Geek Feminism has a great post on being harassed. It’s a great post, you should go read it.
The part that fundamentally bothers me is this, where the author talks about being invited to give a keynote presentation:
I remember talking to my boss about it at work the next day, telling him I was flattered but didn’t much relish the negative attention it would get me. He was surprised, and didn’t get it. Later, he would admit that he’d read the ensuing comment threads around the web and was stunned not only by the content of them, but that such responses were expected.
This is one of the many hard things about being female in tech. Whenever you step out into the spotlight, you run the very real risk of what Skud, the writer of this post, gently calls “negative attention”. You have to make a choice about whether it’s really worth it. She says later, about another opportunity to speak at a conference, that she decided that it wasn’t worth it. Which has its own issues of feeling conflicted over letting the opportunity pass you by.
Right now, I’m in the middle of organizing VMware’s very first gathering of all of our user experience people across the whole company. It’s been a lot of work to get it off the ground. The people that I work with have been awesomely supportive. My manager and my director deserve awards for their supportiveness. Everyone else that I’ve worked with, from the others who are helping me organize it to those who I’ve asked to give presentations, have all been fantastic. But even knowing that I work with awesome people and that no-one would make this difficult, I have to admit that I had a question in the back of my mind as to whether I was opening myself up to something that I just don’t want to deal with. This isn’t about my team or my colleagues or anything else. It’s just that it’s so frequent, so expected, that the thought still came to me.
And that’s not how it should be.