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3 Survival Tips For Women In IT

The technology industry -- especially the networking field -- can be an awfully isolating place for a woman. I offer three ways to cope.

After reading the latest horror story of “woman’s STEM career gone bad,” I was particularly surprised by one of the reactions to the sordid account of former GitHub employee, Julie Horvath. When I posted the news report to one of my social media accounts, the only negative response came from another woman, a highly educated former classmate, who conveyed skepticism and her belief that Horvath might have attracted the harassment. I replied that unfortunately I didn’t find this story surprising at all, just depressing.

What I didn’t say was how disappointed I felt by the lack of empathy in her response; it felt like one more expression of personal scorn. I was accustomed to receiving this type of response in the male-dominated tech community. But I expected compassion, not suspicion, from my accomplished female acquaintance.

The worst thing about being a STEM woman is the professional loneliness I experience most days. It’s alienating to look out over a sea of male faces, never seeing myself mirrored back. At some jobs, it has been common for me to go entire days without ever interacting with another woman, unless working with administrative staff.

While there seems to be a few more women in IT, they still haven’t managed to permeate some of the more testosterone-laced domains, such as networking. And when I finally do manage to secure a spot on a technical team with another female, we don’t really know how to relate to each other. 

Read the rest of the article on Network Computing.

Michele Chubirka, also known as Mrs. Y, is a recovering Unix engineer with a focus on network security. She likes long walks in hubsites, traveling to security conferences, and spending extended hours in the Bat Cave. She believes every problem can be solved with a "for" ... View Full Bio
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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2014 | 3:15:14 PM
Mentor, don't hate
The problem with women in IT is the same problem in any other industry - women are not socialized to, nor encouraged, to help other women.  Instead, as evidenced by Julia Horvath's experience at GitHub, they pile on the contempt when another woman attempts to bring attention to the vast inequalities and outright discrimination against women in tech. The solution lies in continuing to work tirelessly for a gender neutral environment and raising our daughters to seek out meaningful friendships with other women instead of encouraging the catty/petty behavior they see on TV.
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