The ugly truth: Sexist attitudes persist in tech

IT managers may not realize it, but they often create buddy systems in the workplace that excludes females

Dear Bob ...

I've got one for you. At a company I no longer work for, the management team got switched up and I was pretty much manager-less for about three months. Out of nowhere, I got a call from someone I'll call "Brian" asking what I was working on. I laughed, "So, I guess you are my new manager?" (Communication at that company wasn't so great.)

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A week later, he called back to discuss an issue that had been brought to his attention during the transition. He couldn't tell me who said it or in what context, but the implication was that I was "too friendly" with the customers. I've been a woman in IT for over 17 years, most of it male-dominated, and I've dealt with my share of objectification and "little darlin'" crap, but this really ticked me off.

I retorted, "Is that an implication that I'm [Bob's note: Substitute your preferred term for, er, creating a pleasurable relationship] the customers?" He got embarrassed, stammering, and that conversation was over pretty quickly. I never could get him to tell me who said it.

Two and a half years later, I was still being treated like a child by that man. With the economic downturn, it was rather interesting to note that the only two folks on his team who were downsized were both women. The third woman had gone out in a blaze of temper and glory a year prior. A team of twelve, three women, and the only ones left standing were the men.

I'm not screaming sexism, but numbers rarely lie, right?

- Not That Friendly

Dear NTF ...

Oh, numbers mislead all the time. I don't think this is one of them, though.

First of all, it sounds like Brian needed a better sense of humor. I also have to say, if the conversation went exactly as you describe, you might have considered asking Brian to clarify his meaning before inserting an F-bomb into the discourse.

Nonetheless, three out of three versus none out of nine is telling. Something I'm pretty sure of: Sexism hasn't left the workplace. It takes a different form these days, and in certain regards, I'm pretty sure this form is better than its predecessor. "Better than" isn't the same as "good," though, and I hear about lots of male managers who don't even see the extent to which they create a buddy system that includes all the guys, while dealing with the women who report to them at arm's length.

- Bob

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