Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Women in Technology

     When I was a grad student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, in the late 70s, I attended a talk as part of a gabfest known as The Conference on World Affairs.  The Conference rules state that all speakers must be from out of state, be recognized in their fields (STEM, Literature and Arts, Politics and Media, etc.), be interesting speakers ...  Then people from each of the disciplines are mixed and matched to form panels on a wide range of topics.
      However, this was different, it was a talk given by a single woman, a semi-known sci fi writer, who has lapsed into obscurity.  She talked for an hour, and I only remember one thing she said:  that whatever sexism students had experienced in their lives, it was the least they were likely to find in their lives.
       Things have changed a lot, since then, in many ways.  But in others, they have changed not at all.  I have not worked for many years, for reasons unrelated to being female.   Even, as the joy of this work is returning to me (and the frustrations, of course), I am remembering the experiences I have had in technology, both positive and negative.
       I have worked for men, who have taught and encouraged me to explore all my talents.  I have had men, former co-workers, take their own time to mentor me, when I started my own business.  Overall, being a female has not held me back.
       There have been other not so pleasant experiences.  As I write this sentence, I am reminded of when my cousin's daughter was young.  She'd made a quick run to the corner store, while her family was visiting my apartment.  She was ten, and supremely self-confident.  She came back, and had no words for the kind of treatment, the men hanging out at the store had given her.  As they were leaving, her mother said to me, "I never know if it's better to let her grow up believing sexism doesn't exist; or whether I would do better to warn her."
        I'm not sure that  individual experiences are ever useful.  Anyone reading this has had and will continue to have their own challenges.  Ultimately, the reason any ism is so difficult to confront is that it plays out in ways that are unique to the individual on the receiving end.

No comments:

Post a Comment