ago when I left my career to be a mom and doing all that I did for no pay.