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Breaking Gender Cliques at Work? 806

Posted by Cliff
from the be-nice-gentlemen dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "No-one likes finding themselves being the 'odd one out' of a clique, and gender barriers make them harder to break. The question is simple: what can a girl in IT do when she finds herself on the outside of those cliques of boy coworkers? Or inversely, what should groups of boys at work be doing to be more welcoming for that lone girl in the IT office?"
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Breaking Gender Cliques at Work?

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  • empower yourself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:03PM (#16017970)
    Ugh, there's no need to focus on "gender issues". There are all kinds of "cliques" in this world and they aren't necessarily gender-based. (PS: why "boys" and "girl", is this kindergarden? How about "men" and "women").

    Maybe you're just new, or you're smarter than them, or you're a different race, or you speak with an accent, or you have different skills, or maybe, you're just shy. Conversely, they might be scared of you! Sometimes guys in IT just have pretty bad social skills.

    The first thing to keep in mind is that YOU are responsible for everything that happens to you. I know, this is kind of a foreign concept in our society, but bear with me here. If you want to be friends with your co-workers, you can. If you don't like your co-workers and you want a different job, you can make that happen too. If you want to change the culture in your office, become the CEO, or anything else, you are capable of it. Once you have this kind of confidence, making friends is easy. No need to blame something outside yourself ("gender clique") when you're perfectly capable of achieving whatever you desire.

    I know that's a "big" answer to a "small" question, but there was a point in my life when I had a revelation along those lines and these kinds of "problems" just stopped happening to me.

    For a specific answer, the best way to make friends with someone (or a group) is to to treat them like they are your friends and have been for a long time. Pretty easy!

    So, let's assume these folks are your best friends. What do you do when you see them, say, together at lunch? You join them. You sit down and act as if it's totally appropriate to sit down and say hello, and you've been doing it for years. You have genuine interest in what they say, and you're eager to learn from them and appreciate whatever differences they have from you. You don't care what gender they are, and if they're cold or unreceptive, it's because you need to be a little more patient or try a little harder.

    If for some reason they won't accept you as part of their social group, then that's fine too. You can just do your job the best you can, or better yet, leave and get a better job.

    Think of some ideas along these lines, ways you can connect with your co-workers. Write them down, and then tomorrow, put them into action.

    As for them, well, if they want advice they can Ask Slashdot themselves. You are the one asking the question.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:10PM (#16018025)
    I would suggest getting a lawyer because you should be able to have several sexual harrassment suits on your hands, you won't need to work there much longer.
    This is exactly why I refuse to have anything to do with any of my female coworkers. It is *far* too easy to get slapped with a sexual harassment complaint these days. I've never been hit with one myself (and I think my refuse-to-deal-with-them policy is why I've been safe), but I've seen coworkers hit and fired for it. Simple stuff, like asking if your female coworker would like to go to lunch has been enough to get coworkers written up at companies I've worked for. No guy would hesitate to ask another guy what his lunch plans were, but ask a female and you're heading for trouble.

    Is this extreme? Yes, it is. But I like having income. So I simple refuse to have anything to do with female coworkers that isn't directly job related. No friendliness, no joking around, no post-work activities, no weekend/holiday party invitations. Seriously, this is how guys feel comfortable keeping their jobs because the sexual harassment system is completely screwed up.

    So to the women asking how they can "fit in", the answer is that you can't. Some group of ultra-feminists with get-em-fired happy lawyers have ruined it for the rest of you. In an office full of men, we're scared to death of you, because even a wrong look can take away our ability to support our families. So please, for everyone's sake, just leave us alone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:12PM (#16018042)
    hmm ... ok, i'm a female in programming and, as such, generally the only female programmer where i work. i've occasionally worked places where there's been one other female. anyway, i've never noticed any discomfort or "clique-ishness" in getting along, really. just the normal "i'm the new 'guy' and we're all a little shy" thing. since we're all geeks, we all tend to have at least some interests in common and so have things to talk about/bond over. now, when i worked game dev it was less comfortable being the girl, for some reason, but maybe it's just harder being the new guy there and not a gender thing at all. generally (in 'normal' software dev) i've never felt any issues from my coworkers. places where we're likely to not hit it off tend to be around politics and stuff like that, not gender differences.

    i will say, though, the one annoying thing i've encountered is management. for some reason every place i've worked where there's been another female programmer, management seems to think the two of us would just LOVE to sit next to each other. every. single. time. "let's put the girls together!!" sheesh. like we'd automagically be bff and braid each other's hair or something. i usually don't even get along all that well with other girls (we don't seem to have much in common), so this chafes.
  • Re:be friendly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:13PM (#16018046) Homepage
    IT and computer people are usually introverted and aren't used to conversing with people of the opposite gender (and lots of times with people of the same gender)

    I strongly disagree with that. When I was in university, I found that the "IT and computer people" were often way less introverted, and will to talk to others than people pursuing other careers. When you go into the engineering building, you see people huddled around the table, discussing the latest assignments and test. You go to the liberal arts building, and you see people huddled in corners, with their face burried in books. The people in my class often got together to go out and have fun away from school, and we still do hang out a bit, even though we're all graduated and working. whereas, I didn't know that many people in other programmes who went out with people in their classes in large groups, and most of them didn't talk to anybody who was in their class, apart from a few close friends.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:14PM (#16018065) Homepage
    We had a new woman in my department. It was even worse b/c she was very attractive. We all wanted to invite her out with us after work, not because we were trying to score with her, but because we wanted her to be part of the team. We never invited her, because we were all worried about sexual harrassment. It is tough to ask a young woman out with us, because we are worried about her taking it the wrong way. She ended up leaving the job after a few months. My advice to a woman who wants to be in the clique, is to initiate friendships. Men in many workplaces are so worried about getting called down to HR (Who hasn't sat through sexual harrassment training) that we ignore women and avoid eye contact...
  • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:24PM (#16018150) Homepage
    Though I'm not a computer scientist I am a mathematician, another field inhabited by nerds with a large ratio of men to women. While there are definatly tensions created by this ratio I have never seen the men try to exclude girls or form a clique and not let them in. However, often shyness or lack of social skills will be interpreted by a more socially competent girl as a form of exclusion.


    Yes, I think this is the key point. If a bunch of IT/math/whatever geek guys are all keeping their heads down, not talking, and avoiding eye contact, then they are doing everything in their power to make the girl feel welcome. Seriously. In the limited geek-understanding of social skills, one of the few key points that the smart ones manage to figure out is usually, "Don't stare at her boobs, don't hit on her. If I do that, I'll scare her away and she won't talk to me anymore." Personally, I'm still working on getting my social skills *up to* that level.

    I have pretty much never seen a group of guys actively try to exclude a girl. Sure, it happens occasionally. But, it is pretty rare. Girls just seem to have different expectations of socialising from male geeks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:27PM (#16018162)
    I know it's fun to only lament about scarcity of "women in IT" to Slashdot, but believe me, race does come into the picture. In my case, I am full-blooded Cherokee Indian, and a dwarf [wikipedia.org]. A lot of my coworkers just don't notice me. The worst affront to my dignity happened when I was coding late one night and completely stuck on a line of code (I actually remember the code in question, it was the first time I had seen Duff's Device [wikipedia.org], actually in some code I had just gotten the task of maintaining). So, I'm completely stuck, looking at some code like this:

    switch (count % 8)
        {
        case 0: do { *to = *from++;
        case 7: *to = *from++;
        case 6: *to = *from++;
        case 5: *to = *from++;
        case 4: *to = *from++;
        case 3: *to = *from++;
        case 2: *to = *from++;
        case 1: *to = *from++;
                    } while (--n > 0);
        }


    I had been looking at it in a trance for about 8-9 minutes, trying to step through it in my head. At one point the office cleaner, who had been tidying up the room, emptying waste-baskets etc, walked over to my desk, reached in front of me, and turned off my monitor! I turned around startled and looked at him, and he jumped and gave me the most shocked look I've ever seen in my life. Apparently he'd thought I was a prop or office toy of some kind. =(

    I didn't tell anyone, but this is just one example of the kinds of challenges some of us have to face each and every day. Frankly, getting invited to the bar after work is the least of my concerns.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChrisFedak (611386) <cjf809@@@mail...usask...ca> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:41PM (#16018308)

    I'm not questioning your anecdotes, but chances are good that there were factors in the SH suits that resulted in firings that you weren't privy to. The guidelines for Harassment at my office are quite clear, and it doesn't take 1337 social skills to be able to follow them, and demonstrate that you followed them. The kind of people crazy enough to file a SH suit over being asked to go for lunch with "the guys" are something of a rarity. People don't deserve to be ostracised because of something someone else did sometime who happened to have the same gender.

    What can a lone girl to gain some acceptance? Visit your coworkers (on your team) in their cubes to ask for help, comment on the stuff they have there. Guys have things in their cubes for a reason. Try inviting groups to go for lunch. If you have a boyfriend or husband, mention them every now and then, it'll put you in the safe zone, where they can treat you like one of the guys. When all else fails, just invite yourself along when the cliques gather. People can only resist the instinct to add to the tribe for so long.

    As to the converse, people shoudl go out of their way to welcome new hires. Make sure they know where people eat lunch/have coffee and that they should come along. If you're worried about sexual harrassment, approach the new girl in the office in pairs. It's much harder to interpret an invitation to a social occasion as an advance if it comes from a group.

  • Re:lawyer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bonker (243350) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:50PM (#16018385)
    The lawyer thing is actually a pretty serious detriment to male-female interactions at work.

    Most IT houses these days have pretty strict sexual harassment rules. Even small computer centers have "Harassment Awareness" training of some kind. The idea that sexual harassment == being sued and/or fired is hammered in to IT workers to the extreme.

    Worse, there are no end of horror stories about an innocent comment or action being construted as harassment by overzealous HR departments. How many times have we all heard the old saw about an unscrupulous woman pressing sexual harassment charges? It's mostly urban legend and closet sexism, but the idea is still there.

    The net effect is that even very well-adjusted male IT personell are wary of offending a woman, should it result in loss of employment. They'll avoid conversations with women at work, not out of sexism, but out of a sense of personal safety.

    The unfortuneate not-so-well-adjusted IT guys are TERRIFIED. The guys who had trouble talking to females in highschool and college suddenly find themselves under threat of legal action when they enter the workplace, as well as ordinary crushing rejection.

    If a woman wants to interact with these guys, she's going to have to make the first move.

    No, a woman shouldn't have to prove anything upon entering the workplace. Unfortuneately, the climate that's been created by an oversensitivity to sexual harassment means that a woman has a lot to prove. Sad, but true.

    She's got to prove that she won't sue someone for a social mistake.

  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:06PM (#16018535)
    4) Make sure she makes friends with one older, married person in the team and that they are part of social events. If she's feeling pressured, she'll cling to this person because she knows they don't want to bang her.

    You obviously haven't met the older, married people I used to work with. They could out letch out perv and out grope the younger single guys without the slightest bit of problem.
  • "Good, for a girl" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:27PM (#16018785) Homepage

    ... they didn't qualify it with 'Yes, she's good, for a girl.'"

    The fact that there's still that kind of mentality in some places is just disheartening.

    Yes, and it's exactly the kind of mentality that's promoted by sexist ("affirmative action") hiring practices. I mean, the entire basis for affirmative action is that certain identifiable groups are inherently disadvantaged when it comes to performing certain jobs, and that those groups require "help" from society.

    To support affirmative action while criticizing the mentality that is its rationale is hypocritical. (I'm not accusing you specifically of this.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:44PM (#16018970)
    Two things are going to determine female exceptance and rule female interactions with a primarily male team. The first applies to any co-worker. The second occurs exclusively with a female co-worker.

    1. How competent and easy to work with is this person? If a female is not up to the skill-set or professionalism that her job description entails she will never be accepted because she can not be depended on by her teammates. She is taking up a headcount that could be filled with a contributing member of the team. The same expectations and standards apply for any guy on the team. Same thing with the attitude and personality of the female. If the female complains about duties and tasks that are handled with no complaint by others on the team or grumpy and snippy in personality she will never be accepted in the group. Same goes for any guy on the team. Last, if the female has differing policical or social views then the majority of the team and rarely passes an opportunity to get on her soapbox about them, she's sunk just like a guy would be.

    2. What kind of relationship standards to the guys on the team have? If the guys making up the team or even part of the team are in committed, long-term relationships (i.e married, engaged, steady girlfriend) they may not feel comfortable with non work-related conversations, social situations, or even work lunches that envolve other females due to standards of behavior and appearance they they hold for themselves or are expected of them by the woman in their lives. Affairs start with social conversations and connections with people in the workplace all the time and men who take their relationships seriously try to avoid appearance to others of any such things developing. Additionally, when a male appears in public with any female no one can tell if they work together, are related, or are in a relationship. When a woman is seen with an entire group of guys on a regular basis and the relationships are not known it may also appear that she is desperate for attention. The next time you see a man with a wedding ring on having lunch with an attractive female without a ring about the same age examine what the possiblities are...

    In short, a female on a primarily male team will gain acceptance and respect by being competent, hard-working, and easy to work with, but for many men, she can never be "one-of-the-guys" because their standards of behaviour don't allow them to be comfortable with her in the same way that they can another male. The same thing applies for a male in a female dominated workplace. If there is too much comfort with the oposite sex any any situation someone (male or female) usually is perceived to have another agenda in play by the other sex, or at least by the casual observer.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chazmyrr (145612) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:58PM (#16019137)
    No, it doesn't have to be a lack of social skills.

    If the girl in question happens to be mean-spirited, it's not outside the realm of possibility that she would make an issue out of it. This could be to clear out obstacles in her advancement path, create drama, garner sympathy, or just because she can. If your boss finds it more politically convienient to offer you up to HR instead of championing your case, the best you could hope for is having to take some type of training class to correct your "misbehavior". Even if your boss stands up for you, you'll probably still have to take the class.

    Note that the above situation does not have to be mixed gender. We had a case recently where a female employee was reported by another female employee for an "offensive" email. No one who looked at it could identify anything offensive, but the first employee was still required to attend a training class in acccordance with company policy.

    An nastier situation can arise when the co-worker doesn't feel harassed, but one or more other people in the office take exception to "fraternization" outside the workplace. I've seen it in both the military and the corporate sector and experienced it personally in the military.

    I started dating a girl in another company within my battalion. We were both the same rank so there was no question of coercion or other impropriety. We were always careful to conduct ourselves in a professional manner and maintain a military bearing while in uniform. Eventually word got around as different people saw us together off-duty on various occaisions. That's when it got nasty. Several people in the chain of command had a problem with us dating even though it was permitted by Army regulations. There were orders for us not to associate with each other off-duty, stacks of counseling statements, extra duty nights and weekends and various other attempts to keep us separated. In the end they gave up. There was nothing they could legally do about it. They caused us a lot of problems for two years though. She was worth it but your mileage may vary.

    In summation, you have to do a risk analysis and decide if the reward outweighs the risk. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't.

  • Re:lawyer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by donscarletti (569232) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:58PM (#16019138)

    Generally it should be easy enough to tell if a woman is going to likely to sue you. Some people like to have victim mentalities, they love to think that some attribute in their life makes what they do more difficult, they love to think that they are being mistreated, they have low self esteems and love to blame their failings on whatever they can. Thats the sort of person who would falsely accuse someone of sexual harrasment.

    Women like that may end up in male dominated fields, often because they are ostricised by other women. But they really stick out, so if a woman doesn't often complain abount mistreatment and doesn't highlight her disadvantages she's probably fairly safe to talk to. If she does, then your policy is absolutely correct, stay the hell away.

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:59PM (#16019148) Journal
    What a joke this is.

    You're the only one in the group of your sex. That puts you on the outside, but also gives you the "I'm the only one" power. If you're a guy in a group of women or a girl in a group of men, you're in a good position, if you're not too prudish and antisocial to use it. If you are, tough shit. Life sucks sometimes when your expectations clash with reality, don't it?
  • Re:IT Ettiquette (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pimpimpim (811140) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:06PM (#16019217)
    I don't know how many girls you've met, but I actually know no girl who would ever do any of this four no-nos. Do you really expect a woman to start about dungeons and dragons if she isn't actually interested in it? Actually the only kind of person I would expect to talk about dungeons and dragons without knowing anything about is, are 12-year old wannabe nerds. What kind of parallel universe do you live in again? :)
  • "GENDER" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hypoxide (993092) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:20PM (#16019353)
    There aren't cliques here people. The fact is, in my opinion, that men and women aren't going to be friends unless they're courting. Personally, I have no interest in forming a "friendship" with a woman unless I'm attracted to them. I'll be personable and try to make them feel comfortable, but in actuality, they're simply the other gender. I suppose the exception here may be sexuality. Dan
  • by radux (776711) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:23PM (#16019375)
    I become a stay at home dad and am now surrounded by mom's everywhere I go. I find that "Jane Goodall" is the ultimate source of how to break into a clique
    1. If they are interacting in a group, stay away, they will be more worried about their social status then you.
    2. Be patient, they might be waiting to see if you are a threat. Let them get comfortable with your presence.
    3. Your in *their* turf, so let them start the interaction. More often then not they will, if you make no sudden movements. They are as curious about you as you are about them.
  • by queenb**ch (446380) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:54PM (#16019630) Homepage Journal
    If you're a woman in an all guy enviroment, just be the first one to tell an off-color joke. That usually breaks the tension enough that it's pretty easy from there on out.

    My biggest complaint with my female co-workers has been a total unwillingness to put in any overtime, work on any extra projects, etc. The usual excuse always has something to do with their kids - picking them up, taking them to practice, etc. Seriously, is it going to kill your husband if he has to be the one to take Suzie to band practice one night out of how many months? Since they don't really carry their share, they are seen as second string contributors by most of my male colleagues. I have to admit that in many ways I seem them in the same light.

    Then when they get passed over for promotions, plum assignments, etc. they get bitter and resentful. Since I've always been willing to do what needs doing to get the job done, I get a lot of respect from my male counterparts and superiors. If something's broken, I'm staying until it's fixed. I work pretty hard to make sure that nothing's going to be broken, but hey, stuff happens. Patches don't always perform as expected. Maybe the router needs to be rebooted. It doesn't really matter what the problem is, but if it's genuinely mission critical, I'm not going home until it's back on line.

    Because of this, I'm a frequent recipient of bonuses, very positive performance appraisals, interesting projects, etc. I've had to deal with some female colleagues who were unhappy because they got passed over and I didn't. They would have liked to be able to file a complaint with HR that they were being discriminated against because of gender, but since so many of the things they wanted went to me, they could not. I actually got into a shouting match with one of them because I got an assignement she wanted. She made some accusations about favoritism and had no idea that her turning into a pumpkin promptly at 3pm, no matter what else was happening, was costing her. She thought that it was because I went outside and smoked with all the guys. That had very little to do with it. I got invited to go out and smoke with the guys precisely because I was "one of the team" and not "one of the candya$$&$". I tried to explain to her that if she'd just stick around or work an overtime assignment once in a while, it would go a long way toward smoothing things over for her, but she didn't want to hear it.

    Instead of her own bad behvior, she made a bunch of accusations that ended up with her getting fired. She complained that I was getting favorable treatment when she was just a competent (which she wasn't - she made a lot of high profile mistakes including knocking out our external connection), doing the same work (which she wasn't - system operator vs. network administrator), and doing just as good a job (which she wasn't - HR said that the performance reviews were "no comparision"). After a few interviews with our co-workers, HR decided that she was the one with the problem and asked me if I'd like to file a complaint about her creating a hostile work environment (the whole incident where she cornered me in the women's bathroom and screamed at me - so loudly and so long that several other employees came into the restroom to find out what was going on). After consulting with my boss, I decided that it was probably best that I file the complaint. You cannot imagine how surprised she was when she was the one that got fired. Sadly, it only got worse from there because I started getting threatening phone calls from her husband. I called the police, filed a complaint, and they got arrested.

    Frankly, a lot of the women I work with really make me angry because they give the rest of us a bad name. They want all the gravy, but they don't want to pay the dues to get it.

    2 cents,

    QueenB
  • Re:lawyer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:14PM (#16019796)
    Guys go through it too... you know, you're getting to become friends with someone and inevitably you both have to make sure each other isn't gay.

    Why would you "have to make sure" your coworker isn't gay before being their friend? I'm the only gay guy (that I know of) on a team of about 30 guys. Quite a few of them are extremely homophobic. I'm "out" to about 3 or 4 guys on the team yet I consider myself friends with nearly everyone on the team. The biggest issue with my sexuality is having a hard enough skin to realize that my homophobic friends don't realize they're insulting me with all the gay jokes since they just don't know better. I'd come out to them but unfortunately straight homophobes seem to think that every gay guy on the planet is interested in them sexually and it would probably ruin our friendship since like you, they "have to make sure" they have no gay friends (that they know about).

    The honest truth is I'm not interested "that way" in any of them and am quite happy in a stable 6 year relationship of my own.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:26PM (#16020284)
    I have a wonderful and, thus far, apparently foolproof system: I'm from another culture.

    Them: "We think you interacted inappropriately with that female."

    Me: "In my culture, that's entirely appropriate. Is this a race thing? Are you singling out my very respectful 'English' behavior as inappropriate in your American workplace?"

    Them: "Oh, shit. We could get sued for that, couldn't we? Pretend we said nothing."

    It's much like patent law. Companies patent stupid crap they don't really need to patent simply so that when the next company sues them, they have something they could counter sue over and they know they'll both agree to back off in exchange for shared patents.

    As I am of a different race, so long as I'm basically polite, cases where fear-of-getting-sued prompts people to freak out over my being male and talking to females can be just as quickly quashed by their equally over inflated fear of an English employee suing over cultural insensitivity and racism.

    99% of sexual harassment stupidity isn't motivated by actual lawsuits so much as fear of lawsuits. If I genuinely commit sexual harassment, I expect to get disciplined for it. On the other hand, if people want to freak out about possibilities, I'll give them other possibilities that are just as scary to push them back the other way.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:32PM (#16020313)
    I can't believe I just read that many stories talking about how easy it is to get hit with sexual harassment, and then nothing defending WHY we have laws and monitors for that sort of thing. You guys sound like the sort of guys who seriously think a lot of women lie about being raped.

    I have no idea where you guys work, but I am having serious trouble believing any of those stories.

    Just last year, my girlfriend was harassed by a janitor at her work, repeatedly. I'm not talking like "oh, he opened the door for her, that pig," I'm talking like "Oh, man, I sure wish I could take *you* home!" and discreetly attempting to touch unacceptable parts of the body. And she wasn't the only one! At first she was afraid to talk about it, for the Exact Reasons You Guys Are Whining About Right Now. She was afraid people were going to think she was making it up, or was being too sensitive, or somehow some poor man was going to get crucified because of a bunch of overly PC BS. I was the only one who knew about it, and of course I got pretty angry about it. I eventually made her talk to her supervisor about it, and to some of the other women in the office.

    Her supervisor did nothing. Literally *nothing.* Keep in mind that this is at a Career Services center at a major public university that had a Sexual Harassment monitoring program. It is their *job* to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen, but her supervisor liked the janitor (he was a "good christian man," her supervisor used to say) so never did anything. When she talked to the other women, it turned out he was doing it to every young, female employee there. Not "oh yeah, I think he was looking at me funny the other day," but "He touched my ass the other day, when I was in the copy room." Similarly, they did not know what to do. For the Exact Same Reasons You Guys Are Whining About Right Now.

    Eventually, my girlfriend reported it to the Harassment monitoring group, and to people higher up. The monitors just contacted her bosses about it, who for the most part did not care. Eventually, as they were continually pestered about it, they talked to him. He stopped doing it, but instead just started making mean comments all the time. He'd pretend to say something unacceptable and then stop halfway, and sarcastically say "Oh! I'm sorry, I'm not supposed to say that stuff anymore. I don't want to *offend* you." Why the hell he got indignant that women don't want a creepy old man trying to touch on them, I don't know. Must be our warped liberal morals.

    THAT went on for a while. She had to keep on pressing the issue, until finally he was just told to clean that area of the building before she got into work. This was a man that made constant sexual innuendos, repeatedly attempted to touch the younger employees (the women were all student employees at the time), and then was constantly hostile about it afterwards. My girlfriend start having physical signs of anxiety and fear (nervous tics, lots of tears, etc) over it, and the management barely cared. You try to work in that environment, and then come back on here and complain about this hysterical culture of fear we have created. About how all this "he-said, she-said" stuff is just crucifying all these poor men.

    If women are laying down lawsuits because you smiled politely, that's one thing. Of course that is ridiculous. But that occurs a lot less often than people think. And real sexual harassment, with real sexual overtures, occurs a lot more often than people think. You don't have the right to tell a woman who much you enjoy looking at her body, or what you'd like to do with it. The women who do want to hear that, will let you know.

  • by madou (888303) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:39PM (#16020352) Homepage
    As a woman in IT, i can't say I've had any trouble with male "cliques". I'm also surprised by those stories about sexual harassment accusations which is something I've never encountered or even heard of over here in Europe.

    One thing that is true is that guys usually view their female co-workers as less competent. They go to great lengths to explain simple things to you over and over again as if they doubted your ability to comprehend basic technical matters. In general, males also tend to be over-helpful, trying to do things for you they assume to be too complicated for a woman. "This part is tricky, it needs to be written in assembley language, we'll give it to someone else" combined with a knowing smile isn't something most male programmers would hear very often.

    My usual reaction to this is to turn down the entire contract offer.

    On a positive note though, once you've worked together for some time, respect for your abilities does eventually turn in. However, it is rarely shown in public. It's more like <whisper>hey, you're good</whisper>. I'm a long time regular on various technical IRC channels, and while guys on those channels do seek my help with tricky problems, they mainly use private /msgs to do so as opposed to suffering the humiliation of having a girl tell them how to debug their C progams in public. Approximately the same thing happens in the workplace. The main problem with people not talking about your skills publicly is that, this way, you're getting little public credit for your achievements.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quecojones (108609) <quecojones@@@quecojones...net> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:45PM (#16020387) Homepage
    Personally, I think the solution (or at least part of it) would be for women to actively and aggressively seek out and kick the asses (or some other punishment that seems appropriate) of the crazies that cause the problem. I'm talking about all of the other women that freak out out over any little thing and run to management and blow it all out of proportion. It has to be done by women because, if any man attempts to do it he'll just be accused of sexual harrassment and we end up right back where we started. Anyway, just my $0.02
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xaria (630117) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:47PM (#16020401)
    I'm a female geek who is used to working in a mostly male environment. And it has never been a problem. Parent is absolutely right - girls who want to work in IT have to recognise that most guys AREN'T intending sexual harassment, it's just a joke. And when a guy is out of line I tell him to his face, and he apologises, and that's the end of it.

    I actually agree that excessive feminism is making things hard for both genders. A girl who really wants to fit in with the guys has to be willing to BE one of the guys - turn a blind eye to the less attractive parts of male culture, or laugh along (some of it really is funny, you know). Don't be ashamed of being a woman, but don't flaunt it either (skirts are okay, low necklines are just cruel to single guys). Eventually you'll have the guys asking you for advice on other women ;)

    It probably helps that I'm married, and was already engaged when I started working as a UNIX admin - no guy with half a brain cracks on to a girl with a diamond ring on that finger.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Odin_Tiger (585113) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:08PM (#16020533) Journal
    It is a case where the legal system is actually working, IMO.

    Surely you're not serious? Have you been reading the replies so far? Have you seen how many people immediately bring up concerns about sexual harassment issues when the question, "why can't I hang with the guys?" is asked? How could you possibly view switching from a culture of abuse of women in the workplace to a culture of alienation and fear of women in the workplace as moving in the right direction?
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:25PM (#16020620) Journal
    It doesn't matter if you have all your conversations recorded by company email or witnesses. The whole he said she said can be a bunch of lies designed to get her ahead or revenge on you for something. All she has to do is create/imagine a scenario were it is likley something could have happened or been said.

    Men in a work enviroment shouldn't do anything to invite the women in that enviroment into thier Click. All they should do is make sure she/they aren't automaticly excluded or made to feel too uncomfortable if they attempt to join in. By all means tear down the barriers but don't feel obligated to go any further then that.
  • Red Herring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lips (26363) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:44PM (#16020735) Homepage Journal
    This is a total and utter red herring. Your gender is irrelevant. I've seen males and females not fitting in, because they didn't fit in. This is an issue of culture.
  • Just the opposite (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nickly (999306) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:02PM (#16020794)
    I'm in the opposite situation... I'm a science/technology teacher at middle school that has 44 teachers. Only seven are male. Fortunately, they accepted me pretty quickly (I have sisters, so it wasn't that hard to be "one of the girls"), and I've gotten to like being the only male around most of the time. Once I got used to it, it's a pretty good situation actually. Lots of dating advice from lots of big sisters...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:06PM (#16021136)
    My IT department actually has an awful lot of women working in it. Most of the upper management is women. And part of it is that the upper management has a knee-jerk reaction to there not being a lot of women in IT, so they are more likely to higher women overall. Actually, at one point, when we were hiring additional student workers (I work at a University), we were told point blank that if any women applied we were to hire them, even if they weren't qualified.
  • Here's How You Do It (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mandi Walls (6721) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:17PM (#16021210) Homepage Journal
    You make it not a big deal.

    Because it shouldn't be. Do your thing, be yourself. Computer nerditry is predominantly male, but being a geek is a gender-neutral lifestyle. There will always be some work environments that are better able to handle the "not like us" members of the team, whether gender-wise, or age-wise, or race-wise. What i've seen, though, is that teams that treat women poorly treat almost everyone poorly, and it's usually a sign to get the hell out.

    It's not like there is some magic bullet for female geeks. A woman in IT may just as likely be a fish out of water with the Cosmo-reading stereotype that is outlined by our esteemed cohorts here, and totally able to relate to the dorkiness of whatever band of computer misfits might be around. It's not like every woman born onto this planet is replete with all of the social graces just because she's female. So, be a dork. Or dorque.

    If you're looking for other women in computer-related fields to chat with, try Systers, Linuxchix, search meetup, whatever. Practice talking to other tech people like colleagues, regardless of gender, and it will become easier to interact with your coworkers. And there are thousands of conversation topics for IT people that have nothing to do with ribaldry or innuendo. Don't become the office cruise director, the instigator of dumb things like "let's celebrate birthdays each month", or crochet cozies for the headsets (unless they're amigurumi). I'm guessing those sorts of things don't come naturally to you anyway. I'd want to punch someone who wanted to make a thing out of celebrating birthdays and it showed up on my calendar. Spontaneous confectionary combustion is another matter.

    For the posters here who complain about being afraid of being hauled to HR for naughty jokes, you should be. It's a workplace, not a locker room. Remember the locker room? Where the football player peed on you and laughed? Yeah. Keep your lame jokes for some other time.

    So, essentially, meet them halfway. Be friendly, start conversations, don't judge their social shortcomings. Don't act like a victim, and don't take any crap either. It's a big world out there, there are a lot of jobs, there are a lot of assholes, and there are a lot of good people. The good ones will make you want to stay at a job that essentially sucks and the assholes will drive you out of your dream job. The trick is to know which is which, and not lose sight of what got you into IT in the first place. One batch of self-involved coworkers does not a career make.

    Good luck

    --mandi

    my birthday is in october. i put it on your calendar

  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ndykman (659315) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:01PM (#16021420)

    However, I did work at a place where two of the female workers constantly made comments about the men's "physical attributes" and was told that, "there's nothing we can do about it." When one of the male workers said, "So if she can go around to the men and say 'Nice ass', does that mean I can go to her and say, 'Nice tits?'" He was immediately reprimanded and was forced to go to sensitivity training.

    Wow. Too bad you aren't still there. I'd get a lawyer. There wouldn't be a lawyer that wouldn't just jump up and shout at that case. The publicity, the novelty, the huge potential for settlement, big money.

    With just a touch of documentation, it'd be huge. You'd make a huge point about double standards, how such policies can be nothing more than reverse discrimination, and so on. Oh, and if the company was big, hello payday.

    Of course, you forever would be known as that guy.
  • by Fordiman (689627) <(fordiman) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:03AM (#16021710) Homepage Journal
    I know what you mean. I'm honestly the only dude in my department (well, aside from the token gay dude, but he's more of a girl than some of the girls there, and proud of it).

    How do I deal?

    They're coworkers. I involve myself in the dynamics of the job and the personalities of my coworkers. Anything less is ... well, not doing your job.

    If the problem is the respect of your peers, demand their respect. If you're unsure about something, think it through and try to get the right answer for yourself before asking for help (don't take hours to do it). Get things done both quickly and right.

    No, I'm not assuming these things need to be said to women. It's how I learned to earn my coworkers' respect.

    Also, -1 Flamebait to this article for assuming that being the 'only one' is a girl-only problem. Any new job comes with that feeling. It's just amplified when you're outside of your gender pool. Get over it, and get to work.
  • by Pinback (80041) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:00AM (#16021932) Homepage Journal
    1) Have something good, mildy interesting, and not controversial to say about each of the members of your group. "This is Brian, he has two young children, his hobby is sailing; he is our manager." "This is Steve. He is an accomplished latin-guitar player, and is the senior admin on our team." "This is Joy. She is an avid hiker, recently adopted a Welsh Corgi, and is in desktop support." This kind of banter leaves the new person some clues of what they can talk about in later conversations.

    2) Educate youself on the shit-stupid phrases our language is mined with. Use "guidelines" intead of "rules of thumb", etc. Read a bit about languages, cultures and the like. People are much less uncomfortable when you have a rough idea where they are coming form.

    3) Preconceptions about poeple are usually wrong, and are often less interesting than reality. You're better off without them.

    4) If things went well, say something. "You did an excellent job on this." "We have a great team." "You rock." etc.

    5) In my experience, there are still appropriate times and ways to say: "I like your dress." or "Those shoes are cool." or "I like your new haircut." or "You look sharp in that suit." If you're genuine, people will know you're not being a prick.

    6) Misery loves company. If you happen to get an IT-gal in your group, keep the door open for a second. People play off of each others strengths, and people who are less isolated do better. This isn't survivor, you won't end up with an axis of evil or anything.

    7) Help people outside of the old boys network. Doing so will make you flexible, build personal networks, and make for a strong position. And when unimaginative managers go looking for poeple to sack, you won't fit an easy category. If you do get sacked, you'll be in better shape to work a diverse customer base as a contractor.

    8) Don't be afraid to work with a hottie. In a week you'll know at least one thing you hate about them, and then they won't intimidate you anymore. Besides, if they're on your side of the table, the people on the other side will be distracted and easier to maneuver.

    9) If you don't know the gender of a name, ask a third party ahead of time.

    10) Don't make assumptions about wanting, having, being able to have, or liking children. Not everyone wants to, is, is able to be, or likes being a breeder.
  • by MrResistor (120588) <peterahoffNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:24AM (#16022235) Homepage
    There are men out there who have mastery over their biology.

    Generally it comes with age. Some never have the desire to learn it, of course, just as some never have the desire to learn how to read or practise basic hygene. By age, by the way, I mean 30+, and really by that point we mostly just learn to be more subtle about it.

    As for manner of dress, I never knew slacks and a loose fitting blouse or a knee length skirt, blazer and shell could be erotic.

    Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how they hang on you, or the material they're made of (many loose fitting articles are made of light fabrics that can be seen through at certain angles, for example). Or maybe it has more to do with your attitude, how you carry yourself, the personality you project.

    Or, what sesms more likely after reading a few of your posts, you're stuck in the knee-jerk, male-bashing feminist mindset that became so popular in the late 70's/early 80's, and assume these things in the absence of direct, compelling (and unreasonably expected) evidence to the contrary. In other words, you've made it quite clear that all men, in your eyes, are guilty until proven innocent.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:43PM (#16024842) Journal
    In a simular situation, I used to work at a bar and grill. It was a national chain and slightly before all this sexual harrassment became so scarry for me. Anyways, we all used to goto another bar and drink a few, play pool, sometimes darts. This one girl was working in the kitchen prep and we always asked her to come along until her insistant replies of no made us give up on it. Then one of us was transfered to another location and began manager training. He came back as a manager and doing the schedule was one of his duties. Well everyone requested a certain day off because of a concert that was going on. She normaly had that day off so didn't place a request in.

    Now here is were it gets fun, She already bought tickets for the concert but then found she was working durring it. She threw such a fit that corperate was taking notice and asking what the problem was. Well this happened around 2 months before her anual review. Outside this situation she was an excelent employee, always on time, alway availible in a pinch, always willing to help someone else out, alway willing to do the crap jobs and all with a smile. After this she felt unapreciated and had a little attitude. Then durring her review, the raise she was to get was cut in half by the district supervisor because he only remebered her last 2 months of attitude. She got pissed durring the review and walked out. Saying something to the effect of this is what happens when you don't go out with an employee that becomes manager.

    In her mind, she was getting screwed because she didn't take us up on going out with us. But the entire time we asked her, she though it was so one of us could get her alone and make a pass at her. She didn't want to do the working with a date thing and already had a boyfriend. She called corperate and made a complaint. Called a lawer and made sure that everything being said about the complaint went thru him. Lost her job in the proccess and caused the entire managment staff to be transfered to stores more then 50 miles away with my friend loosing his job altogether. Of course the law suit found that it wasn't as she was thinking but she still got a settlement from it and back pay from the time she didn't have her job untill it was settled in court.

    We ended up getting sensativity training and sexual harrasment awareness classes and were told we couldn't faternize outside work.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kidbro (80868) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @08:49AM (#16029320)
    next time you're talking with your friends about how stupid Americans are because they elected George Bush

    I regret the line a bout GWB. While I still hold a great deal of contempt for the man, it had no relevance to this discussion. My apologies.

    My "attack", or whatever you want to call it, was not directed at Republicans though. It was directed at the system you have created for yourselves - or rather, the one your adored founding fathers have created for you. Where common sense never enters the field, and everything is dragged to court. The fact that the term "or else I will sue you..." seems hang implicitly at the end of every sentence is what's bothering me, and that's the frustration behind the fantastically offensive "what the fuck is wrong with you?".

    I have a handfull of American friends, far fewer than I have European friends. This is unsurprising, of course, as I live in Europe, but if I had to make a guess, I'd say the ratio is roughly 1:100. Now, of all my friends that have ever seen the inside of court room, the Americans are in majority. Even though it'd be reasonable to assume that only one in a hundred legal battles that have affected my friends would have had anything to do with the Americans, they are in a majority.
    This, is what I think is so fucked up. You guys seem to think that court is a natural way of sorting out any problems. Any problems - even those that apparently could be easilly sorted out by sitting down and having a chat with eachother.

    A sibling comment of yours explains that "No one is going to risk their career to be the one to have a 'normal conversation'". That is so fantastically Orwellian I can hardly even begin to comprehend it. You have created a society where people are so perpetually afraid of interacting with eachother, that you avoid having "normal conversations". Can't you see how fucked up that is?

    Now, just for the record, I ought to point out, before anybody else does it for me, that the current administration over here does its best to make things about as screwed up here. Trivial things are more often dragged off to court; lawyers and politicians are doing their best to convince the public that they're incapable of sorting out their problems on their own. However, there seems to be orders of magnitudes of differance in how much influence this bizarre mindset has. So far.

    Politics over here is more than just Iraq.

    Completely unrelated to the other stuff, but that's what we see. We see your foreign politics. I honestly don't really give a damn about Republicans vs. Democrats. As I suspect you don't care much for the differances between Folkpartiet and Vänsterpartiet here. We see the foreign politics of the elected government. And apart from the occasional broken international agreement, and a few instances of kidnapping & torture of non US citizens, it hasn't been much more than Iraq lately.

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