One of my older male coworkers routinely calls me “young lady” and constantly interrupts me wanting to chat while I am working, including when I have headphones in and am clearly busy (were not even on the same project). Today, said coworker who I have repeatedly told I have a pending deadline came in 45 minutes early to instant message me to ask to talk.
Him: “You’ve been cold with me, very short, have I done something wrong?”
Me thinking: Cupcake, it’s not my job to make you feel special and be ‘warm’ towards you, I’m here to work and I have a deadline
Me: “Oh no, I just get in the zone and I have a tough time getting back in when I’m interrupted.
I am so frustrated that, as a woman in engineering, my coworker attempts to guilt trip me into not doing my job to stroke his fragile ego.
A fax came for you
Six years ago, in 2010, I was doing my third internship of my computer engineering program. I had actually been recruited due to excellent performance on my previous internship (with a different group in the same organization), but the man who recruited me had unfortunately changed jobs before my start date. So I didn’t meet my new supervisor until the first day. Let’s call him Alan.
It’s also worth mentioning here that out of the entire team of 30 or so people there was only one other woman, a technical writer. I was the only female in the engineering side of the group.
Anyway, Alan and I didn’t really get along (we were certainly not “friends”) but I just tried to stay professional and do my work. Well, one day Alan came over to my cubicle and said, “Hey, a fax came for you,” and handed me a piece of paper. I was a bit confused (why would anyone send me a fax?) but I took the paper, and he just walked away chuckling with some colleagues. I looked down at the page and saw that it was an advertisement for a professional development opportunity for administrative assistants…
Talk about rage. After that I knew I was never going to be taken seriously by that team. And since then I’ve still struggled to find my place in the tech world.
Three weeks ago I was chatting with my department head in the hall. When I mentioned how tiring it is for a single father to work full-time and raise three kids, he joked: “You have it easy. I have three kids AND a wife!”
This man, the face of our department, makes all hiring decisions. Wonder why we have very few women in our department….
This link struck a chord with me because, like one of the women described, my advisor would say things to make me feel worthless and less than the guys in the group who were at the same stage in their careers as me. It was the implication that, “He is good, he will go far. You,.. no expectations.” He even showed his lack of confidence in me by, at the last minute, taking away resources I needed to complete my thesis. At the time, I interpreted/used the criticism as a sort of a shot to get fired up and get the job done, but now, in retrospect, I see it as abuse that my male colleagues never got, abuse which gradually wore me down to the point that after leaving his group and successfully completing 2 independent projects, I quit academic work entirely, even though there was a path forwards and even though I could see that, looking back, I had been smarter than those guys I had been competing with and feeling lesser than. My work was objectively better. My advisors never encouraged me to feel that way though and when my faith in the value of the work waned, I had no ego reserves to bring it back.