I have never met Ashe Dryden but the fact that she can’t point to a single woman like me makes me immensely sad. I’ve never felt that my experience was particularly unique but after reading recent blog posts about harassment and sexism from Sarah Parmenter, Relly Annett-Baker and several others, I’m starting to wonder if I’m the first and possibly last of my kind.
Unlike most of these ladies, I am not a public figure. I don’t speak at conferences, I haven’t written any books or been in the spotlight for anything monumental. I’m just a woman who graduated with an Engineering degree and who has worked as a software developer at a handful of different tech companies over the last 18 years.
Growing up, my father encouraged me to try my hand at all sorts of traditionally male activities. Whenever he set out to build a piece of furniture or do some maintenance on his cars, whether it be tuning the engine, replacing worn brake pads or patching up a rusted door, he’d invite me to join him. Soldering irons, voltmeters, circuit boards and electronic components littered the basement and I was welcome to try my hand at any of it should I wish. Similarly, I was introduced to LOGO and BASIC programming when those were brand new languages.
With a childhood such as mine, Computer Engineering was a perfect fit for me. I was one of 7 ladies in a class of roughly 70 students. You would think the ladies would hang out together but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Most of us made friends amongst our male classmates and never really sought the company of the others of our gender.
Throughout my university years, I considered my male classmates as big brothers I could count on to escort me around campus after dark or to help me with assignments should I need it. Similarly, they knew they could count on me for lecture notes or assignment due dates if they happened to miss a class because of my habit of writing absolutely everything down.
Yes, I would have preferred not needing to be escorted around campus after dark but given that one of my male friends was assaulted on his way home from a night class, it obviously wasn’t safe for anyone, regardless of gender, to wander around campus alone after dark.
I’ve worked for a half-dozen different software companies since graduation and have never been treated in any other manner than professionally. No, I’ve:
- Never been asked to make or otherwise serve coffee.
- Never been asked to take the minutes at a meeting unless it was a rotating responsibility and it happened to be my turn.
- Never been groped or otherwise inappropriately touched.
- Never been subjected to derogative or suggestive language.
- Never been noticeably privileged or negatively impacted due to my gender.
- Never considered myself unfairly compensated by any of my employers.
- Never felt that the value I brought into any discussion was viewed as of lesser quality than that of my male counterparts.
I’ve been privileged to work with excellent people in safe and professional environments and I’m saddened to hear that my story is such a rare one.