I’m part-time IT. Our main service is troubleshooting hardware and software. Out of all the ITs, I’m the only girl. It was around the time I started that Guy 1 and I went to help a lady with her iPhone. When I happily admitted that I could be of help (I’m also an iPhone owner), he said with a smile, “Oh, finally something you know how to do.”
The lady gave me a bewildered look. At first I was shocked, but shrugged it off as a tasteless joke. Another time, one of the front desks walked in after not knowing how to deal with a broken projector. She explained the problem, then added, “I’m not sure if it’s because I’m just stupid or–”
Guy 1 quickly responds, “It’s because you’re stupid.”
I thought it would all stop after Guy 1 left for another job. Nope. Recently I encountered an older printer model and wasn’t sure how to get it to print a configuration page. I knew it couldn’t be that hard– but the client I was working with had problems besides the printer, so I didn’t want to waste time. I went back to the office and came back with Guy 2. Almost immediately I heard the machine printing.
“Oh hey! How’d you get it to work?”
I was eager to learn how he solved the problem.
“Because I’m smart,” said Guy 2.
What the hell does that mean? I turned away before all the words escaped my mouth. In that moment, the dam broke; thoughts came pouring in. What the fuck! Do you think I can’t do what you do? Who do you think you are? I looked at him as he stood unaffected, smug and nonchalant. In an alternate universe, I would’ve flipped over desks and stabbed his face with a screwdriver. What these guys said annoyed me, and it bothered me that it did, which only fueled the cycle of agitation. I gritted my teeth and cut my finger while reassembling a hard drive.
Yes, I’m new, but I’m willing to learn. How can you just insult me like that? I kept thinking repeating these incidents and others in my head, thinking they were acts of sexist discrimination. Later that day at a Korean joint:
“He just sounds like an asshole,” Erika said.
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s because you’re a girl,” Ren-Jay added. “He’s just a jerk and probably would’ve said that to anyone.”
I scavenged what little meat was on my gal-bi and swallowed.
EDIT: Both men and women are guilty of gender discrimination. During my training days, I shadowed someone to learn the ropes. When we went to help someone high up in administration, she said, “Oh, look! You’ve brought beauty and the brains.” I actually faced more gender discrimination from women than from men, but notably our clientele was predominantly female.
I have also seen male IT’s bullshit their way through many situations, basically not knowing the cause of the problem without directly saying it. The clients seem to accept this, but when I say something similar, it seems like they doubt my skill more than they do my male counterparts. Scientists and doctors can be female, teachers and nurses can be male, and IT can certainly be female, too.
The lack of equal gender representation for a profession doesn’t mean we should accept that ratio as truth, or else we may suffer from what many believe is in our ‘natural’ gender inclinations. I am not arguing that all professions should have equal gender ratios, but no one should feel discouraged to pursue a profession because of their identified gender.