Drawing a Social Line

I sat in her office. I wasn't sure what to do. Maybe she could help.

So I started to explain what happened. Things had felt somewhat strange from the very start. Comments on my looks instead of my ability, strange stares, requests for lots of one on one time that didn't seem necessary. Too many questions about my personal life. I didn't want to lose out on this opportunity to work with him that I had worked so hard to get, I didn't want to be cut off from his field in this organization if he got mad. I had been told, over and over, say no clearly to resolve this issue, but I was scared to. Comments on how I looked good started to get more common. Eventually, alone at night in a closed office, he hugged me and lingered and started to kiss my neck and suddenly the situation became unambiguous. I pulled away, ran away abruptly.

She told me this wasn't the first time, and that sexual harassment was so common she kept a list of the women he and others had harassed or assaulted.

Or another incident-- I'd been talking with a man I had really admired. Technical discussions, invitations to technical groups, mentoring. He asked for a date one day. I said no. He no longer responded to my emails. Suddenly, I was cut off. He said he couldn't handle it. I lost a mentor, a teacher, a trusted colleague-- just like that.

Or another-- being assigned to a project with a team member that was very important to my career. Requests to stay late at night when no one else is there make sense at first, but then he comes closer, touches my leg, holds my hand. I'm terrified. He has more cred than me at the company, he could get me fired in an instant. But eventually, I make it clear that this is unacceptable. My words are met with anger.

Smaller incidents-- a client asking me angrily what a woman was doing here doing a hardware installation. A drunk senior coworker with clout hitting on me in front of everyone and it feeling accepted. Not being taken seriously in technical discussion.

There was a point, when I was younger, in which I just assumed men didn't respect me technically and that all compliments I did get had hidden intentions.

I've been the only woman in most of my companies and classrooms. I've had multiple coworkers tell me I was the first woman programmer they had ever worked with. I'm sure that contributes.

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A woman once gave me the advice to just put up with it and do my best at work until I can feel safe enough to push back.

I guess that's the advice I've been following. I'm safe now, obviously. So that's good.

I'm not sure that's good advice, though.

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I was discussing a client who had treated me poorly in a meeting today. I was talking business, moving forward, etc. It just seemed natural to me to discuss this.

"I'm not working with those jerks, Stephanie. And we aren't working with anyone who treats you that way. We don't need to."

The realization that I don't need people like that is new to me.

I'd like to see more of that attitude, whenever possible.

Learning C++ as You Go

Doing Good