breaking the cycle: post 2, working women

As you all (should) know, the tech world is incredibly dominated by men. (More specifically, by white men.) I work for a software company that employs around 13,000 people worldwide. There are about 100 people in my office; 11 are women. Of those 11, only one is actually a software developer.

I was recently a “groomsperson” in one of my best friend’s weddings. I was so happy to be a part of his wedding, even though it seemed unusual to plenty of people that I, a woman, would be standing on the groom’s side. A couple weeks before the wedding, I was out to lunch with a big group of coworkers. As people shared their weekend plans, I mentioned that I was going to a bachelor party. “No, not bachelorETTE, a bachelor party, I’m a groomsperson in my friend’s wedding.” My casual addition to the conversation was met with laughter and jokes from my male coworkers, insinuating that if I was going to a bachelor party, it could only be as a stripper.

In the moment, I laughed and didn’t think much of it, happy to just be joking around with coworkers. But looking back, I wasn’t being treated as “one of the guys” in that moment. I was being singled out for my woman-ness. To be very reductive, I was essentially called a stripper for having a male best friend. And that is not okay.

As the Washington Post article described, nine women from the tech world came together to create this manifesto of sorts. They were tired of the treatment they, and many other women, were receiving in the tech world. So they shed some light on it. My experience in the tech world has not been as extreme as the situations they describe. Overall, I like the people I work with and I feel safe there. But I’m also fairly removed from the more “technical” side of things, as a writer.

The technical world has a clear woman problem. But women in all kinds of other jobs face similar treatment everyday. I’ve listened to friends describe their misogynistic bosses, who stare at the chests of female employees and intimidate women simply because they can. Women make up about half of the professional level workforce in America. But if you check the statistics on women holding leadership positions, the disparity is shocking.

Not only are we not getting the jobs, we’re being paid less. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers are required to give men and women equal pay if their roles are substantially the same. But women are still making only “77% of their male counterparts’ earnings” according to the White House. It makes no fucking sense that I should get paid less than my male counterpart, simply because I am a woman. And yet.

I’m a fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and I think Sheryl Sandberg is a boss, even though I still haven’t read Lean In yet. I loved when this ad for GoldieBlox toys aired during the Super Bowl this year. It’s good to have these girl-specific things, but how long will this have to be the way we encourage girls to pursue and succeed at traditionally male-dominated jobs? Will we reach a point in history where girls will be encouraged enough at school, at home, by mentors and neighbors, without these extra girl-specific programs?

At the root of this conversation is a necessary paradigm shift. The tech world can work on recruitment and retention of female employees, but the bigger issue is a change in thinking, one that applies across the board to women in all types of jobs. One that says women are fully valuable human beings, with the same capabilities, passion, and possibilities as men.

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