Saturday, September 19, 2009

A lady in a man's world

I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it.
- Marilyn Monroe

I'm drawn to this phrase because I love being a woman, and don't want to be a man. Though there are times I've looked upon with envy as the guys just go out for a beer with nary a thought of others, while my girlfriends and I are wrought with guilt and disaster scenarios before we leave the house. But, I'm happier being the complicated woman rather than a simple minded man (*ducks*)

In my previous career, I worked with all females. Never had any issues with female managers, and actually preferred it. I had a male intern complain to me he worried about sexism and didn't think he could advance in the female dominated environment.

Once I switched into IT, I felt the change immediately. To me, gender is more powerful than race. I walk into a conference room and do a quick scan of male to female ratio and it's always less. There may be more Asians than Caucasians, but that doesn't concern me so much.

When I first joined my current company, I was thrilled with my IT team. My technical manager was a woman with three grown children, so she knew what it was like to be a working mom. My network administrator was 5'1, 120lbs red-headed ball of steel - woe is the soul who asks for permission to change access rights! Everyone quivered before her and her word was final. There were other female developers on the team as well. There was great synergy among the smart and competent women; we did have one token male developer.

Fast forward some years and personnel has changed and borders expanded. My team is national with over 10 individuals, though I work with many more. On my technical team, we have only 2 women, and I'm the only mom. Yes, we have some fathers and grandfathers, but we all know that fathers are not equal to mothers.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the battle of bloated egos. And, it is very hard to keep up with the demands of IT as a working mother. Recently, I was guiding another developer through a lengthy process 20 minutes before my daughter's Indian dance started; my client called me en route to the performance. It's when my two worlds collide that I have a problem. Can I go out for a drink with my colleagues after work? Yes, but it has to be planned so arrangements can be made. (Though, I brought my daughter along to the last one when my former boss had come)

I was travelling this week and noticed that the business travellers on the flights were mostly men. One benefit: While I can pull my suitcase in the overhead compartment 90% of the time, if there's a tall man available for 10% of the time, I'll take his help. Second benefit: I don't take up much seat so I could squeeze into the middle comfortably between the big guys.

Chivalry came into play at a recent conference where the female attendance was low. So, if I was standing at the booth waiting, I got immediate attention. And, even some cavalier men said "Please go ahead," which was great for me.

So, just because I am in a career dominated by men, it doesn't mean I want to be a man. Still like being treated like a lady (although I have crawled under desks to plug in connections, if required).


J.Doe said...

I have had positive and negative experiences with bosses of both sexes as well as co-workers of both sexes so to me gender is a non-issue because anybody of any sex can be a jerk.
Good to hear that you brought Annika to a business function after work though and nobody minded.

Indigo B. said...

Normally I don't bring her. In fact, going out with my colleagues is *my* break time. This one was ok just because of the individuals there (only 5 of them) who I've known for so many years and they've met Annika. I used to bring her to work in the morning of Halloween to show her off. And a few times where I've had to pick her up and return back to work for whatever reason. One is a grandmother so she was really happy to have a kid around.