May 23, 2009

On Being a Female Computer Nerd

Sometimes when attempting to explain Linux to friends or family members who are not computer or tech-savvy, I find myself "dumbing down," as much as I'm able to, the explanations I give. Look, I say patiently. There's no green start button. Linux computers don't get infected by viruses. Our systems are inherently more secure than Windows, and don't require you to surrender personal information to use. The reason Internet Explorer on Windows is so slow and insecure is because it tracks all of your personal information, all the time. Linux doesn't do that.

Being a female computer nerd is tough

Being a female Linux nerd is even tougher.

 First and foremost, when asked to explain something technical about an operating system, I'm almost always handed the most incompetent people. A couple of months in a "tech support" position answering telephones proved that. For the short while I was an employee of an ISP, some fairly friendly customers always requested to speak to me directly: old ladies, on-site "engineers" of rival providers and even co-workers would request my input about specific technical problems. The problem with my job (which I loved, minus the telephone part) was that it was in Utah, a place that historically treats women as "less than" men.

As a female techie, I can honestly say that our pay is less commiserate.  Our hours are more demanding. Our challenges are all in all, tougher.

Being in the land of Utah, the questions I received were always all about the Microsoft operating system. Yet. . . Microsoft has never paid me a dime for all of their dollars of profit.  Even after I applied to work there (dear Linux community, please forgive me; it was a long time ago).

And to this day, I still don't have an official employer. Along this path which has been riddled with frustration, I actually now choose to consciously shun employers who require "Microsoft" competence as part of a job description. As in "Microsoft ____" AKA Microsoft (Anything). Especially Excel. It's just not necessary. Being a female computer nerd is tough. Somewhere and some how, we need to erase this stereotype, and open up the idea of computing as being something *more* than Microsoft-based or hyped Apple marketing. 

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