what it’s like to be the white geek girl

I develop software for a living.  I love what I do.  There never a dull moment.  If you’re not writing code, testing, or fixing bugs, then you’re learning something new.

Thursday was typical for this geek girl.  Six of my team went to a RAC Hands-on Workshop that was for database administrators.  Several of the guys carpooled together from the office or their homes.  No one asked the only female if she wanted to carpool and guess who got lost?  Yep, me.  Damn Google Maps!

I get to the workshop and go into the lab.  I am the only female.  I am the only developer.  I am only one of two people in the class who is not a foreign national.  Even the instructors were foreign nationals.

The morning was a struggle for me.  It was a lecture.  Not being a DBA, a lot seemed like a strange language to me.  Also, the instructor had a very thick accent which I had a hard time understanding. It’s difficult enough to understand something you know very little about, but when you can’t understand what words are being said, it makes it doubly hard.  I’m sure when Americans are in a foreign country, the native-born probably have a hard time with our accents also.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not prejudice.  It’s just hard working with so many men from others cultures.  Cultures where women are treated differently than they are here in America.  It sometimes gets tiring not really being treated as part of the team.  I am used to working with all men, but the state seems to have a very high percentage of foreign nationals in IT, and that is new to me.

After the lecture was a lunch break.  Naturally, I ate alone.  The rest of my team went out for lunch, but they wouldn’t think to ask a female to go with them.  It’s not that they don’t like me or treatment me with respect.  I think they are just unsure how to deal with a strong, smart, independent female.  I used the time wisely and started reading all the instructions on setting up a RAC database environment.

After lunch, everyone got started on building their environments.  Although I don’t think I will ever be doing this, I was having fun. Everyone was asking each other questions and seeing how everyone else was doing.  I knew from chatting with others, as we were building our individual environments, that I was doing well.  I was even with some and ahead of others, but no one was any further ahead than I was.  Next time I turned around, everyone was gone!  Even one of the instructors had left!  It wasn’t even close to the time for the workshop to end.

I figured I may as well leave, as I really didn’t need the experience.  I’m sure the instructor was ready to leave also.  I thanked him and told him that, as a non DBA, I got a good understanding of RAC environments.  He was surprised to learn I wasn’t a DBA.  He also thought my manager had a good idea in sending me as it will make it easier for me to communicate with my DBAs.

I walked out alone.  I was ready to be out of there.  I was ready to go home.  I was ready to get back into the world where men talked to women and treated them as equals.

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9 Responses to what it’s like to be the white geek girl

  1. barb19 says:

    Interesting story Shell. Sadly, it seems we women still have a way to go as regards equality.

    • Seashell says:

      Unfortunately, that’s true. It seems like no matter how far women rise, it’s still a struggle to be treated equally, although the slights are minimal compared to what they used to be.

  2. melsar93 says:

    I Don’t want to dismiss your perceptions, but the part about not getting invited to lunch and the carpool sounds familiar to me. I think people pick up on introverts and think we don’t want to get invited to be a part of the group. Of course it doesn’t help that it is true half the time.

    • Seashell says:

      Maybe you’re right on that. I never thought of it that way. And yes, it is true half the time. I’ve just never had the problem in other jobs.

      • melsar93 says:

        Which isn’t to say it isn’t hard to be a woman in technology. Very often I look around and there is only one woman in the room at meetings. Of course it is usually my boss. Have you looked at joining any organizations like NCWIT (http://www.ncwit.org). I know of several women in the SQL Server realm who have used this as a springboard to create a SQL Women in Technology group.

  3. I witness alot of this behaviour towards women in Portugal. Even the shop assistants talk past me and to my husband. Just yesterday, I was walking in a door as a Portuguese worker was walking out. I was inivisible. He barged passed me. I turned on him and said don’t Portuguese men have manners or are you all peasants? Sorry, he made me so mad but he did not speak English and I did not even receive a backward glance.

    Good for you Shell for not being initimidated by these men. As for not even inviting you out to lunch as part of the course team that is just plain ignorant and damn right rude! But if you were the only white geek girl it does not surprise me at all. If you were the only black geek girl it would have been classed as racist. This is what I can’t understand it works both ways. I would not dream of treating anyone differently because of their colour, religion or gender. It would have cost them nothing to ask you but it would ahve been your choice to refuse.

    I’d love to be a geek 🙂


    • Seashell says:

      Most people do not believe there is such a thing as reverse discrimination. I know first hand that there is. My brother applied to the county fire department for years. Every year, he took the test and made high scores, but they would hire people less qualified then he was, with lower scores, because they had to keep a certain racial balance in the department. Is that not totally stupid? Regardless of your race, wouldn’t you want the most qualified fire fighters to show up at your house? Are you going to stand there and make a tally of each race or are you going to be praying the fire fighters rescue anyone inside and get the fire out?

      • They call it “positive” discrimination in the UK. The PC brigade actually cause racial disharmony. I would not discriminate against any individual as I am a strong believer everyone is equal in the eyes of God and as such should be treated in a fair and respectful manner.
        The world is one big melting pot and to be honest while you ahve positive discrimation they will not iradicate racism, because the poewers that be cause it. I like people for who they are and their core values. Colour or creed does not come in to it. However, your brother’s story does not surpirse me, becuase when I was trying to organise a training course and was selling plaes. The fire chief of a station told me this himself. If I was an ethnic minority I would like to get a job on my own merits, not because of my skin colour and earn the respect of my peers, not demand it. But we do not live in a simple world…sigh…get rid of the do gooders and everyone would get on just fine 🙂

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