DISCLAIMER – This is in no way a reflection on my current employer. I am not bad-mouthing where I work or the people I work with, as 99% of them are fabulous. I need to put this up, pretty much to cover my own arse, but I still want this story to be told – because I don’t think we should be quiet about these kinds of situations. Some slight modifications have been made to protect the privacy of my organisation.
I’ve refrained from posting about this, mainly because I thought my anger over it would go away.
It really hasn’t.
I honestly thought my work place was different. I thought my workplace was inclusive and encompassing and understanding. I’m sure the majority of people are – turns out a minority aren’t though.
So, onto my story.
We had a meeting with Microsoft regarding some support for our current infrastructure. As part of this, a collection of us were treated to a meeting that involved viewing and discussing a few things regarding our environment, as well as discussing some security concerns and the best way to prevent them in an organisation such as ours.
It was in this meeting that I encountered what is probably the most blatant and obnoxious form of sexism I’ve ever experienced in my current role.
Part of the discussion revolved around the fact that we still have a number of Windows Server 2003 servers that require either decommissioning or upgrading. This is something that I’m rather passionate about and have been pushing for and working towards since I first started here, knowing that Server 2003 EoL was coming up in July 2015 (and which is also a whole new blog post that I’m working on).
While discussing this, it was raised as a risk. I won’t name any names, but someone in the room then asked why it hadn’t been raised before. It was at this point that I got a little bit heated. This was something that I’d raised. I had spreadsheets, I had emails, I had jobs regarding it. I’d definitely raised this as an issue…so that’s what I said.
What came next still makes my blood boil.
The response was “Well, you should’ve asked one of them to raise it” while pointing at my male colleagues.
I was stunned speechless.
In a room filled with a large number of my colleagues and Microsoft representatives, I had pretty much been told that because I’d raised it, it hadn’t been given any attention. But if one of my male colleagues had raised it, something would’ve been done, attention would’ve been paid, it would’ve been worthy of discussion.
I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t say a word, I was completely thrown. There was absolutely nothing I could say or do…that would’ve been legal anyway. Pretty sure throttling a colleague is frowned upon by HR (and quite probably the police).
So I let it slide. It’s now been about 2 months since it happened, and it still makes me angry. I can’t talk to the person who said it the same any more. I want as little to do with them as physically possible.
(EDIT – some clarification, suggested by a friend. The comment was made by someone who has made similar comments to me, and others, in the past. The two colleagues he pointed to were of the same level as me – in fact, I would put one at slightly lower as he hasn’t been involved in our Windows infrastructure at all.)
I think what makes me angry now is the fact that, looking back…nothing was said. There were at least 10 other people in the room, including a few women, and nothing was said.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t blame the other women for not saying anything. In situations like that, saying something labels you as an hysterical woman, just trying to cause trouble. So I don’t blame them. But I don’t understand why something wasn’t said by any other person about it being inappropriate. I know people thought it was inappropriate, because following this comment was a round of nervous laughter – the kind of laughter that people use to try and break tension knowing that something incredibly awkward has happened.
This isn’t the only time I’ve come across this in my working history and I’m sure it won’t be the last. What depresses me the most is that I am a fairly strong, forward, outgoing, bold woman. I don’t know what this kind of sexism and belittling would do to someone who had less self-confidence in themselves and their abilities. I’m sure for some it’s absolutely heartbreaking and soul-destroying. I’m sure in many cases it causes these women to second-guess themselves and possibly even leave this line of work entirely.
I want to stand up, right now, and say: This is not acceptable. This is not okay. In no way should a woman be made to feel like their input is any less, purely because of their gender. In no way should a woman be made to feel that what a man has to say is more important than what she has to say, because of his gender.
Many people who read this will see it as a martyr’s cry, as a plea for attention. It’s not. I’m not interested in making it that. I know I should’ve said something, spoken to someone, done something. That fault lies with me. But I want this to be an eye-opener.
If women who are like me – proud, strong, self-confident – can be taken down by this, what must it be doing to those who aren’t? Why aren’t people saying “Stop” instead of awkwardly laughing? Why are we letting these people get away with it over and over again?
Just because I’m a woman, it doesn’t make my contribution any less than yours.
Note: For a continuation of this topic, feel free to read a further post I did regarding sexism in IT