It’s one thing to intellectually know that this stuff is happening, constantly, and another to be read another woman’s story, see the exact details, all the things that match up to your own experience. The threats – overt or more subtle – and senior leadership not giving a shit. To see the PR blitz, because there’s always a PR blitz, and then see the tweet about the smear campaign that goes with the PR blitz and be like. Oh. Of course. That too.
My post All the Shades of Unsurprised got a lot of traffic last week. But you know what else did? The one I wrote about leaving tech in 2014. Of being driven away by all this bullshit. Of deciding not to take anymore.
I must have spent a year thinking about that blogpost before I wrote it. I sat on it for months before publishing it. Nearly three years later, that piece is still going. The industry hasn’t changed.
I’ve changed, though.
I chose the management track because I realised that the best way for me to be part of an inclusive team is to run one. I picked smaller companies and leaders who exhibited some degree of awareness. I learned to be more reassured by the phrase “we’ve fired people for harassment” than “nothing has happened here”. I realized that I care more about numbers for women in leadership roles than gamed metrics of overall representation. I chose working remotely because in an office there’s a constant, visual, reminder that I’m in the minority. Also I would have to get dressed and brush my hair every day. But sometimes I feel like I failed because it wasn’t a free choice, I didn’t look at management vs staying an IC and feel like I could do either. I chose the route I felt was survivable.
And I worked hard to identify the ways that being a woman in tech, experiencing the things that we all seem to experience, and watching those things happen to my friends, too, had made me a less good, less nice, person. And then I worked hard on them, on not being damaged by that whole experience. Because it turns out, that becoming a jerk is a normal reaction to being treated badly by jerks. And the only person who was going to fix that, was me.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my job. I love building functional and inclusive teams. But I wish I knew what it was like to be an engineer on a functional team, in a supportive environment. Where I didn’t regularly feel other or put up with overt, or “nice” sexism.
There’s this collective trauma here, and it’s not from one incident. The myriad effects create a map that explains the careers we have – or haven’t had. The choices we made, and the ones we didn’t believe were there. And the systematic inequity of opportunity that it seems will never go away.