Men and Women are Both Responsible for How Women are Treated in IT

Originally published via LinkedIn Oct 30, 2015

Leah Weitz, a marketing manager for the startup Cloudability, recently wrote a blogabout the things men have actually said to her during events. As a woman who works in IT and in marketing, I could have written that blog. Probably a lot of my women friends working in the channel could have written that blog.

Leah brought attention to something unpleasant and as is the case with most unpleasant things, the reaction was 90% supportive and 10% people telling her she should kill herself. Literally some guy who was so offended by her calling out the fact that a man said something inappropriate to her said she should kill herself. What a douche.

Bringing attention to unpleasant things is exactly the way unpleasant things change. The fact is, there is a very small minority of men who cannot grasp the fact that a woman is a human being and therefore deserving of being treated with respect. That’s all we want. Not a medal for working in IT or a round of applause when we walk in the door. Shit, I don’t even care if you stand there and think I’m stupid but have a nice ass. Just keep it to yourself. Treat me respectfully, look me in the eye when you’re talking to me, and I’m golden.

And while we are on the subject, here’s the thing about getting those ‘compliments’ at events. It makes me feel small. It startles me. It makes me take a step back, figuratively and physically. Suddenly my attention is shifted from the product I’m selling to me. I’m not there to talk about me. I’m not there to impress you and I’m not nearly as concerned about my appearance as you think I am.

While the group of men who think it’s appropriate to make comments about a woman’s physical attributes (read: her boobs) or question her ability to do her job is in fact small, it is still dangerous. But there is another dangerous group that should be addressed as well: those dude’s douchette counterparts.

There is a very small minority of women in the IT industry (and other industries, I am sure) who are doing nothing to help our collective cause. They downplay their own worth, act out of jealously and spite, step on the necks of other women, and make men feel like they have to walk on eggshells not to offend them. That only helps the cause of men who think we are dumb, catty, needy, and want special treatment.

I once experienced a woman completely disgusted that a senior executive referred to me as his “right hand man” rather than his “right had woman”. I found this ridiculous. She was so focused on the minutia bullshit of syntax that she failed to notice the victory of that moment not only for me, but for other women in our department because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.  A senior executive thought that I, a woman, was his go-to resource, the one he could count on, his problem-solving-save-my-butt-person. He could have called me his “right hand turnip” for all I cared because he didn’t say it to my male counterpart, he said it to me. And he said it in front of everyone.

Over the years, I have had some stupid things said to me. I’ve had a guy approach my booth and say, “Hey, pretty girl” like some deranged parrot. I’ve had a creepster stalker follow me to my hotel. When I worked in the trucking industry, I had a man tell me “I’m gonna need a picture of your ass next to that there truck.”

But one of the worst things I have ever heard was a female colleague say, “We’re just in marketing.” This comment made me want to puke. You know what an IT business is without marketing? Broke.

Women who discredit their role in IT are damaging that career choice for everyone in it. Whether you are in engineering, accounting, product strategy, finance, HR, customer service, or marketing you are playing a tremendous and valuable role in the growth of your company.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as #LeanIn as they come. I have a five year plan that includes me moving up the ladder as quickly and dominantly as I can while grabbing my younger female colleagues and pulling them up behind me. This is the type of woman I choose to associate with from a professional standpoint. My female friends in the workforce know how to conduct themselves in a male-dominated industry. They hold their head high, know their shit, and, if it happens, they can tolerate a crude joke. Typically by laughing at it. If some jackwagon makes an inappropriate comment directed at them personally or another woman, they handle it in the best way possible. They politely tell them to f–k off and then continue with their job. Because that is what a man would do and we just want to be treated like an equal.

Lately, I have noticed a decline in the uncomfortable moments I used to experience at work like being hit on, being called the “dumb marketing girl”, asking me if I can actually answer questions about my product, or having a colleague take credit for my work. Maybe it’s because I’m less hot than I used to be. Doubtful. Maybe it’s because I exude confidence when I speak so I’m less likely to get questions. Possibly. Maybe it’s because I try hard to work with my colleagues and not against them. Likely. But I think it’s because more men and women are becoming more aware of how their actions and words affect others and that being ‘that guy’ or ‘gal’ is not the person they want to be. Without each of us doing our part to educate others and correct our own behavior, I’d probably still be that timid “dumb marketing girl” rather than the badass IT marketing chick I am today. #Carryonwarriors.

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