As someone who still actively pursues a career in technology, I’m a little on the older side. I got started in tech when a lot of the people I know were still in elementary school. So please understand that when I write the rest of this little… rant.
I read the blog post by Susan J. Fowler the day it was posted. I’m not sure where I found it. It’s been running around and around in my head ever since, so I’m finally going to write a couple of posts on this.
Let’s Start With Age
There’s at least an implication that with age comes wisdom. Well, I’m living proof that’s total BS. However, I will agree that with age comes perspective.
The modern age has its problems. I’ve had this discussion with my kids. They grew up with many, maybe even most, of their peers having cell phones and being hooked into the “glories” of social media from a young age. My daughter had a “friend” hack into an online doll’s account and give away all the furniture & stuff my daughter had won & purchased playing whatever the heck game it was. Devastating stuff for a young girl. My son got into a few online fights with people who promptly outed the fight bringing in everyone to gang up on him. Tough stuff.
However, remember that perspective thing?
I grew up in Tulsa, OK in the 60s & 70s, a lot of it in the poorer parts of town. I never had online fights or hacks to worry about. However, I did get into fights on the school ground. I’ve come home bloody with a broken nose (more than once). From a perspective stand point, I’ll take the loss of self-esteem over the loss of blood (and self-esteem, you think there wasn’t ALSO name calling and ridicule when you got your bottom thoroughly womped?).
My kids also got into trouble at school a couple of times. Nothing huge. They aren’t criminals or monsters. They’re just human kids and they screwed up a couple of times. We had to go in and have talks with their teachers and in one case a talk with the vice-principal.
I was a pretty good kid in school. However, a couple of times, like my kids, I got in trouble. Heck, one of them, for real, I didn’t do it. That said, when I got in trouble, I actually got spanked, with a big board, that flipping well hurt. The school could actually beat children back then.
Yeah, yeah, and you walked to school through six feet of snow, up hill, both ways.
Not my point (and it was Oklahoma, no snow and very damned few hills, so there).
It Was A Better Time
And no, I don’t mean getting punched and beaten at school. I mean that the participation rate of women in technology was a lot higher. Don’t believe me? I’m sure there are better stats out there, but here are a some. Some other good numbers here (although they’re poorly sourced around participation rates, which is a shame).
When I started out in IT, there were approximately 35% of the jobs held by women. The person responsible for getting me started in IT was a woman who had actually worked with Grace Hopper. The person who hired me at my first full-time gig in IT, another woman. She also mentored me through my move from support to development. My first three bosses as a developer, women. I don’t think I had a full-time male boss until I had been in IT for 10 years. Many of my peers were women. I was just used to working with, for, and around women. It’s how things were done.
My confusion is, times were absolutely rougher when I was younger. They were. We were ruder and cruder when I was younger. Yet, there were more women in tech. The numbers back me up. Society as a whole has gotten better. It absolutely has. Go watch Madmen if you don’t believe me (never saw it, but I’ve read over & over how accurately it portrays the working world of the 60s into the 70s, and it was NOT kind to women).
What happened? How did it happen? We’ve gone from approximately 35% involvement to approximately 12% involvement over the same years that have seen women rise in every possible way in every other aspect of our society while at the same time, that society has become less violent (crime is WAY down from it’s peak around 1994), kinder and gentler, to the point my kids biggest worry was people being mean on the internet, not a beating from Todd (ooh, I hated Todd).
Yeah, that was run-on sentence. Whatever.
The point is, I’m so confused and I don’t understand how we’ve arrived where we have.
I have another point I want to make, but I’ll put that in a different post because this one is getting kind of long already.