Exhaustion, depression, and directionlessness

Burnt-out Rachel on a laptop, saying

Burnt-out Rachel on a laptop, saying “I don’t have the inspiration to write lecturesssss.”

Maybe if I hadn’t been so over-worked the last two years, I would be willing to stick with it longer. But, working up to 12-hour-days on days I have class, and then spending so much of my time off-campus also at a computer working – prepping, grading, answering questions, etc. – has thoroughly burnt me out.

I mean, I’ve been burnt out for well over a year, but at this point I just don’t want to continue. And it’s only the 3rd week of this semester. I know I’ll have to tough my way through this semester, just like many semesters before it, but I cannot return to this in 2019. I need something else.

But what?


Interviewer:

Interviewer: “So why do you want to work for Boring Co.?”
Rachel: “Because you exist, and you hire C++ developers.”

From software to teaching

I was miserable as a traditional, corporate software developer with traditional, 8-to-5, salaried employment. I hated feeling baby-sat since I had to be at a specific location at a specific time to do my work on a specific machine with specific tools. Hated it hated it hated it!

I hated how pointless it felt, building software that didn’t affect me, or didn’t improve things I really cared about, or were even remotely related to a topic I was even tangentially interested in.

I hated always being underpaid and underappreciated, always feeling different from everybody else, and feeling like a zombie throughout the workday.

When I began teaching (part time), I loved the freedom – I built my own curriculum, on my own machine, using tools I liked. I had to be in the classroom at a certain time, but beyond that, I was simply trusted to get my work done whenever and wherever. My best work is done from home, at my desk with my computer with my music, and not being disturbed by listening to smalltalk from coworkers on the other side of a flimsy wall in an open-office floorplan.

I loved teaching my students, and creating classes that they liked being in, that empowered them. I liked building accessible and welcoming classes, classes that understood that I’m teaching adults and they have their own lives going on, so I’m not going to assign grade based on attendance. Classes where they know that I know that they’re adults, and I treat them as such.


Rachel stands on a cliff and yells out to the world,

Rachel stands on a cliff and yells out to the world, “I’M NOT READY FOR SCHOOL TO BEGIN!!”

Teacher workload

But, over time I got more and more work. First a standard full-time load – four classes. But as the need arose, some semesters I ended up with 5 or 6 classes.

A majority of my work is done outside of the classroom, so it may seem invisible to most people. Again, it’s grading (very time consuming for programs), prepping for the next week’s classes, correcting errors/typos in slides and exercises, answering questions via email and phone, and so on.

If you reuse everything from previous semesters, students may cheat. Some things I can reuse, but I’m also always striving to make things better, so that does require work every semester to improve my slides and exercises and projects and so on.

In an effort to cut down on my grading time, I have been adding unit tests to all the projects and labs in my Data Structures class. Writing a programming assignment can take 2 – 3 days: Building the full program, building a sufficient amount of unit tests, writing the documentation, and bundling it all together.

I try my best to write clearly and give illustrations and diagrams where appropriate, I try to make sure my work is accessible and doesn’t leave students feeling completely lost. I’ve had so many teachers who were disorganized and 90% of the challenge was figuring out wtf they even wanted.


Rachel's in bed and the alarm goes off. Rachel looks disheveled;

Rachel’s in bed and the alarm goes off. Rachel looks disheveled; “Ugh can I not do today, plz??”

Student workload

Additionally, my employment as a teacher at a community college – adjunct or full-time – depends on me actively working towards a Masters degree in Computer Science.

I completed one semester at KU, taking an undergrad class and the orientation class.

The second semester, I dropped the grad-level Machine Learning class within the first month because I didn’t have enough time to complete the time-consuming hand-based computations (things that we should be programming a machine to do, but okay…).

The third semester, I dropped the grad-level Visualizations class within the first month because I bombed the first homework assignment because I also did not have enough time to figure out and work through all the computations and the programming assignment, and the drive to KU is 40 minutes at best, and I had to pay hourly for parking, and with my full-time employment it just was not doable for me.

I dropped out.

This semester, I’ve begun at UMKC. I’m taking Advanced Software Engineering, which is doable. I can get through this semester and I can work with a small team to build an app. Piece of cake. Also, UMKC is 10 minutes away, I went here for my undergrad, I know the campus and some of the faculty, and I’ve even worked here previously as an adjunct.

While the instructor of the class still assumes that the grad students are only students and not working three part-time jobs (teaching, teaching, and running a startup), it’s doable. It’s more accessible. But it’s still frustrating.

And it’s not really what I want.


(In 2002...) College employee:

(In 2002…)
College employee: “You’ve been accepted to community college! What will you major in?”
Rachel: “Oh, uh…” (Didn’t think about it.)
Rachel: “I like computers? So, that?”

Where to go?

I don’t really want another degree in computer science. I’m not really that interested in pure Computer Science theory anymore. Heck, I’m not even that interested in the idea of teaching Computer Science anymore – actually, I’m feeling rather adverse to it at this point.

I’m interested in linguistics. I’m interested in entrepreneurship. I’m not interested in software development for other people/businesses, and I’m not interested in teaching anymore; at least, not until I’ve had a good and thorough break. Maybe again in the future.

Sometimes I think I should go back to doing software development for a bit – it’s good pay, and I’d be able to come home and just veg-the-fuck-out for once. I wouldn’t be able to continue going to school, though. And if I dropped out, I’d be denying myself the option of the “back up career” of teaching. Maybe I’ll want to teach again in another 10 years? Or in my retirement age? So I don’t quite want to deny Future-Rachel that option.

But the idea of going back to work full-time as a software developer feels like a step back. It’s not what I want, and it would continue to steal time away from things that are really important to me, although not very lucrative right now: My startup. Learning about linguistics and languages. Projects revolving around educational games, language preservation, and so on. Volunteering for good causes. Raging against capitalism.

I could do contract work, or part-time software development (if such a thing even exists; it’s super rare if it does.) For a contract job, I’d probably have to find some other people to work with, I wouldn’t want to do it alone, and I probably wouldn’t want to be the one in charge. I’d need a human buffer who can translate human requirements into programming features, because I don’t need that kind of stress in my life right now. I’d probably need a second programmer to help split the work so we’re not over-encumbered by what should be an alternative to the 8-to-5, 40+ hr/week development job.

Or, I can be a contractor at an established company for a short amount of time. Usually, companies dislike my history of working here-and-there for 6 months at a time, but maybe it’s fine for a contractor. At the end of this year, I’ll have been teaching at my community college for 3 years now, so I can stay somewhere as long as I’m happy.

I wouldn’t mind being the “all-tech” person at a small business that doesn’t revolve around software. Like fixing the business’ computers and updating their website and making little utilities to help make life easier. That sounds fun. Some Kansas City small business, hire me as your techie.

But going back full-time just … doesn’t seem right. I don’t think I could even begin to tolerate it. What I’ve wanted to do, since I was 12 years old, is just run my own company. But I also have to pay bills.

Rachel:

Rachel: “This is how I think a business should be run.”
Guy: “Yeah, we do the complete opposite of all of this.”


Rachel is looking at their calendar. Rachel:

Rachel is looking at their calendar.
Rachel: “It’s a miracle! I’m not 100% busy this week!”

Fragmented focus

Here’s what I actually want: Time to build some educational games, and focus on those games. Focus on making them and marketing them. Focus on getting the word out. Focus on maintaining them. Focus on making them a viable product to sell.

And keep working at it. And keep trying. And keep going until I succeed in making some amount of money.

 

But with the way my life is, with having to work full-time, or be going to school, or whatever else, I can’t. I literally cannot, because my focus is so fragmented. I am constantly switching between planning for this class, or that class, or the other, or switching into student-mode and focusing on lectures and doing homework. When I’m home and allow myself a bit of free time alone, I pursue projects I can complete within a day, within a few hours: Drawing, writing a comic, making the odd YouTube video, programming a small experiment or utility, and so on.

We’re all working on visual novels this year, and we’ve been getting them done with our once-a-week meetings. But, I still don’t have time to focus on the marketing, or much of anything. Artwork here and there for the games, getting them published and on a store, and not much else.

We stop working for weeks at a time because we’re all so busy. And even when I neglect the things I want to be doing, I’m still completely overwhelmed by work. Work work work work work. If I take a Sunday to spend time with friends, the regret hits me the next day as I’m even more overwhelmed and under pressure.

 

I’m tired. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to build cool things, useful things, educational things, fun things. I want to have a chance to make it work. And I’m so depressed because I still have 14 weeks left of class – the semester has only just begun.

Common arguments re: Women in Tech

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ You know, I get really tired of seeing these same arguments every time anybody mentions the lack of women in tech. Like we can’t just discuss it on its own, a group of people need to swoop in and immediately start throwing around these examples; it isn’t a problem, women are just that way! — And, of course, most of these people who claim it isn’t a problem are men. I posted one time in a YouTube video about getting women in tech and for well over a year I was receiving vitriolic replies because how dare I state that I’d like to get more girls watching my programming videos.

A posting on Facebook by Chuck. It says, “A sad graphic for women in Comp Sci.” and highlights a graph of womens’ careers, with all going up – except Computer Science, which drops in the 1980s.

Why am I posting this? Because this thread came up, while I was out minding my own business, and made my day worse by spiking my anxiety and stress level.

The post itself – not a big deal, just showing a graphic of women in CS going down since the 1980s. Instead of asking “why the 1980s?” the thread was immediately taken over by men explaining it is not a problem. It’s womens’ faults; they’re just not into it. If you try to push them into it, then you’re a horrible person.

Completely ignoring the graph and the question – why was it going up, and then fell in the 1980s?

And I’ve dealt with this before. Two years ago, I posted a comment on YouTube that I still received responses to up until 7 months ago, along the same lines. My post about girls interested in tech was met with the same hate and anger that I dare even bring such things up. And YouTube comments aren’t the only place you’ll hear this shit. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you bring up a pipeline problem or a retention problem, you’re the bad person for trying to force girls and women into the field. Why are you bringing this up? It is a non-issue!

Women just aren’t that into tech.

Content warning: Sexism, racism, transphobia.


As a note: I, myself, identify more as genderfluid… mostly agender, but professionally I present myself as feminine and use feminine pronouns and whatever else because correcting people just isn’t that important to me. So for this I am speaking as a woman in tech.


Exhibit A: Women and men are just wired differently.

actuatedgear posts, “You DON’T. You just don’t. By and large, women are NOT programmers. Its not because they cant. Its because they don’t. They don’t want to. It is contrary to their biological tendencies on average to work at ALL, let alone in a highly specialized, highly technical field.”

Radel Gratereaux Gautreaux posts, “Has it ever ocurred to you that, maybe, you don’t need to even that out?
You know, the hole feminism thing… wasn’t about women doing what they want? If they don’t want videogames as much as men do, then that’s their decision.”

There are a lot of reasons why there aren’t a lot of women in tech. There’s a pipeline problem (exposure, education, encouragement), as well as a retention problem (being a woman and/or a person of color in a male-dominated field is exhausting).

Role models – Women can program, and they do program, and women have been part of computer science since the beginning – but how many of you know that? How many womens’ names are swept under the rug in the history of anything, in favor of praising names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Perhaps you’ve heard of Ada Lovelace, or Grace Hopper, but what about Stephanie Shirley? There are women, queer, and PoC role-models out there in tech, but you just haven’t heard of them. Why is that?

And as much as men like to argue that, “Well, if women were really into computers, then they would just do it, even if none of the visible role-models look like them”, it is difficult – not because women are weak, no. Men get inundated with plenty of examples of role-models that look like them in one way or another; men can take it for granted. In a sense, they’re blind to the lack of diversity because they haven’t had to think about it, because they are satiated with all they need to get into the field – unless they’re a man of color.

Appearance – Another problem with tech is its appearance. I think that in our culture, we still see programmers as nerdy, 20-something white men, overly concerned with scifi television and not having much of a life outside of the internet. But in professional settings, I’ve worked with software developers with a vast array of interests. Many programmers are sporty and active, or love to travel, or do other “non-computer-nerd” hobbies. But when the images of a career field from the outside seems just like the domain of 20-something fratboys with nerf guns, not everybody wants to be part of that.

I actually wrote a lot about this in my BNE: Women in Computers essay that has more data behind it. I hear a lot of arguments that, “well if women really loved computers, they’d put up with the shit and just do it” – but life isn’t so simple, and people aren’t so simple. Some may continue pressing forward in a field despite hardships, and some may not, whether or not they love the field, like the field, are good in the field, etc. People who don’t have to deal with the countless microaggressions and overt problems just don’t see how much that can affect a person: their mental health, their happiness, their ability to focus and get things done.


Exhibit B: There’s no problem with the tech field being mostly men.

A post by Kristoffer that says, ” Women make different choices it would seem. Show me statistics that indicate any problems with that and I’d be happy to join in your sorrow. For now I’ll just respect that there are inherent gender differences which seem to include what majors each gender finds interesting to pursue. As far as I know there are virtually 0 majors which are 100% gender balanced, and with all the new genders popping up every day maybe they’ll never be.”

“Just because tech is dominated by men doesn’t mean we have to change it.”

Except that it makes better products, better workplaces, and a better environment. Bringing in people from many backgrounds can help your company solve problems or come up with unique designs, they can point out problems that a homogeneous group may overlook – for example, seat belts are less safe for women, (See: The World is Designed for Men), and some tech doesn’t work for dark-skinned people (The Reason This “Racist Soap Dispenser” Doesn’t Work on Black Skin)

You can see this in any design dominated for one group. The video, “How architecture changes for the Deaf“, was really awe-inspiring for me, and eye-opening at how our architecture is built in a specific way that presents challenges for Deaf people. If you told a group of people who were all hearing to design a building for Deaf people, do you think they would be particularly effective at it without working with Deaf people?


Exhibit C: If women really are paid less, then why don’t business only hire women?

Jacob writes, “so I could save money by hiring an all female work force? seams legit..”

Kristoffer writes, “Do you honestly believe women who are more qualified earn 20-30% less? Why aren’t companies hiring only women if they are so cheap labour? Last i checked the real number was 5-7% which might be explained by men taking more dangerous jobs and work more unsocialble hours and not indicative of systemic sexism.”

Arguments about the wage gap always lead to the same things – women work less, women take more time off, men are more willing to work long hours and not worry about work-life balance.

Work-life balance – Why shouldn’t men have the right to work-life balance as well? Why are we sitting here accepting that work-life balance is terrible in America, and say that it is the price that men pay to make more than women? Shouldn’t we demand that all of our employees are treated fairly, and given the time they need for their families and their wellbeing, regardless of gender?

Why don’t we only hire women? – And if women are paid less, why don’t we only hire women? (BONUS ROUND! This is an extreme favorite of anyone who wants to argue that the pay gap doesn’t exist) Clearly, if we just want to save money, we can just hire a bunch of women, right? You can’t argue that there’s a wage gap because clearly there’s a lack of women in tech, therefore businesses aren’t saving money on this magical resource.

Except it’s not so clear cut. There’s more that goes into hiring than just pay. We’ve all heard of the study of submitting two identical resumes, but one with a masculine and feminine name, and the one with the masculine name being preferred. Just because women may be paid less doesn’t erase the sexism and bias in the industry.

Women may be less likely to, or less effective at, negotiating for a better starting salary. Even then, when asking for raises or a better salary, they may be more likely to be rejected. Though it’s only anecdotal evidence, I have experienced this myself – after asking for raises, I’ve received excuses like, “we aren’t sure if you’re going to stick around, so we can’t pay you more” (e.g., are you loyal to us, even if we pay you shit?)

Women are held to a different standard than men, and what might be assertive for a man might be seen as bitchy for a woman. There is a larger minefield for women to navigate when trying to get paid fairly than there is for men – more challenges, more taboos, and so on.

Additionally, there are other things to consider when it comes to hiring women – companies may not be advertising their positions in the right place, or rely on word-of-mouth or references to get ahead. And if your employees are mostly male, chances are they mostly know other male programmers, and they get the referrals.

It’s not as simple as just posting to the “womens’ job board – where you can get more for less!” (not cheap enough? Try the “women of color job board”, where the wage gap is even larger!)

The wage gap isn’t that big – So being paid less is OK if it’s not that much less? What about over time? Maybe you earn $99,000 in a year and the other employees make $100,000 in a year, so you’re losing out on $1,000. “Not that bad!” – What about over a decade? $10,000. What about over 30 years? $30,000. Is that much money negligible to you? But it’s not just $30,000 – women lose out over hundreds of thousands of dollars over their careers.

Women make different choices – Again, this plays into the same problem as work-life balance. If women are largely taking a break from their careers to rear the children, then why don’t men have the same opportunity? The gender roles and sexism in our society goes deep.

Everybody should have the option to take a break and stay home with the kids. Everybody should have the option to be a stay-at-home-parent without the taboos. Our laws should be supporting workers, not make it a race to who kills themselves from overwork first.

If your argument is that women just choose lower-paying careers… why is that? If those careers are more attractive to women, then why are the jobs that appeal to women the lower-paying jobs? Why are the jobs that appeal to men the higher-paying jobs? That opens up a whole new layer: We value “mens'” work more than “womens'” work? How do we decide the value of any given field?

And finally, what about the women who aren’t taking breaks for building a family and are just as competitive as men? The pay gap still affects them.

See also:

  • Myth Busting the Pay Gap, the U.S. Department of Labor blog This addresses a lot of these,including:
    • “Saying women only earn 77 cents on the dollar is a huge exaggeration”
    • “There is no such thing as the gender pay gap – legitimate differences between men and women cause the gap in pay, not discrimination.”
    • “But the pay gap is not my problem. Once you account for the jobs that require specialized skills or education it goes away.”
    • “Women are responsible for the pay gap because they seek out flexible jobs or choose to work fewer hours. Putting family above work is why women earn less.”
  • Is the Gender Pay Gap Real?

Exhibit D: Actually, men have it harder.

Anthony states, “#femaleprivilege means women are more often encouraged to seek jobs they enjoy, whereas #maleexpectation means men tend to seek jobs they can be successful in. It relates to the idea that men see women as sex objects and women see men as success objects.”

Oh man. Does someone else want to take this one for me?


Exhibit E: Men bring home the bacon.

Richard posts, “Programming in the 1980’s was just starting to take off as a viable career path. As a result, it was flooded with men seeking employment in a new stable industry. Men are the breadwinners in most relationships due to countless reasons.”

Women have had careers since the 1930s, with a dip in that after World War 2 when men came home from war, and then a resurgence again after that. At least since the 1980s, women have had careers and been supporting themselves, and often women and men are both required to work to pay bills, raise a family, and so on.

Women have to support themselves just as much as men do, and there are plenty of single parents, or just single childless people, who want to be paid the same as their counterparts. “This man has to take care of his family” isn’t a legitimate reason that he should be paid more than a woman.

As far as it “just starting to take off as a viable career path” – we didn’t begin having programmers in the 1980s. We had programmers since we’ve had mainframes, and for a long time programmers were primarily women – programming was the womens’ work, the feminine side of computers. Men handled the hardware.

Once programming became more prevalent, men started pushing women out of the industry to make room for themselves…

What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”

From “Computer Programming Used To Be Women’s Work”, from Smithsonian.com

And with the rise of personal computers in the 1980s and marketing targeting boys over girls, girls were implicitly taught that this isn’t for us.


Exhibit F: Men have to lift heavy things.

“We don’t need to bring women into tech because they’re also not doing physically demanding work like construction.”

In male-dominated fields men like to have a certain type of culture. When I was hired at a web startup, the guy programmers were afraid that, because the boss hired a woman, they would have to begin to police how they talk.

Can women be construction workers? Of course they can. Anyone can train their body to become stronger, or learn the technical parts of the job, or do physically demanding labor. That’s not the problem with the fields.

But when men want to keep women out, when they want the workplace to be a “man’s world” and not have to worry about the language they use, they will make the workplace unwelcoming.

It’s easy for men to shrug it off and say, “Well she should just have a thick skin”. Why? Why should anybody have to deal with abuse and harassment just to do a job? Men shouldn’t have to participate in toxic masculinity to prove that they’re “man enough” to be an electrician, and women shouldn’t have to deal with it. Why can’t workplaces be safe spaces?

See also:


Exhibit G: Why do men have to work on the gender imbalance?

Anthony writes, “This gender gap certainly does annoy me. The tech industry is crying out for more talent. This isn’t the 1950’s any more. It is 2017, and time women started committing to filling the tech skills shortage, rather than expecting men to do all the heavy lifting.”

“The oppressed need to do all the work to combat their oppression.” – A common sentiment.

Why should men bother to worry about inequality in STEM fields?

Because it’s the right thing to do.

Because making the world better for women makes the world better for everyone? (However, Nothing says misogyny like defining feminism as equality for all – Marcie Bianco)

Because we all need to examine our culture and see the problems that women face in tech, in order to fix the problem? (Ignoring it won’t make it go away…)

And we’re not expecting men to do the heavy lifting – we are already doing the heavy lifting. We are asking men to do the minimum possible: to stop ignoring the issues, and to offer us support. To be an ally, instead of acting like it doesn’t concern you, so why bother. Help us, instead of sweeping the problems under the rug to spare yourselves discomfort. Stop blaming us for systemic sexism just to spare your own ego.


Exhibit H: Womennagging is never helpful / watch your tone

Rachel writes, “THIS is why there’s a problem with women in tech. THIS is why I’m sick of hearing all your guys’ shit. I’ve heard all of this before, because any time anyone so much as HIGHLIGHTS that there’s a problem, you all need to swoop in and protect your egos by saying that there can’t POSSIBLY BE A PROBLEM – IT’S THE WOMENS’ FAULT. HEY RACHEL, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BE A FEMINIST-NAZI AND FORCE WOMEN INTO COMPUTER SCIENCE? Instead of discussing why there was a dropoff in the 1980s we immediately jump to WELL WOMEN JUST DON’T LIKE TECH. DUH. And what do you think girls and women think of when they see a thread like this? Maybe if they’re not aware of our culture and human psychology, girls will think it’s not for them… or at least see the price of entry: constantly fighting this shit. Women? If they’re already in tech, maybe they’re sick of it by now. So many women leave tech. There’s a pipeline problem AND a retention problem. We have to deal with this shit constantly, and you guys can’t just sit down and LISTEN to our stories. You have to exclaim that it’s womens’ faults, that’s just how women are, that men need to “bring home the bacon”. Excuse me? When have women been relying on men as the sole provider of the household? Not in my lifetime! I and most other women need to make some fucking money to support our-fucking-selves.”. Anthony responds with, “And man-hating rants like that merely reenforce a prejudice that you are incapable of debating facts. Womanagging is never helpful.”

From the article on Tone Policing, from Wikipedia:

Tone policing (also tone trolling, tone argument and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem and antidebate appeal based on genetic fallacy. It attempts to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.

In Bailey Poland’s book, Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online, she suggests that tone policing is frequently aimed at women[1] and attempts to derail or silence opponents who may be lower on the “privilege ladder”.

Telling us over

Mario says, “Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”

and over

Marco states, ” Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”; I respond by asking, “are you literally unable to comprehend what I’m saying because you’re too distracted by my frustration?”

and over

Mario responds, “Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

and over again

Mario states, “Rachel I never suggested that the onus was on you. Of course the onus is on me to understand. But when it comes to discussing with allies, who cares who’s onus is who’s? Our goal is to solve the problem at hand together. This is why attempting to put our emotional tenseness aside will greatly help our effort for all of us.
But in the end, you can choose to be frustrated, and I’ll still be willing to try and understand your perspective; I won’t bow out from that just because you feel frustrated.
But just know that remaining frustrated will negatively affect my ability to discuss productively with you. In the end, this is a team effort, no?”

that we need to follow your rules to have you buy into helping us is sexist. – Yes, that is sexist.

We don’t actually believe that you’ll listen to our point of view if only we make it more palatable to you; when you say that, we hear, “I want to make myself feel better! I’m not sexist, I just require debate to make me comfortable. Even if you’re uncomfortable, it is up to you to present your point of view, something very personal to you, in a way that is welcoming for me. I need you to welcome me before I can welcome you!”

Mario writes, “Rachel so because we’re not women, that means we’re automatically the enemy? If that’s true, then that’s very disappointing, because we want to be part of the solution with you guys. If you disallow us, then we’ll unfortunately have to find more willing people to solve it with.”

“Clearly, I would help you eradicate sexism, if only you’d be nice to me!”

See also:


Exhibit I: There are male dominated fields and female dominated fields.

TheMikel333 writes, “Well, there may be other reasons, but I don’t necessarily think they’re tied to feminism or misogyny. Just like there are many professions or areas where males are dominant, there are female ones alike. I’m taking computer programming myself, and there are very few females in most of the courses, true, but I’m also taking an elective course about “Fairy Tales”, and guess what, 80% of the class is occupied by females. Maybe we should just accept that not everything that’s male dominant is a byproduct of oppression and ostracization.”

I’ve already talked about this in the “men bring home the bacon” point (Exhibit E), but perhaps the reason that women avoid certain fields isn’t that they’re not naturally interested in those fields – maybe it’s because the dominant group actively or passively make others feel unwelcome.

This can be dealing with explicit sexism: “Women aren’t as good at math as men.”, “Hey, sexy.”

Or implicit sexism: “There’s not really a problem with sexism in tech, and discussing it is a waste of time.”, “We hire for talent, not diversity.”, “I would be on your side if you just accommodated me properly.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


Exhibit J: I’d be an ally, but…

Mario writes, ” Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

And I’ll just paste in my response…

You’re clearly not very well versed in being an ally, then, if these are your arguments… “I want to be an ally but…” types are all over, no matter that oppressed group they’re trying to support.

It’s another way that people try to shift the blame to the oppressed group, “you’re not calm enough”, “I WANT to listen but I can’t with your attitude”, “I was going to support you buy you’re not friendly to me” – I hear these things a lot.

The onus is not on us to help you understand, the onus is on you to listen and contemplate and understand. The onus is on you to strive to do the right thing, even if the oppressed party isn’t all buddy-buddy with you. The onus is on you to do the research and BE an ally, not an ally-wannabe.

See also: Exhibit H


Honorable mentions

I’m not going to leave off some of the “yes, this is a problem” comments from the Facebook thread that inspired this post. There are some good points in the points as well, and can help illustrate how exasperated we feel when having to deal with this. Notice that everyone who states “this isn’t a problem” are almost always men, and even when women or femme people step forward and say “yeah, this is a problem”, the not-a-problem-ers fight tooth-and-nail to not be proven wrong.

Heather writes, “Let’s see: some customers voiced their opinions that they wanted a male tech instead. Some customers wanted to pay me literally nothing. I never once made the 6 figures college claimed I’d make. Oh, and work/life balance? Hah, forget that: I was on call 24/7/365, even when “off.” And you wonder why more women aren’t staying in computer science?”

Simone writes, “‘Its just the way of the world’….oh come on, you can do better than that. Passive acceptance of this kind of thing and excusing it /colluding with it/ not even seeing there is a problem simply perpetuates the crap that any minority or marginalised group has to put up with. I know, let’s pay anyone but straight white males less, restrict their opportunities and make life difficult when they do venture out of their assigned roles so as to perpetuate the status quo – we can occasionally wring our hands and say its not good but we will still collude and accept it after all – its always been that way. Shit tons of human talent and potential wasted. Bah humbug!”

Simone’s thread blew up; “I can see why you want to be anonymous!” (it’s Facebook, they only are denying having their picture as their profile pic), “Men just go after the higher-paying jobs!”, “Oh, I’M the rude one, eh?”, “There are a lot of Indians in tech… guess it’s their dark-skinned privilege, eh?!”

Raymond responding to the tone policing toward Rachel, ” It doesn’t matter how many facts are provided. Since the problem doesn’t affect you, they will be dismissed in the name of ‘debate.’
Read Rachel’s blog post linked in the thread, and you will see the facts presented for you.
But I doubt they’ll make a dent, because the assumption and argument is always some variant of, ‘well that’s the way things are.’
No women in a boardroom? Women don’t like business.
No women pilots? Their wombs will fall out at high g.
No black people in government? Black people aren’t interested in politics.
Instead of automatically taking the, ‘that’s just the way things are’ approach, the burden is on you to consider that, all humans being equal, there will be some in every subset that like the same things.
If you don’t see people from every subset involved in a particular career, don’t just ‘Oh well!’ it. Especially when those underrepresented in the field tell you it’s a problem.”

Another example that [almost-]everyone who argues “it isn’t a problem!” is a man, and those who argue, “it is a problem!” are men and women.


We’re tired.

I compiled this post because I need something to link people to, I guess. I have another article I wrote about the lack of women in computer science (BNE: Women in Computers) but just having that isn’t adequate. I’m so tired of responding to the same arguments over and over, and it never ends.

We’ve heard these arguments so much.

If this post made you feel tired, imagine how I feel.


How you can actually be an ally and help us

Listen. The first step is to actually listen to people, and listen to a lot of people, and consider what they’re saying. Store their statements in your memory for later, so that you have some context for where we are coming from and the struggles we face next time they arise.

Swallow your ego. You don’t need to respond to every argument, and you don’t need to make sure that you feel secure and happy as the priority in a discussion. This is very common with any ally trying to learn about an oppressed group. Don’t worry about your ego, don’t worry if you’re uncomfortable or a bit insecure with what is being said. Just listen.

Talk to your group. Your job isn’t to prove to the oppressed group that you’re “one of them” or that you “get it”. Your job is to talk to your group (e.g., men at work) about the problems. Your job is to call out sexism when you see it. Your job is to show your group that not everybody is like them and not everybody agrees with them. For example, if a man calls out another man for saying something sexist, then you are also communicating that not everybody in his in-group agrees with him, and he can’t have a safe space to be sexist, that he needs to reflect on what he said and why he said it.

Amplify. Rather than rewording the oppressed point of view in your own words like you’re writing a college essay, amplify the oppressed voices. Retweet, share their posts, and distribute their message in their voices.

Why? If you’re asking “Why?”, then you’re not yet an ally.

For further reading…:


Have something to add?

If you have some screenshots or examples you’d like to add, or some statements regarding one ot the exhibits you’d like to add, please let me know and I’ll add your comment with credit to the post. I think it would be nice to aggregate responses in this post because we’re all tired of dealing with this, and I can only utilize my brain so much to come up with so many statements.

Rachel@Moosader.com


Links

Articles linked to in the blog post

More fun stuff to read

Miscellaneous things that you may want to read.


Edits

GR3

Dear public internet diary,

Today I decided to pay for the GRE fee with my credit card, because I need to get the test over with so I can apply to colleges before the September – December deadlines, but I don’t think I’ll have the spare cash in June. (The financially awkward part of being an adjunct instructor is not quite knowing how pay is going to go when going between semesters)

Why is the exam so dang expensive? I will already most likely need to take out loans for college itself. I will have to do research into scholarships and assistantships. Sigh. I still have loans from my BS, and from the last two times I tried to get into gradschool for different areas. I thought that I had to pay off these loans before I could move onto the next thing, but it is clear that this debt will be with me for a while – so why let it stop me? I’ll just go back to school, gain more debt, and then once I have a career that I’m happy with, then I can spend the rest of my life paying it off. 😛

I’m looking forward to going back to school, I guess. I’m building a new career, or a couple new careers, because the life of a corporate software engineer doesn’t suit me. Since I’ve quit and been working on my startup and as an adjunct, and been on an antidepressant, I’ve been so happy – probably happier than I’ve been in years. I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not having an established career at the age of 28, but eh… who really has their shit together in their 20s anymore? But I have hope in my future now, once I realized that I don’t have to keep doing the same kind of work – the 8-to-5 open-floorplan boring but stressful programming work. I’m no longer making anywhere near $90k/yr, I’m trying to figure out how to manage my finances on a tight budget, but at least I’m not withering away anymore.

On Being a Woman and Negotiating Salary

I originally posted this to a different blog of mine, rather than my more visible one here, because this is such an awkward topic. Honestly, I’m afraid of being shamed (“It’s your own fault you’re not getting paid fairly – you never asked!” sort of thing), but I think that it’s also important to get my own point of view out there – especially for other women just starting out and who, like me, have no professional mentors to guide them.

After hearing an article on NPR about how Reddit was doing away with salary negotiations in an attempt to remove the pay gap, for the first time I asked myself the question, “…Does everybody negotiate their salary, every time?” — I had never negotiated a salary for myself; it hadn’t occurred to me that it was perhaps ubiquitous, something that you just did as part of your professional life.

So, I asked a question on my Facebook wall, regarding being a woman software developer and not knowing how to negotiate. I did receive some good advice from friends and acquaintances, so I’d like to post it for others to benefit from.


Rachel

I’ve never negotiated a salary when first starting a job. [I’ve been working professionally for 6 years as a software/web developer.] I honestly don’t know what I would negotiate for.

West coast job? $100,000 sounds sufficient, if that is what the company glassdoor page says is the average. Or am I supposed to go “no, I need $X more.” — and is that X = 1k? 5k? 10k? Etc.  It is also hard to judge because the Midwest average is so much lower.

Usually I’m just happy enough to get the offer. At the same time, I feel like I’m failing because the stereotype is that women *don’t* negotiate. Do ALL men negotiate their starting salary??

I’ve ASKED for raises at the first two of my jobs and that didn’t go over well, so I haven’t asked any more, but how often are you supposed to ask for one? Yearly?

This is something that really bugs me and I don’t know what to do.

Senta

That’s a really good set of questions, Rachel.

First off, do your research, both on Glass Door and every other site you can find. Remember that education, experience, relocation, benefits and other factors play into what you could expect.

As a rule of thumb, I’d advise you to ask for 10-15% more than they offer on principal. Even if they don’t budge on their offer, they’ll know you’re not afraid to ask. And you may be pleasantly shocked when they agree to pay more- perhaps not the full amount you asked for, but negotiating is empowering.

Long ago, someone told me that money is about respect. Get into the good habit of knowing what you’re worth. Another way of looking at this… How much would they offer/pay a man with identical education & experience? And don’t take less. Go get ’em!!

Thomas

I’ve found that whatever offer I’ve made, the company has countered with slightly less. I usually go with the average for the job, +20% because I have documentation to back up that i’m in the 90th percentile (and I’m lucky to be very good at interviewing, having been a workaholic).

Rachel

OK, when I’m offered a job, usually it’s over the phone, and I ask for a couple of days to make a decision. At what point, and HOW, do I say, “I want $X more than your offer.” ?

Senta

“I’ve had time to reflect upon your offer. I’d like to join XYZ company and I bring a lot to the table. The salary I had in mind for this position is in the X to Y range.” Then give them a chance to think about it.

If they flat-out refuse to negotiate and tell you to take it or leave it, spend a little time thinking about it. Don’t just give them a yes-or-no on the spot. Even if they indicate they can’t go higher, let ’em stew for a bit.

THIS is what generally makes women uncomfortable and why we’re perceived as poor negotiators: our inner feelings of insecurity and that we have to be nice. Guys don’t play that game- and we need to stop undermining ourselves.

Abbey

I have used getraised.com as a reference point. I like it because it gives you a bell curve based on title, location and your experience.


Oh, and since Abbey brought up getraised, I checked it out, for myself. Here are the results (I’m not squeamish about discussing my salary, btw):

raise

Makes me feel like a shmuck.

I guess the moral of the story is – nobody is going to give you fair pay out of the kindness of their heart; even if you’re not a very assertive person, you really have no choice but to demand fairness. Another good idea is, starting out, really try to find some professional women to associate with, to give you advice. I certainly did not have this.

Now I’m really depressed.


Additional Reading: