This week I was invited to participate in the TechnoGirlTalk podcast. Its a new podcast hosted by Sunshine Mugrabi specifically to give women in high tech a place to discuss working in high tech. Its only the second podcast, the first one featured women from Cisco, Adobe, and Bhava communications. The one I joined had a definite EMC flavor. Besides myself, Chris LeBlanc (an EMC sales account executive) and Terri McClure (analyst @ Enterprise Strategy Group and former long-time EMCer) joined.
We didn’t specifically talk about technology, instead we focused more about what its like being a woman in the very competitive storage sector. I won’t give too much of the podcast away, and I hope it gives people the same positive vibe it gave me. I found it interesting that all of us can see (and have faced) gendered problems at work, but none of us see a huge organized conspiracy to keep us down. Its more a problem of “gaze” (which I incorrectly called male gaze during the podcast).
In general, “gaze” is how a person looks at others and herself (or himself) in relation to what they see in others. That usually affects how we present ourselves to others. (This gets even more complicated when you start talking about online relationships). So if you are the only woman in a room full of men, does that impact how your image of self? Does it affect the guys? We talked about that, and how the working world was created by and for the most part is still tailored to guys. Maybe they don’t see problems because they don’t realize there are other lenses to see the working world through. But if you are the only one looking through those different lenses – how do you find a way to get people to shift their focus a bit?
I loved that Chris was on, because not only is she technical and from the South, she is outspoken and brash like me! One thing she commented on clicked with me – sometimes her co-workers tell her to “calm down“. That happens to me too!! It makes me crazy. I handle it by trying to figure out why there is resistance to the point I’m trying to make, adjust my message, and try again. I think Chris probably handles it a different way, she is such a go-getter. I think all the work my mom did to try to get me to behave as a proper Southern girl kicks in when I am faced with that sort of gendered language, and I automatically back down.
It made me think of Scarlett O’Hara. In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett tries to behave as a proper Southern lady: calm, cool, collected, never speaking out of place, never obviously going after what she really wants.
But it doesn’t work. She’s really a spunky, smart, driven, beautiful woman. That’s why Rhett Butler falls for her.
And she needs to be that sort of woman, not a meek demure Southern lady, to get her family through the hard times brought on by Sherman burning Atlanta.
Scarlett makes all sorts of trouble for herself because she can’t accept she just wasn’t cut out to be a quiet, demure Southern lady. I wonder if she would be working in storage if GWTW was made today? 🙂
Sunshine is looking for the ladies of Netapp for her next podcast. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say, we need more women talking about their experiences. That way all of us can figure out how to look through different lenses so we can work together better.
I think it would be interesting if there was a podcast with both EMC and Netapp ladies. I bet the ladies of storage could show the guys a thing or two.
Well, first of all, Gina, thanks so much for being a guest on the podcast. You were fantastic, as were the other two panelists, Chris LeBlanc and Terri McClure. I wasn’t sure what would happen when I first launched this podcast, but already I can see that we women in tech have a lot to say. As you so aptly put it, we have some war stories to trade, yes we do! I love your comparison to Scarlett O’Hara. And don’t forget “the corporate dominatrix.” Not to give too much away… The actual podcast will be posted tomorrow (Monday, Jan. 11), so look out for it!
I hope its ok I posted before the podcast. I’m excited and nervous for it to come out!
Love this blog.
I totally agree that the workplace is mostly geared toward men, which is evidenced by the fact that even you hold up “being assertive” as a kind of gold standard. There’s a false dichotomy here with assertiveness at one end and meek/demure at the other. Meanwhile, the way that most women actually exercise influence in their everyday lives (which is neither assertive nor meek) is mostly played down in the workplace even though it’s capable of getting fantastic results. (I suspect it’s largely ignored or belittled–even by women–because it has no “official” sanction from the management writers and business schools.)
It’s going to sound like I’m picking a nit here, but guys do tell each other to “calm down” quite a bit. In fact, the “calm down” you hear is probably the toned-down/polite version of what guys actually do in male company, which is some variation of holding up the hands in a mock defensive posture while making a scornful face and barking “chill!”
My point with that last paragraph is that yes, the guys are most certainly affected by the presence of a female, and as the only female in a large group of male peers you have the potentional to exert more influence than anyone else in the room.
You seem to see your childhood conditioning purely as a handicap in those situations, but I believe you can also use that experience to your advantage. The fact that your mother (presumably a “proper Southern girl” herself) still lives in your head and exerts such an influence in your own life is proof that such women can exert a powerful influence.
Ben what a great comment! You are so right about the whole being assertive concept, I’ll have to think about that some more.
Maybe your comment about the “calm down” thing explains why I get annoyed — if guys are trying to tone it down maybe it comes across to me as them being condescending. I’d rather have them tell me like they tell the boys… interesting.
And you are very right about my mom. 🙂
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