Assumtions, gender and computing

We can file this under day to day, depressing as all hell but what are you going to do about it sexism.

She walks up to the help support desk. I smile ask her how she is going and how I can help her.

This is my job.

Oh I have a really stupid question, can you help, I know nothing about computers.

I smile again, tell her that is what I am here for, after all it is true, my job is to help people access the computer systems at my work, more often that not that means the people with less experience of computers. I consider myself a teacher in this role and am proud when I can explain to people computer systems they don’t understand or give them extra tools to work with.

She leans in, she is taking me into her confidence, it’s really good to see you hear, I mean some of the men, well.

I nod, I suspect I know what she means, I feel some of my co-workers, the vast majority of whom are male, while they might be good at tech fall way down on the support and _customer service_ part of the job, being rude, blunt and not giving people the time or attention they need to understand computer systems. They see themselves as technical people, but not as teachers.

Well you know, they just don’t understand that women, you know, don’t know about computers, but you understand.

I am at work, I have to be polite, I tell her I help people of all genders and ages who struggle with computers, I tell her that my dad often asks for my help. Inside I am screaming, aside from the misgendering (ewww), probably any of those men she is so intimidated by might agree with her, might put me in the exceptional box, oh Chesh understands computers, but that doesn’t mean most women do, and anyway you never see Chesh in a dress so she really is pretty much one of us. I don’t, I know plenty of amazing talented women in CS, I support stuff like the Anita Borg scholarships because I think the problem isn’t that women are bad at CS but that CS is bad at women, and society tells women, and those they assume are women that a interest in machines and mathematics would be better suited in accounting or HR or something, or at least my guidance councillor did in 2003, she seemed uttly unwilling to help me apply for engineering or mathematics, and her and others hesitation was one of the reasons I hedged my bets and went into science.

So no, you picked the one person on staff who I promise will not explain your hesitance around computers as just a thing women do. I did my best to explain what was going on, but she had made up her mind, women don’t understand computers.

I don’t care that you aren’t interested in computer, I don’t service my own car, but I am sure as hell not going to accept some destiny of poor computer skills, now excuse me, I have code to write.

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