Friday, 30 November 2007

The Victorias

I've decided to approach this Women in IT series from a different angle. The last thing I want to do is alienate the majority of the people I work with by appearing to blame any majority out there. Instead, I would like address what women in IT can do for themselves and for other women in order to sustain and encourage each other in the IT profession.

We are social animals and no matter how socially dysfunctional geeks are accused of being, we are like anyone else when it comes to wanting to belong. We spend 1/3 of our waking hours at work with our colleagues. Unless you were lucky enough to be interviewed by (and interview back) every member of the company before you started working there, then you didn't get to choose these people and you are going to have to find a way to jell. Wanting that to happen is a natural thing.

The first error I see geek girls make when they enter the IT arena as grads or juniors is to try to fit in and be like one of the boys. That happens in one of two ways...


She starts to dress like the boys or throws away her femininity so that she isn't so painfully different. The makeup disappears. The skirts get longer or are simply replaced by black pants. The hair gets shorter. The consumption of beer and sports increases.

Victoria Beckham

She attempts to seduce and manipulate men by throwing herself at them and deferring to their every word. You also see this with female users who use a baby voice to SUBTLY ask for what they want from the boys.

Either or both of these behaviours will not gain you any respect and you won't fit in. You will actually stand out even more because you aren't behaving like a female that most people expect and will accept by default. They instead see you as someone who is different to normal girls and that can cause confusion since you are not a man either. No matter how much you remove the tell-tale signs that you are a woman - your workmates will still know it. No matter how short your skirt is or how high your voice is - your workmates won't respect your abilities because of it.

My tip is to be yourself. Geeks are not "normal" people. We gave up on that idea a long time ago. A lot of us actually despise the idea. They usually respect diversity since they belong to a minority also. Remember when computers and gadgets weren't cool? Geeks are very accepting people. Standing out is not a bad thing. You'll be remembered because you aren't like the other 95% of the industry.

You are not like the boys.

Be girly if that is who you are.

Be yourself.

Celebrate what makes you an individual.

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