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One Girl, All Alone

December 20, 2002

We had our first web developers meeting in a long time at work yesterday and once again I was the only woman in the room, a lone stand of estrogen in a forest of testosterone. There are other women at Purple Systems, but most of them are in support roles or on the implementation team, and the one who is programming isn’t a web developer yet. In a lot of ways, being in that room reminded me of high school, when my social circle was skewed toward the smart and the male. Have I really grown up, or just changed venues?

In high school, I spent a lot of weekend nights playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of mostly boys. I’m sure a lot of my coworkers also wargamed—I know my boss did, since he and Mr. Karen gamed together in college– though the younger ones likely did it online instead of sitting around a table rolling the 20-sided dice. Now I spend most of my days playing computers with a group of mostly men. I suppose from the outside I probably look like a geek girl, and evidently I’m the geekiest girl at Purple Systems, but on the inside I know I lack true geek credentials. Sure, I have some techie tendencies—even when I was an accountant, I was always the one poking around the software and finding out how to use the bells and whistles—but they don’t run that deep. (Case in point—I never did get my laptop to cooperate and let me log on to Windows after the unpleasantness of the other night; I had to get a sys admin to help me. A real geek girl would have done it herself.)

Just like I probably wouldn’t have played D&D if my boyfriend hadn’t been part of the group, I wouldn’t have my current job if my husband didn’t know the president of the company. During moments of low self-esteem, I wonder if I really belong here, with all these smart kids all grown up. When my perspective is a little more balanced, I know that while connections got me in here, I wouldn’t still be around if I couldn’t do the job. I’ve seen a lot of people with better formal qualifications than I have hire on and not last because they couldn’t perform; maybe I’m geekier than I know.

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