Sexism in the Tech Fields & Linked In

Let me tell you a little story about my life as a woman working in/around technology.

I started working at the help desk at my college just about a week after I arrived in California. It was a male dominated office, but the guys that were there were generally well-natured and taught me what I needed to know, with a few quips here and there about my gender, which I let slide off my shoulders most of the time, because at that time, I really didn’t know a damn thing about computers and I was super young. However, I learn quickly. I learned a lot about networking, some basic hardware stuff, how to provide software support, and how to recover data to some extent. I also learned that there were quite a few men – and even women  – that didn’t believe I could do my job.

I worked the graveyard shift, once they trusted me enough to leave me there alone (or perhaps because I suffer from severe insomnia and never sleep, thus the 8pm-12am/1am shift seemed to work for me). Our office at that time was in the business school, where the night time classes were mostly for people getting their MBA. Here’s an example of a very typical conversation:

Student: “Where are the tech guys?”

Me: “I can help you, what is your problem?”

Student: “I want to talk to one of the guys.”


Me: *deep breath* “Well, they are not here, but I am and I’m sure I can help with whatever problem you are having.”

Student: “My laptop won’t connect to the wireless.”

Me: “Ok I can definitely fix that, give it here.”

At this point I would take their computer and most of the time FIX IT AS I WAS BEING PAID BY THE UNIVERSITY TO DO.

Rinse repeat. Many times.

I think this is when I developed my hatred of people who go to business school (in particular “MBA” students), because in general, they were the rudest know-it-alls on the planet. I have had quite a few jobs were I am spoken down to (I worked at the second busiest CVS Photolab in the town I grew up in), but this was by far THE WORST.

It was the professors that astounded me particularly. I wasn’t expecting such blatant sexism from a person teaching a class. Actual conversation:

Professor: “Hey, are the men here?”

Me: “No. But I can help you.”

Professor: “I don’t think you can. It’s not your job.”

Me: “Well, I”m sitting behind this desk. It actually is my job.” (This was the last week of my sophomore year, by this time I had learned the ropes and become a little more sassy.)

Professor: “The audio is not working in my classroom for my powerpoint presentation.”

Me: “Ok I can definitely look at that.”

I follow him downstairs to his classroom, which is full of about 50 people. I start looking at the cables in the back of the computer and he interrupts…

Professor: “I don’t want you to break it. Maybe you shouldn’t touch it.”

I roll my eyes, and notice that the audio cable is simply plugged into the wrong input. Plug it into the correct hole, the audio blasts, and suddenly his game changes and he is thanking me profusely.

Derp. Soooo Many Derps.

That wasn’t so bad, it was more of a rolling eyes type of situation. But then…

Right at the beginning of my junior year of college, I was demoted and forced to train a younger male student on how to do my job.

I had  talked to my previous manager at the end of my sophomore year, and signed up for 20 hours of work at the helpdesk that coming year. Since I had a job lined up and expected income, I moved off campus into an apartment with two roommates and bought my first car in California. . When I arrived in the fall to find that we had a new manager, and my schedule was reduced to 6 hours a week. I had to scramble find a second job off campus and maxed out my credit card to purchase my books (which came to a whopping $1200 that year).

One of my coworkers confided in me  that the new “manager” they had hired joked about how I wasn’t intelligent enough to do the job because I was female and a music major.  I was livid, but I wasn’t yet at point of my life where I wanted to stir up drama in the workplace. I wouldn’t have even known how to at that point.

Looking back, I truly wish I had. I wish I had went after him tooth and nail. I wish I went to the head of the department, the dean, the provost, and whoever else would listen and made a huge deal out of it.

The jerk’s disgusting view on women in the workplace is the reason I was catapulted into debt before I even turned 21. The worst part is that he was strictly a business manager (one of those MBA types, that had to go to school to learn how to manage people).  He was actually terrible at his job. He made little to no interaction with the people working under him and had absolutely no knowledge and had extremely limited (if any) knowledge about the tasks we were to perform at our job. He really had no right overseeing us. I eventually quit because I started hating working there. I guess I’m just not a subservient person. That’s why I’m the boss at my company now.

When I saw him taking his evening run a few years later, I resisted the urge to mow him down with my car. I truly, deeply hated this man and everything he stood for.

Anyway. I’ve moved past that. The debt is going to be there for a long time. There are always going to be bigots in the world. I can’t change all of their minds, but I’ve built a pretty good business for myself and I’m slowly whittling away at the mountain of debt I possess.

In addition to teaching piano and that whole business, I am a professional web developer. I have actually been developing websites for 15 years. Yes. You read that correctly. 15. My knowledge of HTML, PHP, CSS and even Javascript  could qualify me as multilingual. I KNOW my stuff, and I continue to learn and grow with the internet as it does.

I’ve had plenty of people try to tell me I could not do it along the way, but guess what? I have built TWO pretty successful businesses on my own. I didn’t even need a business degree to do any of this. I may have to do all of my own accounting, my own taxes, fix my own computer when it breaks (last week I had to open my computer up and try to revive it and it worked). I may work 18 hour days 5 or 6 days out of the week sometimes, but  I sure as hell don’t have to go sit in a frumpy office and have some manager with a stick up his butt bark orders at me while we make someone else filthy rich. This is the reward for me.

Even in this industry, with the hundreds of sites I have developed, and all of the experience under my belt, I still run into the occasional client who doesn’t trust me due to my gender.

It’s no mistake that many of my clients these days are women – and that many of them are small business owners like myself. That’s not to say I haven’t had male clients. I’ve had quite a few. But I’ve always had to win them over – and they always seem to “research” things and try to tell me how to do my job, which is one of my biggest pet peeves. They often ask to pay me less than I’m worth (my rate is the low end of industry standard).  Don’t even get me started on the ones that say they can do my job themselves because they’ve “learned a little HTML.” The women seem to trust my expertise a little bit faster, and not want to argue about things, and it’s overall a smoother process.

A few years ago when Linked In started, I tried it out. It seemed like it was a good social networking tool and a great way to connect to potential clients. Over the years, I updated my resume, connected on a few groups, and just found in general that it was spammy (kind of like, so I stopped using it. I haven’t updated my profile in ages. I think it’s kind of a stupid website, to be honest.I don’t need it to get work, I have a pretty steady stream over here already.

This article makes me FUME.  It is flat out idiotic. I don’t know anything about the company (Top Tal), but I don’t see ANY problem in a company advertising with photographs of its actual female programmers.  The fact that Linkedin flagged this and it was an issue that went as far as this is a HUGE problem. And that’s really all I can say about that right now.

What are your thoughts on women in the tech industries?

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