Having worked as a woman in high tech for 32 years and rarely, if ever, encountering, or at least recognizing, any sort of discrimination, patronization, or hostility, I've been perplexed by all of the news reports, studies, and recent conversations about the obstacles women face in high tech careers. Until today.
During a thoughtful conversion with a new friend about what it's like to be a woman pursuing a high tech career, all of the information I've gathered over the last 57 years fell into place. Suddenly it made sense and felt profound. Maybe you've already figured things out. If not, read on.
When I entered the workforce in the mid-1980s, there were a lot of horror stories about the things women were enduring in the workplace.
One of my co-workers talked about having been selected to paricipate in a management program for high-potential new-hires with her previous employer. Participants were requierd to give a monthly presentation to a large group of managers. As a "joke", the managers lined the walls of the conference room with centerfold posters, which she encounted as she walked into the room to give her presentation for the first time. She ignored them and gave the presentation. The posters weren't there the next month. That was progress.
Another co-worker told about a time that a male colleague followed her into a storage room, closed the door behind them, and attempted to assualt her. She got away.
Just about every woman I know who is older than I am has a story ... or stories. My expectations were set early on, and I was on guard. For years.
The thing is, I didn't have any of those experiences. I don't remember people trying to embarass me or make me feel uncomfortable at work, and I was certainly never assaulted. From my perspective, there were no problems. The women before me had done the heavy lifting, they'd paved the way, and I was sincerly grateful for all they'd done so that my experiences were different. In fact, I almost always felt respected, supported, and encouraged to strive for more. I have been happily sharing my perspective with others for years; especially younger women.
In fact, many of my colleagues and friends have shared this message with the following generation. "Join us," we say. "Things have changed! You will be respected, accepted, and you will thrive."
So when the next generation does join us, it is with different expectations than we had when we entered the workplace. For them, the expectation is not only different, but higher. Much higher. The next generation of women arrives expecting to experience equality, encouragement, acceptance and more. They're not impressed when they avoid assaults or harassment.
They expect more. Much more. And I think they're going to get it.