Women don’t think they’re better than anyone. They just want to be respected

I was featured on the Campaign Monitor blog for International Women’s Day. I’m very honoured to have been selected, but even more, I feel very privileged to be part of a company that recognises the efforts of women.

Over the past two years I have become increasingly aware of my position as a woman in the engineering/information technology industry, taking notice of groups such as Girl Geeks, Women Who Code, and She Hacks, or various groups with the word ‘She’ in the name. I have also noticed hashtags trending on Twitter such as #WomenInTech or #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

There are probably many blog posts today, no doubt about 60% actually celebrating the achievements of women, and a good 40% hating on the day and saying it’s sexist. I haven’t had a good look out there, but I know I won’t read the latter.

I, and many other women, have been judged, stereotyped, discriminated or mocked for having a technical background.

I’ve had people scoff when they believe I should be doing something more girly than web development.

I’ve had men laugh at me as if they can’t believe a woman can have both beauty and brains.

I’ve been rejected from jobs feeling as if I was not good enough because I’m a woman.

I’ve had people assume that because I am a woman, I am more stupid than a man.

And, like many, many other women, I’ve had people make sexist remarks about me.

But I refuse to let that get in the way of my work, especially when I have a job that I enjoy.

There is nothing ‘unusual’ about women in tech

It was in the ninth grade that I decided to study computing with my best friend Lilian. It didn’t take us long to notice that we were the only two girls in a class of just over thirty people. Our teacher let us walk into the class first, and treated us like we were special. This was the first time I realised that there was something unusual about a girl being interested in computers.

Prior to that, nothing was unusual.

When I was five years old, my dad played computer games with me. I went through a serious gaming stage from the age of eight to the age of seventeen. I was always playing games with my male cousins or with boys who were my classmates at school. I was never judged by the people I hung out with, and my parents never brought me up to think that I was doing ‘boyish’ things, nor did they discourage me. Even though my mother pointed out that I started to dress like a tomboy for a while, my parents first let me figure out my style for myself.

But things change when people grow older and more mature. All of a sudden it’s unusual for a girl to play games or use computers, people notice the only female in a class of computing students, and it’s a really big deal when a woman wants to study engineering.

What’s so amazing about a girl who plays video games or is a software engineer, and why is it so different and surprising compared to when a boy does the same things?

Women want to be treated equally, not necessarily noticed

As a woman working in the tech industry, I feel like I speak for all women when I say that we are not ‘special’. We don’t want to be praised condescendingly or be given media attention because it looked so impressive that a woman did a ‘man’s job’.

It seemed so surprising and news-worthy that Victoria’s Secret model Lyndsey Scott built phone apps in her spare time. She was on a commercial news segment that almost degraded her intelligence by drawing more attention to the fact that she was a model who ‘codes off the catwalk’. Compare that to an interview where she was actually asked about her app ideas and how she came to be interested in app development.

Those movements that support women in tech don’t want women to get noticed. They want women simply to receive acknowledgement for what they do, and not just because they are women.

It’s not a gender debate – we don’t think we’re better than anyone

In my teenage years I found out about Dick Masterson – an infamous and notoriously sexist bigot, if you will – who parades around saying that men are better than women, degrading women like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve never felt so sick about someone’s attitude, nor have I wanted someone to be punished so much and sent to hell for discrimination based on the way people are born.

But wishing death on someone is not a good way to think. And neither is his.

Women don’t think they are better than men. Women don’t think they deserve more credit for something they do simply because they are a woman.

Me presenting at SydCSS last year about good documentation
Me presenting at December 2015’s SydCSS. Photo by Daryll Jann

Women just want to be respected

When I was handed womens-only scholarship applications for university, I had no idea just how few women there were working in tech. As I got older, I didn’t want to be associated with a stereotype. I didn’t want to be associated with certain appearances, activities, occupations, or expectations, just because I was born with two X chromosomes.

I felt uncomfortable when people were amazed that I worked with computers, even making comments like, ‘Wow, you must be really smart’.

I hated when people literally said to me, ‘Beauty and brains!’

Instead, I took pride in my achievements and efforts exactly for what they were, and not because I am a woman.

Women don’t want attention.

Women don’t think they are better than anyone.

Women don’t want to be given special consideration or excused because of their gender.

We just want to be given credit where credit is due. We just want to be treated equally to our male counterparts.

We just want to be respected.

Comments on this post

GAH. ALL OF THE ABOVE. Such a fantastic post, Georgie!! :D

The GIS (geospatial) industry is more male-dominated than female too, however not to the extent that computer engineering is I don’t think. At Uni however, I remember being one of only two or three girls in the class. I haven’t experienced as much sexism or backwards comments as you have, for which I’m thankful. I actually can’t think of any? Unlike some ladies I know who have been in the GIS/drafting industry for YEARS (like over 30 years), because it used to be a ‘man’s’ job… They had to fight hard to be seen as equals!

The only backwards comment I remember recently was when I bought my new PC a month ago. The guy serving me assumed I didn’t know anything about computers (because my dad was assisting me probably). He said “Did you need any help setting it up” and I said “no, I know how to do all that, I just needed a new computer” lol. His tone annoyed me. He wouldn’t have said that to a guy I guarantee you!

The “beauty and brains” comments are so degrading. As if it’s a shocking surprise that someone they perceive to be attractive can also be intelligent. Attractive men who are intelligent don’t get anywhere near this this kind of treatment.

Anyway, congrats on being featured on the Campaign Monitor blog – you should be very proud of all you’ve accomplished! :D

Totally agree with everything you’ve wrote here. I just want to do a job that I love to do, even if it is in a male dominated industry, and I don’t need any sort of special attention being drawn to be because I’m a woman.

When I went for my interview for the web developer job there was just one other woman on the team, and she had only recently started. Now there are three of us and I joke that we are taking over.

I think people are still in that mindset that engineering and technology jobs are only done by men, and even now when I tell people I’m a web developer some people raise their eyebrows in shock…and this is probably because I’m a woman.

It irritates me when people say it’s sexist, because there’s also an International Men’s Day – November 19th. That will shut up the moaners!

Great post! I totally agree with the lines at the end. We just want to be equal and have equal opportunities. We don’t want to be judged or underestimated because of our gender.

One time I went to a Ruby conference, and after the keynote, a guy gets the mic to ask a question… except he doesn’t ask about the talk. He asks why aren’t there more women in the tech industry and then shouts, “where are my women at??” While he might have had good intentions, it was the opposite effect. I have never felt more out of place before as people stared at me for being one of the few women there. It was so uncomfortable; I wanted to leave. That’s not what we want.

To contrast, I went to a Javascript conference last year, and part way through, I noticed that of the 15 speakers, 7 were women. I was also able to get a pass because they reserved some for women, in hopes of getting more diversity. They didn’t draw attention to it, and it actually felt good. It felt like a normal thing that half of the speakers were women because well, that’s what it should be. It’s unfortunate that women in the tech industry isn’t normal, and I hope that some day, it will just be a normal thing.

I think that’s really great, by the way, that your company recognizes the efforts of women! I feel really fortunate to be in a tech company that treats women equally. I have never had an issue here where I felt harassed or judged or belittled because of my gender. Like you, I grew up playing video games with my male cousins, and I loved it. It wasn’t until online gaming came around that I really saw how much female players were harassed about it.

We’re not at a good place yet when it comes to equality in the tech industry (I believe the percentage of women is actually going down), but I hope with more programs and groups to help, we can make it there eventually.

I’m a girl who loves video games & dev & fashion & makeup. It’s not something amazing. It’s just me! I attend NYU’s engineering school and my homebase is the NYU Game Center which has a gender ratio of 1:12. I’ve never been discriminated against by my classmates in the digital media major, but there are a few guys in the game design major I’ve found to be very self-absorbed. I took a game research class last semester where it was hard to speak at all because they jumped over every topic just like they were competing in a video game. It’s tough to make friends with some of them – there’s also that time three boys were playing a four-player game, and when I asked to join they said no.

When I got in engineering school, my parents discriminated against me saying stuff like guys and girls will hate me because I’m so butch. Which makes absolutely no sense. O_o I also work in an office with seven guys, and by the way things are flowing I think I’m the only girl my boss has hired in the past few years, if ever. I don’t get discrimination from my co-workers, but I’ve gotten discrimination from outside parties who hear about it. A person can be so lucky as to not get any direct discrimination, but yet still be discriminated against so harshly for her gender. It’s actually a huge reason why I journeyed in faith, and even after finding my faith the discrimination has continued to impact my life in the worst ways. Until recently.

What I like about the blogging community is that there are so many of us who are techies and yet loveeeee fashion. Because we are girls. We don’t need to make a stand about how we’re “not like other girls” or anything. I probably wear more makeup than all my friends, ahaha. (Because putting on eye makeup wakes me up from my sleepless dev struggles.)

Amazing photo of you giving a talk. I hope someday I can be on staging speaking about my work in technology but at the moment my discrimination has affected me to the point I’m using the broken pieces to build a new life – it’s actually the basis of my Master’s thesis!

Great post Georgie. <3

Bless this exquisite post. Spot on as always, Georgie.

Congratulations on being featured! Your employer sounds wonderful.

‘Beauty and brains’ is such a dumb notion. Like the two together in a woman are somehow incompatible or unusual. And of course, with men it’s totally irrelevant if they are attractive and smart, because it’s the smarts that are focused on. Sigh.

For my internship I am working with a small team made up of blokes + me. It sounds silly to say I noticed but I did, and whilst I haven’t made a big deal out of (because, well, why should I?) I was glad that thus far none of them have treated me ‘like a girl’. They focus on the work I do and that’s what’s important.

I loved this post and you were right about me liking it!

In my opinion, women are just not confident enough about what they do. I have been studying in one of the best technical institutes in my country even in Asia I think, and there are hell lot of female students on the campus especially in IT and Computers department. The thing is even if they are smarter than the male counterparts, when it comes to showcasing your talent girls take a step back and men, though may not be the toppers of the class are confident of the stuff they know. It’s not like they are not capable, they just don’t like to be in the spotlight!