Being a woman in tech is hard.

I am so fucking sick of being a woman in tech, and I’ve only been properly in industry for 8 weeks, but I’ve been putting up with this crap all throughout my degree. I just don’t know if I can imagine myself doing this for the rest of my career.

Over the course of the 4 and a bit years that I’ve been a woman in tech, I’ve put up with some horrible things. I’ve put up with being accused by friends of flirting with tutors for better grades, I’ve been accused of friendzoning people, I’ve been told that I should come around to a male friend’s house so he can play with my breasts while he was watching TV. I’ve learned to put up with the kitchen and sandwich and rape jokes, because my friends weren’t going to stop making them, and really, they were better than not having any friends at all.

During the first few weeks of my first internship in industry, I had a significantly older man trap me in a communal area and refused to let me leave until I agreed to go and have absinthe shots with him. I have had a significantly older man follow me around at a work event, invade my personal space, and put his hand on my thigh. After asking him to stop doing this, he apologised, but continued to touch my arm or my hand despite me saying it made me feel uncomfortable. I have had men in industry send me dick pics after I rejected them, and then proceeded to call me stupid or delusional for not wanting them after this incident. I’ve had male coworkers refuse to look at me during conversations. I’ve had male coworkers refuse to keep me in the loop with things that were going on, and only speak to my other male coworker in the same, shared role about issues.

I’ve had male friends, during a discussion about the importance of women in tech, remark that a typical career for a women is stripping. I’ve had male friends claim that if another female friend and another male friend of ours went for the same job, that she’d get it over him despite him being more qualified than her (which wasn’t even true). I’ve had male lecturers talk down to me, refuse me marks, and generally be rude to me for no reason. I’ve walked into communal computer science spaces and seen objectified drawings of either myself/women in general on a whiteboard. I’ve had many, many remarks of “you can code??” or “but you’re a girl!”. I’ve had many people question whether I actually am a coder, or be in disbelief of my abilities. I’ve had people claim that I’ve only achieved what I have because I’m a woman.

Before even getting to university, during high school, I had a male teacher refuse me admission into the highest level maths, because he felt that I wouldn’t handle it – despite me having done the pre-requisite a year early (when usually, it’s done concurrently). He also refused me entry into Information Technology (programming) as a subject, despite me having gone to the National Computer Science School, but instead allowed me into Information Processing and Publishing (Excel/Publisher). I had been the editor of our school’s magazine/yearbook for the last 3 years.

I spent a good amount of time in computer science without friends. I had to work very, very hard to make friends, and I had to push aside my own beliefs to be able to do this at the start. I had to work very hard for people to respect me – people seemed to respect me as soon as I received an internship at Google, but this same respect didn’t immediately transfer over to people who had also achieved the same. In group situations, many people outright ignore my contributions, or attribute the contribution to a male on the team, or when planning things, refuse to assign anything to me, because I’m not seen as a technical person (despite usually having contributed over half of the technical work).

But believe me, this isn’t limited to just guys. I’ve had female lecturers belittle our gender because I failed to meet her expectations. I have had female friends tell me that I’m too masculine and that I’m a better rape deterrent than one of our male friends.

It makes me not want to be an advocate for women in tech – because I don’t want other women to have to go through what I have, to have to put up with what I have. And I know not all women have had the same experiences as me. But certainly, others have.

For the most part, people are okay. My team is fantastic, they all believe in me, they don’t talk down to me, they make me feel like I am welcome and that my opinions/thoughts are valid and wanted. I have made some absolutely fantastic friends in tech, and I love them dearly. But I do have to worry that my playful nature will be misinterpreted as flirting, that my feminine dressing will be misinterpreted as being slutty, that my opinions and thoughts aren’t being taken seriously simply because of my gender. And I’m fed up with it. Shit needs to fucking change.

54 comments

  1. Dude, that’s some messed up shit you went through. Sorry about the dicks you had to deal with. However, lets hope things change. I am sure not everyone is a dick around you!

    1. Thanks Chaazz. I hope that things do start to change; I suppose we need more people speaking out about this kind of stuff, hey? Haha. :)

  2. Hi!
    I’m a girl in my 1st year of software eng, and I’m really sorry to hear everything that you have had to go through and things I may also have to encounter as a female in tech.
    If you have any tips on how you deal with this and still continue to convince yourself to work harder to be better would be awesome. (I came across on fb through mutual friends). However, I think you should focus on whether programming is your interest or not in regards to staying in the industry or not. And if it is, then we need people like you to voice concerns but also stick through them strongly and I’m sure you will get through this and will soon enough make a reputation such that no one will think it appropriate to do/say those things.
    I hope things go well.

    1. Hi Nehal!

      I hope this post didn’t scare you too much. I really hope that you do not have to face these issues, but I suppose I also don’t want you going into this blind.

      I guess the way I dealt with this sort of stuff was just to keep working, to keep trying to be better. It kind of was like a “well, I’ll show them!” sort of thing, if that makes sense. I also found a group of supportive people which was probably the most beneficial thing. I’d suggest getting involved with events run by your university’s school/faculty and any clubs and stuff. They’re usually great people. Right now I’m really enjoying my job and my team – I suppose I’m just disappointed, but I do want to make it better. I don’t want this to happen to other people, I don’t want people to think that this is okay – not just in tech, but in the world in general.

      I hope you enjoy software engineering – you sound like a very bright woman. If you ever need to chat, feel free to send me a message (FB is okay, I’m more likely to notice it on there than on here haha).

      Cheers,
      Sami :)

  3. Recognise that these things are below you, and because they are, you deserve more than the person who would do it to you.
    Level up sista, you win by resilience, education and determination. And you deserve to be happy.

      1. Hey Sami! I haven’t known you as long as Karla but you are very high on my list of amazing humans. You are absolutely right that things need to change.. and they ARE changing. Because of brave, determined & passionate people like you! It often seems it’s taking too long but keep fighting the good fight, follow your dreams & try to feel sorry for the insecure, small-minded fucktards who can only find self-esteem at the expense of someone else’s! All the best in whatever you pursue.. Terina

  4. Thanks for the fresh new perspective and being brave enough to post about it. What can I say, I can empathise and I do think things will change – slowly but surely, so just keep doing your thing! :)

  5. Hi Sami,

    Some thoughts:

    * If you’re in university, you’re likely to be hit on by guys
    * If you’re doing a course with the majority of males who are generally socially challenged, you’re going to get weird, unwanted advances. If these males looked like models, I wonder if your response would have been different?
    * When many males gather for professional or social reasons, you get what some may call “frat boy” interactions between males. This is normal, don’t be offended by it, it’s not personal. Men naturally pay each other out a bit to figure out the hierarchy, and well natured males generally pay out the weaker males to get them to toughen up. Life is hard, and males naturally tend to look out for each other, but showing concern is a weakness. So, you get this type of behaviour.
    * Having co-workers not validate your contribution is normal. Welcome to life. In a male dominated space, people are not given validation freebies. I tend to find women like to get these validation niceties. If you want to be included, you have to play by the rules in the scenario you find yourself in. There are no validation freebies, work with it.
    * Having co-workers not look at you in conversation can be normal when most of your co-workers are socially challenged. Do not take it personally. As a male, I have worked with plenty of other males who cannot look you in the eye, who cannot shake your hand with confidence. IT tends to attract smart people with less emphasis on social skills.
    * Having dudes touch your thigh in a work situation is probably too far. I assume however, that you were not attracted to him from your description of him. I wonder if your response would have been different if you were attracted to him. Males and females hit on each other all the time. It’s life, and it’s needed for the survival of the species.

    Davo

    1. @Davo,

      Would your opinion of the advances that I’ve mentioned above change if I told you that these guys had girlfriends? Certainly some of them did. However, most of what I was talking about was not guys hitting on me, so I’m not sure why you’ve focussed on this?

      I disagree about your point on “validation freebies”. Certainly males receive a lot more leeway than women when it comes to validation – which is why things like mansplaining and bropropriation (ridiculous names aside, the points are valid) are things. Have a read of this: http://www.nextions.com/wp-content/files_mf/142850844520150415ManterruptionsBropropriationandMansplaining2YPS.pdf?utm_source=April+Impact&utm_campaign=8563927a96-April_2015_Impact4_8_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_452de6aa63-8563927a96-332970057 or this http://samanthablackmon.net/courses/sites/digitalparlor.org.sp08.blackmon1/files/wolfe.pdf

      There have been coworkers of mine who were able to look at other males and converse with other males, and completely disregard me. I don’t tend to take this in particular too personally, except for when it interferes with things getting done (which it certainly has in the past).

      I’m not sure why you’ve cherry picked your response to make it look like I’m just annoyed about people hitting on me, because that clearly was not the point of my post.

      1. Sami, this is in no way justifying the behavior, but I want to point out that the ability of socially-inept males to interact with other males in no way implies that they are equally able to interact with females. To socially-inept men, women seem like a different and often frightening separate species. Having a girlfriend (or even wife) doesn’t change that, either, it just means that some woman has decided she likes them — they may well be just as baffled by that decision as the opposite decision by other women.

        The solution, of course, is for them to grow up and learn to see women as people/engineers/etc. and relegate gender considerations to appropriate contexts. But that’s a pretty deep change, which isn’t going to be quick or easy, because the problem is related to deep-seated insecurities arising from some pretty primal conflicts.

        Some men who are uncomfortable with women respond with outright misogyny. Others — especially given current official sensitivity to gender equality — simply withdraw and avoid interaction in order to avoid giving offense. Of course, ignoring people is also offensive.

        Honestly, I think the only solution here is to call attention to the problem in order to shut down open abuse (like unwanted touching — take that shit straight to HR, people should get one warning for non-sexual touching and none for sexual touching), and then for brave women like you to gut it out and deal with all the smaller issues until there are enough women in tech that it’s just normal, and daily experience wears the edges off of insecure men’s discomfort. Or they get so uncomfortable they leave.

        Note that by “deal with the smaller issues” I don’t mean “just take it”. I think trailblazing women in tech are going to have to get good at productively confronting men about the issues, whether overt or subtle, by commission or omission. It’s a tough thing to do because it’s really easy to come across as bitchy, and some men will see it that way no matter how well you handle it. And many of the more subtle yet nonetheless real issues will generate eye rolling. What to do about those? I don’t know. Pick your battles, I suppose, and try to enlist supportive men to help.

        That sounds exhausting to me. And it sucks that anyone should be asked to put up with it. But I don’t see another option that will actually work, other than for some tough, determined women to make it happen. Concerned men can and must help, but the trailblazing women are going to bear the brunt of it.

        It’s worth doing, though. Of course, I say that from my position of white male privilege.

    2. Davo, you sound like a nice guy who is trying to be helpful. I believe your heart is in the right place. The problem I have with your comments is that the emphasis is backwards. I don’t believe you are intentionally making excuses for the appalling behaviour Sami has endured, but it could be construed that way. Yes, many men in our industry are socially inept, but that is absolutely no excuse for the type of behaviour Sami has experienced. Stating that certain behaviour is “normal” or questioning how she would react if she were attracted to him is absolutely the incorrect response. The proper response is to condemn this behaviour and call it out as something we (men and women) won’t tolerate – in or out of our industry. We need change. Plain and simple.

    3. Davo, you have inadvertently highlighted a lot of what she was talking about. She was having a problem with the way women are treated and you tried justifying everything that is wrong as normal. These actions shouldn’t be part of a norm. I hope you see that one day.

    4. I’ve just done my Bachelors in IT – trust me, 90% of the males in the school are immensely inept at social ethics and don’t socialise in a non-electronic medium. That being said, understanding what is right and wrong when communicating with someone is new territory for them (a bit like aspergers, if I may).

      It will take time for their opinions of you to change (as is the nature of opinions – they need to be challenged so you can validate having them), so even though they really don’t get the message now, go about trying to educate them on what is right (as their parents/guardians have clearly stayed in the 1940s and havent got out yet)Maybe ask some of your co-workers that are not total asshats to talk to the assailants about what they are doing, and ask your supervisor if they could do a mini-seminar on work and social ethics within the office, for example.

      I recommend asking your supervisor (or a member of your company’s HR department) if there is anything that they can do to help alleviate the discrimination in the workplace.

      If your supervisor does not accept your position, and your reasoning for bringing the issue up, then I strongly recommend contacting the Australian Human Rights Comission (https://www.humanrights.gov.au/workplace-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet) through the relevant links in the link above to lodge your complaint.

      Good Luck!
      Matthew

    5. Isn’t it sad that anytime a woman posts about this shit going on, someone in the comment section goes ahead and proves the general sentiment in the industry/world to be true? Enough, dude, this is so tired.

      Sami,

      Don’t listen to that shit, do your thing, find women (and men) who support you and have your back, we are all over the world and are here in your corner. You are brave to share this, keep going…YOU GOT THIS.

      Sashka

    6. @Davo,

      Some thoughts:

      * If you’re likely to be hit on in university, should you even go?
      * If you’re going to get weird, unwanted advances – would you feel comfortable trying to learn?
      * “Bro” interactions generally put a lot of people off, you sound likely to participate in them and unlikely to realize how they make others feel. Your excuses / “Don’t worry about it” attitude doesn’t make anyone comfortable…
      * There are a lot of problems with your post, that I’m not even going to go into.
      * Having dudes touch your thigh in a work situation is absolutely too far. Would you be comfortable with dudes touching your thigh in a work situation? It’s not appropriate, nor is it acceptable, under any circumstances, in a work situation.

      Knock it off.

    7. Just because something maybe be ‘normal’ does not mean that is should be. Women, and any other minority in the field, should not have to deal with these situations in a workplace. These men are being highly unprofessional and should be addressed on their behavior.

      Simply put, the industry is in desperate need of change. Diversity is important for so many reasons, and making sure the field is accepting and treats the minorities respect is essential.

      I know it is not always obvious for those who are unaffected by this sort of issue to see, but please read stuff like this article and, not only keep an open mind, but also ask yourself what you can do to help people from going through this. Telling them to ‘deal with it’ is a frustrating answer and is not constructive in anyway.

      Hope that helps! There are plenty of resources online on making the workplace more inclusive. Totally check them out to make sure you can help in these situations!

  6. I recently graduated from a tiny computer science class, where everyone knew everyone really well. There were only two women in a class of fifty, and I saw none of this going on first hand. We had a class project that worked with nearby software company in return for summer internships, and I know for a fact that both women were picked for their gender. They themselves were openly surprised that they did so little work in their respective teams, and were picked over the actual workers.

    Software Engineering as an industry sometimes requires people to be very critical of others peoples code. Some people get really offended at these, and think the reviewer doesn’t like them, when in reality, code reviews can be some of the best sources of learning. What I’m getting at is programmers tend to not take any criticism to heart, and let everything slide on by, so you should do. Man, I’m eloquent….

    Like I don’t get this. Like if someone touched a women inappropriately, why aren’t they fired straight away? Did you not complain beyond saying it made you uncomfortable? So you left him to continue in his position of authority? Like if you were scared of losing your own job, it doesn’t sound like a nice place to work anyway.

    I work beside a few women in my current job, and they actively avoid any “Women in Tech” stuff because they feel its very forced on them.

    In summation, I don’t see any of this going on, so skeptical its as bad as the constant protecting yourself from rapists and pillagers as you make it out to be.

    1. @Sounds Like An Asshole:
      No offence, but just because you don’t see something happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Also, like I said, certainly this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it certainly happens to a considerable amount – you just need to look at the amount of women leaving tech to confirm this. I have let a lot of things slide in my time in tech – but there are just some things you should not let slide. And the continual treatment of women in tech is one of these things that I’m not going to let slide. I’m not getting upset because of criticism. In regards to the comments you’re making about the inappropriate touching – this is still an ongoing matter so I can’t really comment on the status of it, but I have indeed taken it further. The whole thing that prompted this post was the fact that I’ve had to go to HR twice already in my short career because of this stuff. I also think the “Women in Tech” stuff is quite forced – I think the notion of bonding over your gender is a bit ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve better treatment than what we’re getting.

    2. When someone behaves inappropriately towards you, you are not responsible for curbing their behavior. Suggesting that someone who is a victim of sexual harassment should have to go to significant personal effort to stop the harassment rather than suggesting the harasser should stop his behavior is called ‘victim blaming’. Saying something like ‘So you left him to continue in his position of authority’ is also victim blaming. It is not the responsibility of someone who is sexually harassed, but the responsibility of a workplace to ensure that there is a safe working environment. Regardless of how a victim responds, it is the harassers FAULT that harassment is occurring and it is the fault of a workplace if they allow harassment to continue.

      Harassment is not a ‘women in tech’ only kind of problem. Harassment occurs in most sectors in some way or another. To suggest that something doesnt exist because you havent seen it is a fairly silly notion. It’s very nice for you that you are sheltered enough that you have not witnessed or experienced harassment, but when someone is posting about their lived experience of harassment you should take a seat and listen instead of suggesting that their lived experience is somehow invalid.

    3. “Like if someone touched a women inappropriately, why aren’t they fired straight away?”

      Because that’s not how it happens.

      Women who complain about harassment face three serious battles: first they have to fight to be believed (“we’d like to do something… but this is a really serious matter and we only have your word for it… we’d be destroying this man’s career on hearsay…”), then they have to fight to be taken seriously (“Are you sure you’re not just overreacting? He was just showing you some appreciation.”), then they have to fight for something to actually be done about it.

      You know what the most common result of a woman complaining about harassment is? The woman is persuaded that her best course of action is to leave the company quietly, and the harasser is promoted to quell any rumors of wrongdoing.

    4. @Sounds Like An Asshole

      Some incidents are documented e.g. http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents
      (That whole wiki is awesome if you’re interested in learning about this)

      I’ve managed a large number (>100) of engineers across several companies, and have seen enough to be able to say with some authority that Sami’s experience is (sadly) not a massive outlier.

      It goes on. A surprising amount. As an industry, we have to fix this.

  7. Heya Sami, I found this post a great read.

    A sad one, but one that I feel better off reading than not. I’ve always known that women weren’t really treated as equals in male dominated industries and to hear that it’s still happening at this severity (is that the right word to use? >.< ) saddens me. I came across your post in my Facebook feed from mutuals cause I have a large number of female techie friends who are always posting articles about IT, encouraging women to try programming, or GPN events, etc. So I've always been positive about the growing ratio of female:men but its rather discouraging after reading your experiences. I'm only a first year student doing BIT at uni and I'm lucky that so far, I haven't had the 'pleasure' to encounters problems like yours. But I guess I should prepare for the day when douchecanoes think they can brush me off and treat me as dumb simply because of my gender. Thanks so much for the reality check and for speaking out about these issues, and I mean that sincerely. I'm still optimistic (cause I'm that kind of gal huhuhuhu) and I hope eventually one day we won't have to deal with this kind of crap anymore. You're my new fave role model and one hella strong ass gal for keeping your head up high.

    Your tweets are hilarious xoxo Rhonda

  8. Hey Sami,

    I’m a friend of Houda; we did honours and studied CompSci together at the University of Sydney. I got to your post via mutual friends on Facebook and your post really struck a chord with me because I’ve been through a lot of the same stuff. Being a woman in tech is fucking hard, especially when people like some of the commenters above refuse to acknowledge that the behaviour you’ve experienced is not okay. One of my goals is to unite as many women in tech as possible, so I’d love to grab coffee you sometime in Sydney. Your blog is awesome and your thesis topic looked fascinating.
    Sydney also has some fantastic women in tech groups who I have found really supportive in surviving the shit thrown at me. This is a great group: http://www.meetup.com/Women-Who-Code-Sydney/
    And you may find this relevant: http://tableflip.club
    I hope you’re doing okay, and remember you’re not alone. There’s a great community of other women in tech out there ready to catch you when you fall.

  9. Hi Sami,
    It is very upsetting to hear that this type of behavior still occurs in Australia. Come to the silicon valley. Good engineers/programmers (female and male) are in short supply (check out the E3 visa). Whilst even the silicon valley is not perfect, I am sure you will have a completely different and rewarding experience. Lots of terrific female role models in the valley (Padmasree, Maria, etc). Keep with your passion, start your own company, influence change!! :)

    1. Happens here (SF Bay Area) too :-(

      But I do think there is beginning to be more awareness. And there are a lot more Tech jobs, so easier to jump ship if needed!

    2. As an Australian, I too am very upset that this exists in Australia. But I would be very very cautious to suggest that things will be any better in Silicon Valley.

      I know a number of women in the Valley, both at my own company (one of the companies Sami refers to) and at others. Almost all of them have told me similar (or even worse!) stories.

      I’m not defending Australia (believe me, this sucks, and I wish the industry here wasn’t like this), but don’t fall into the trap of thinking your own backyard is clean. Silicon Valley has all these issues, in spades. Be aware of it so you can watch for it, speak out against it, and do your part to stop it.

  10. Sami, this is horrible. Sounds like you need to be having a quiet word with HR because this isn’t acceptable in any business, tech-related or not.

  11. Hi Sami,

    I’ve had very similar experiences and it is depressing. The infuriating thing I find is when I say out loud that I have to put up with this shit my male peers kind of guy ‘Here she goes again, banging on about sexism in the industry.’ I bet if an older man touched up their thigh under a table and whispered in their ear they wouldn’t like it! Pisses me off. Similarly, when I hear women say, ‘sexism in tech doesn’t exist anymore’, or ‘we shouldn’t try to promote gender equality anymore because women are treated the same as men now,’ I actually want to scream. Thanks for sharing, you’re not alone and it’s NOT FUCKING COOL.

  12. As a computer scientist now 10 years out of my PhD, working in industry in the US, I have had very similar experiences. And it does suck, but it also gets better. I’ve found the most important ways to overcome the blatent gender discrimination that exists (especially) in tech are:

    * identify my supporters and help them to help me by letting them know what I need
    * managing up (this one has taken a lot longer to get the hang of – but is KEY)
    * developing a support network (I am part of a lean-in group that has been incredibly helpful, I’ve lost count of the number of times my group has helped strategize about difficult situations or push me to make an ‘ask’ that I was holding back on)
    * speaking up when people make inappropriate comments, but trying to do it in a way that doesn’t make it embaressing for them, but does make the point
    and
    * picking my battles, e.g. I had a manager three levels up from me tell me I shouldn’t compare my promotion tragectory to others in the department because I had two children in my time there (never mind my male colleagues had also had 2-3 kids and taken similar length leaves AND on all objective measures I had just as many runs on the board or more). I could have gone to HR and/or sued, but I decided it wasn’t worth it in this case. Part of me was glad the guy put his cards on the table, becuase I am sure many other male colleagues thought the same but knew it wasn’t legit to say it.

    Comments above that justify or explain away the problems just demonstrate the depth of this issue.

    Get in touch by e-mail if you want to talk more, we need to support eachother!!

    p.s. Check out the Ada initiative, it’s days are numbered, but if there are any events in your area before it shuts down you might want to check them out.
    p.p.s. If you can join a lean-in circile, it can be extremely helpful, no matter what you think of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, the concept of a group to discuss career strategy, hash out ideas and share challenges is fabulous.

  13. Something that got to me when reading your post was that a lot of the bad behaviour came from people you described as friends. I really hope you no longer consider them friends, some of the things that they had said to you were just horrible and although i’m sure they come from a place of immaturity weren’t something any friend should be saying, or anyone should be saying full stop. When i studied I.T I had subjects where I had no friends at all instead of putting up with the immature jokes of some boys just out of their teenage years – I can relate to that feeling of powering through your degree (and getting a little competitive) to prove a point. When I did make friends towards the end of my degree, it was with great guys who I still stay in touch with to this day, who would treat me with the same respect as any other team member and had thankfully grown into people who had a better sense of humour than sandwich jokes. I hope your experience at Atlassian never makes you feel how you felt in these situations again. I also understand the power imbalance you would have felt in the situations with older men but I hope that with the support here from women if you are ever in a situation like that again you feel that you can do something about it.

  14. I’m really sorry you had to go through all of this. It’s wholly unacceptable. I’m also really sorry to say that from what I’ve heard the tech industry is the same everywhere. I work in Transportation in Canada and have experienced some of what you have but not near as bad.

    I’d like to say it gets better but honestly I think I’ve changed more so than my peers. I don’t think this is right though. I think this happens to many women, they adapt to survive, and then turn on their fellow female colleagues that haven’t adapted. This isn’t right.

    It may seem corny but the whole “He for She” campaign hit it right on the nose. The biggest changes and improvements I’ve seen have been when men stepped up and called out other men for their BS. Actually, I guess it has the most impact when a man says something, but just anybody saying anything to call out people on their inappropriate behaviour has an impact.

    Ghandi had it right, you need to be the change you want to see. Be that person that calls people on their snide comments, rude remarks. When you do this it tells the person that what they’re doing is not acceptable and it shows them the level of respect that you expect in their interactions with you.

    Please e-mail me if you need to talk or vent :)

  15. Sounds like a lot of the worst stuff had nothing to do with “tech”. It sounds like it sucks to be woman in a predominantly male group.
    I wonder if the things that were not misogynistic are experienced similarly by other minorities. If a person is clearly easy to single out as “being different”, do they get the “this stuff is probably too hard for you” treatment?
    The misogynistic stuff is awful and it might be worse in tech because the males are more socially clueless so they act more childish/stupid than average males. But I’m guessing a woman on a mostly male sports team would see similar tragedies.
    I’ve been in tech, and when there’s one woman on the team – she’s “the girl”, when there’s two, they’re “the new girl” and “the other girl”. When there’s three, they’re “Mary”, “Jane”, “Emily”, etc. That is, past a certain threshold, their gender stops being special/unique, and they become just another team member.
    So I think if you don’t want others to experience this, the solution is MORE women in tech. It doesn’t take many before the novelty wears off.

  16. Hi Sami,
    I’m sorry that this has happened to you. For what it worths, while I didn’t have you as a prac demonstrator specifically, all your online tutes/posts were really helpful, and while I’m only a first year, I think I’m qualified enough to say you definitely know your stuff… Hope you stick at something you obviously have a talent and a passion for.

  17. The amount of bullshit that many women have to fight through only to become part of the embarrassingly small number of women in tech, is baffling. Somehow the already dehumanized image of women echoed by society, is further distorted when passed through the lens of the tech demographic. I see many signs of boys spouting deeply toxic ideas about gender that have innocently absorbed (through gaming culture, reddit, etc). With few real-world experiences with which to compare, these misogynistic views become their reality all too easily. So in closing, I’m sorry you had to go though this and I’m sorry that society still produces men that treat women like this.

  18. I’m truly sorry to read about what you went through. That all sounds awful and kudos to you for making it through that.

    That being said, this has not been my experience as a woman in CS near your level of experience, at least not anywhere near the degree of awfulness that you describe. I did encounter a couple of issues, like the difficulty in making friends that you mentioned (it was possible but a lot harder than it usually is), and the one occurrence where a guy who was paired up with me for a group assignment automatically assumed that he should ‘take the lead’.

    But I have never been sexually harassed by anyone in any capacity. My Professors were generally encouraging, especially the other women, and the few who were not were assholes to everyone. I was encouraged to apply for a grad school scholarship, and the Prof who supervised me in grad school research was amazing. My internship mentor has also been incredibly helpful as well as other colleagues.

    I’m not saying this to discredit you at all or to invalidate your experiences, as I think they are important. I’m saying this to provide another account of a woman in CS, so that girls who read this won’t assume that every woman who goes into CS will inevitably have to face what you faced and won’t be scared out of it. I think some women do have it very hard, perhaps partly due to location or cultural norms where they live, or just pure bad luck. But it’s entirely possible to go through a CS degree and grad school and internship without having anything that you described above happen.

  19. The job I have now is the first job where I haven’t been screamed at, talked over, or told I’m an idiot.
    We get treated well. Previously, i’d been told I’m too aggressive, and written up several times for being aggressive, but then my reviews applaud my abilities to work in a team, and how awesome I am at integrating into a team and getting along. You would think a severely aggressive person wouldn’t be a good team player… Yet males can act exactly the same and they’re labeled confident/assertive. In fact, males can be 20 times as abrasive and aggressive, and those individuals are never reprimanded.

    The only way I can cope is to never bring my ideas forward, and never fight for a tech idea I believe in. Lately, I pass my ideas on to a guy to bring forward. At least then it will be listened to.
    It has severely decreased my value as a programmer for employers.

  20. Thanks for sharing this. I studied math in the 80s and it wasn’t nearly that bad.
    We’re doing something about this, namely, we are changing girls’ and boys’ images of girls in the media, starting with our upcoming comic book for girls. We could use all the help we can get in promoting these kinds of images of girls in STEM. We’re totally bootstrapped, and we’ll be releasing the comics on October 15th.
    To support the project go to http://www.ganglysister.com our Thunderclap our product release at http://thndr.me/g90CvJ
    If we can change perceptions at a young age, we’ll be able to encourage women in tech at all ages.

  21. Take the dick picks to HR… I don’t know where you are in the world, but here in the UK this wouldn’t be tolerated. As a CEO – I’m gender blind… I don’t give a rats ass what you are as long as you can do your job. Any bloke in my company that sent you an unsolicited dick pick would be confronted and bounced out the door. I’d even make sure everyone knows why he’s gone. A bit of humiliation stops this behaviour.

  22. What an awful story of misogynistic idiocy! As a coder with 35 years experience I have always bemoaned the lack of gender balance in this business. If any man on my team were to have done any of that stuff to I would have had them up in front of HR, and disciplinary action sooner than you could say ‘Jack’!

    I have technically managed a number of women who have all been fantastic team members and highly valued people by ALL the team. I do hope work life becomes better for you in the future, and I hope that you do not suffer ANY such further experiences.

    I don’t see why you should put up with the slightest aggravation because of gender. I would never tolerate it in any team I was a part of, whether I was a team manager or a team member.

    I wish you the very best and thank you for your brave post.

  23. As a guy who’s (a) taught computer programming at the college level and (b) worked in the industry for more than 15 years, I’m very sorry you’re putting up with such bull. I don’t know where it comes from, and it’s baffling to me because my experience in teaching proved time and again that there was zero correlation between someone’s gender and their ability to understand the technical intricacies of programming.

  24. That’s so disappointing that you’ve had to put up with that. I suspect that your experiences are not limited to the IT industry. As an older man (50) in IT, I would never even think about doing or saying some of the things you have experienced. Neither would any of the other people I work with (mostly men of similar age group). I hope that you continue in IT as we need more women in IT for so many reasons. Good luck.

  25. Just out of curiosity:
    – Why are you acknowledging people as friends if they make rape jokes etc? Tell them to f^&k off and find yourself new friends.
    – What was the HR response to your complaints? Don’t suffer in silence make a complaint and not just rant to your keyboard
    – A lot of techs I know and have worked with have one judgement criteria only, are you any good at what you do. What techs are you working with?
    – Publish the names of these poor companies you work for. NO-way do I want to work for them, so I’d appreciate knowing who they are.
    – Irony time, the people you say don’t communicate with you, well by typing into the ether you are also displaying the same behaviour.
    – Also as I tell my kids never work in IT, it is not worth it. For the skill set and IQ required its not worth it. At my employer we have the diabetics club, heart attack club and divorced club; which club would you like to be a member off?

  26. Tech is bad eh? A lot of industries still have problems, just check the cases of the only woman in the office successfully suing companies in the high pressure finance industry.

    You tolerated bad friends? Then more fool you. Years ago I went to a bar after work only to find a group of people I recognised from my workplace, mostly women and of my age group, seemed a good opportunity to fit in and possibly try my luck. Next thing is I am being asked if I want to get ‘sorted’ as that’s what they were there for. Not being into drugs I left and went elsewhere. You don’t have to join in with things that are uncomfortable.

    So some men think some women only get on by having sex. Some women would jump at the chance. Unfortunately for you it is equally difficult to prove and for you to do such a degrading thing yourself. I have never been asked to have sex with someone I didn’t want to just for work purposes so I can’t imagine what I would do. Unfortunately I have been told (not asked mind) to break the law and put innocent peoples’ lives in danger. I refused, bang went that position.

    So you can code? How about ‘you work in IT? But you’re from a rural farming area, just carrot crunchers out there.’ Easier to lie about such things but not a good path to have to go down.

    So a maths teacher held you back, ever thought that he just plain didn’t like you. It took me a while to realise that not everybody would like me and also have no or very shady reasons for not doing so.

    So you realise discrimination is also an equal opportunity field, Maggie Thatcher rarely promoted women. I have met family guys who seem to think that being free and single means it’s likely I sleep with all the ‘hot chicks’ in the office, I am only there to pay for my own selfish single lifestyle or that I am more at risk of sexually harassing someone because family guys don’t do that sort of thing.

    A playful nature? Most geeks would need you to jump on them before anything occurred to them, others are either professional or not. Such is life.

    I can see though that some of your experiences are down to good old fashioned discrimination/harassment. Guys in tech can still have problems with their own casual dressing when they don’t realise the attitudes of older managers.

    Change? We live in a time when we have better, but not perfect, laws and attitudes than before. Would you prefer to have been educated in equal rights at a time of oblivious ignorance of the era of the ‘Mad Men’ programme. When most women at work were there to look good and do menial tasks. I should think you would be going crazy, quite rightly, every day.

    The world isn’t perfect or fair and you shouldn’t settle for bad friends or bad colleagues. But sometimes there is no justified solution for appalling behaviour.

  27. Hi Sami,
    Thank you for your courage to share this, and to draw our attention to this !
    I know many man are sexist pigs and stupid assholes (I hope this gets across your anti-spam filter;).
    However, I hope (and please give us some hope), that although you had (too !!) many of these type of comments and behaviors, that it still was a minority of men. Ok, even 10% is too much, and 1% is too much, and ideally no single men should behave like that.
    Please give us hope in humanity (at least in my gender), and tell me that it was only a minority …
    Take care
    P.

  28. I’m shocked at the treatment you’ve received. I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m awake and in 2015 (not in the 1950s or before). There are times when I wish I could disown my gender!

    It doesn’t change how wrong it is (and either reason is bad) but, given the behaviour of your former PM: ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/creep-tony-abbott-caught-winking-to-radio-presenter-about-poverty-stricken-grandmother-who-works-on-9407096.html ), I can’t help wondering if it’s an IT thing or an Australian thing.

    I feel bad giving this piece of advice (because you shouldn’t be this position). However, if things are so bad that you are thinking of changing careers then I have a couple of questions: How would you feel about starting your own company?* An alternative *may* be to research different countries and move to one where IT companies/organisations are more-or-less gender blind?

    *I remember listening to an interview with one woman in IT who did that in the 60s.

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