Following up on the previous post about the deepening dearth of women in the software industry, here are some incidents of outright sexism that the Cranky Product Manager has encountered in this industry.
Admittedly, most of these are pretty mild. After all, she doesn’t feel she was every denied a promotion or made less salary because she was female. She was never pressured to “do” anyone. And she honestly believes that the overwhelming majority of men she has worked with really WANT to see more women in technical and product roles, and to see them advance.
And no, The Cranky Product Manager never reported any of these incidents to HR. Maybe she should have, but – let’s face it – it probably wouldn’t have changed things anyway.
(From here on, I’m changing to writing in the first person, away from the official “Cranky Product Manager third person,” in order to help emphasize that these things REALLY happened to me.)
1. Being one of the 4 engineers in an R&D group of 20 that were not invited to the big industry tradeshow in Vegas. Three of the four of the “left behinds” were women, and all 16 that attended were guys. The excuse was that we women would not have had fun, and they didn’t think we’d want to attend anyway since most of what they did was go to strip clubs. (The group came back from Vegas with lots of awesome research project ideas, triggered by their conference experiences. Experiences that we women missed out on.)
2. Booth babes at trade shows. Every year. And having people assume that the _I_ am a know-nothing booth babe who doesn’t know HTML from NoSQL.
3. Account managers asking me to please flirt with a prospect’s tech guys on sales calls and referring to me as “Nerd Bait.” Because “those guys get off on geeky chicks.”
4. Attending a Sales Kick-Off party where the CEO hired an “actress/comedienne” to perform / strip for the company. (You see, she only got down to her bra and panties, so it was “okay.”)
5. Scantily clad women (no men!) dancing in cages (and sometimes in bathtubs) and groping each other, at the “big party” every year at the Annual User’s Conference for customers and partners.
6. Having the skeevy, drunk Division GM, dressed as Santa Claus, basically force me to sit on his lap during the Christmas party. For an excrutiatingly long three minutes.
7. At one of my first jobs, being referred to as the “Build Mistress.” This isn’t bad in itself, because I was indeed the Build Master/Mistress. But the dominatrix jokes (and white board doodlings) stopped being funny after the 25th repetition.
8. As an engineer at an early-stage startup, being sent home to change and scrub the makeup off my face prior to a meeting with prospective Venture Capitalists. Because the VCs would never believe that I was a serious engineer if I wore a skirt.
9. Having every visitor to my startup’s office assume I was the office manager just because I was the nearest female to the door, even though you had to walk past 6 or 7 men to get to me.
10. When interviewing at a startup with no female employees, I attended a “company meeting” to get a feel for the culture. The VP of Engineering dropped the F-bomb and a few other swears (big deal!). But THEN the speaker turned to me and said, “Excuse me! I didn’t realize we were in MIXED company.” Later he made a blow job joke and said “Oops! I keep forgetting we’re in MIXED company!”
Way to make a girl feel at home! Keep pointing out she’s different than everyone else, under the guise of “politeness.” And PLEASE, I drop more F-bombs before breakfast than that douchebag does in a week. (this is not a good thing, but it is what it is.) Needless to say, I did not join this company.
Software Sisters, add your own experiences in the comments!