Working Asa human resources manager in a male dominated engineering consulting firm. I was the only female manager the firm had every had in their 35 year history. I was purposely excluded from meetings, was provided with incomplete information, was marganilized regularly, talked down to, told I was stupid, it was regularly implied that my human resources based skill set was less valuable the the predominantly male technical skill set. I was regularly subjected to bullying, sexual harassment, sexually jokes and innuindo. I watched the firm go from 27% female technical staff to 2% female technical staff at the hands of a single executive who appeared to want to wipe women out from the company – every time he laid off staff the “hit list” was predominantly female designers or engineers. These same women were paid less, recieved less promotion, and were kept on mundane entry level tasks far longer than any male counter part was. In the end, I was also fired and replaced by a man. Engineering has to be one of the worst industries for women to work in. I now work in a female dominated environment and I’m loving it.
Recently, I had a problem with a web service that I was using. I contacted their live chat team in order to resolve it. Coincidentally (and with great thanks for the foresight of my mother who gave me this option), I have recently starting to use the androgynous form of my given name. I put this form of my name down so that anyone seeing it would assume that I was male. I then got the best tech support of my life. I just thought that my previous experiences were normal. I often call support lines on the phone. Of course, once they hear my voice they know that I am female. I’ve been asked to repeat fixes I’ve already performed, talked down to, asked irrelevant clarification questions and, generally, I’ve always felt an inexplicable need to assert that I was competent to follow their instructions for fixes. I just thought that this was what tech support was like (and assumed the support engineers were a little dumb). But no; once I was (ostensibly) ‘male’, the experience changed completely. It felt very freeing to just have my statements taken at face value and my intelligence / competency respected. It made me realise just how very different it must be to be a man in this world. It must be so much more relaxing to not have to fight to just be deemed competent. It was sexism, thrown in my face, in the most innocuous of places. It made me realise that the parameters of my life are likely defined by sexism in ways which I barely even notice because that’s just what my experience is. What else would I compare it to, if this had not happened?