Today is International Women’s Day and it seemed an opportune time to write a blog about my experiences as a woman working in IT for the past 20 plus years, I have categorised my experiences as the good, the bad and the ugly.
I have never known a situation where I was paid less than my male colleagues, or was valued any less by any of the companies I have worked for. Maybe I have been lucky in the companies I have worked for, which have ranged from the big corporate multi-nationals, to fairly small companies. In each case they have been led and managed by people who didn’t differentiate between male and female employees. Maybe it is because I have chosen, either consciously or subconsciously, to work for companies where a sexist culture doesn’t exist. Maybe because I, as a confident woman, would have never have stood for any of that **** if it did! Whatever the reason, I genuinely cannot think of a single time where a company has treated me as an employee any differently because I am a woman.
That’s not to say I have never experienced any sexist behaviour during my career. I recall a time over 20 years ago when I was doing a PC support engineer training course in Richmond, Surrey, to gain a recognised qualification for a well-known PC manufacturer. I was the only woman on the course but didn’t take any notice of that until the very last day. We had completed the end of course exam and I was sitting in the reception area with a male colleague waiting for a taxi when the course leader stopped by to let my colleague know that we all passed the exam, even me! The implication being that by some miracle even the female had managed to pass. To be fair my male colleague was more shocked than I was!
All the ‘ugly’ memories I have of being a working woman in IT are pregnancy related, so could be treated as exceptions. I warn you now these ugly stories feature vomit, so if you are of a delicate disposition you should probably skip to the last paragraph of this blog now. I am sure one of my former colleagues at Microsoft will never forget the day morning sickness caused me to throw up right in front of him, all over my desk. This can be topped by an incident a few years later when I took the lead in the management of a major service outage for AXA, on a day known to this day as ‘Black Thursday’. I didn’t sit out the incident because of my ‘condition’ or hand it off to one of my male colleagues to deal with. It’s fair to say my stress levels were through the roof that day, dealing with some very senior stakeholders when approx. 2000 people couldn’t work due to IT issues whilst seven months pregnant. As I left that evening, I threw up all over the inside of my car.
We all know the facts and figures about how women are discriminated against in the workplace, especially in terms of equal pay. Whilst I appreciate I have not had to face this myself, I am frustrated that others have, so today I join in with International Women’s Day as we #PressforProgress and hope you will too.