Still working on the idea of how it is to be a girl in tech – as opposed to a boy in tech. And I recently realized that one of my trick to find my way, and the right attitude in that ecosystem, dominated by men, was to actually ‘think like a man’. This is what I am doing when I am facing a decision making balancing private and professional life, or when I need to think my relation to the power, ask something to someone – specially when it is a man.
Let me explain, with a little exercise.
You have a agenda conflict, between an important meeting and the party of a relative. Whatever is your decision, before announcing it to the people you decided not to honour with your presence, put yourself in the shoes of a man you like. Let’s call that man, Roger. Roger has to be someone you respect, someone you believe has the right behavior at work or in private, someone you believe is balanced and fair with others. Note : if you feel that you are usually too sweet, you can try to find your Roger into the large fleet of assholes you meet everyday, but this is only recommended for benchmark purpose. So, you have your Roger. Now, try during 5 seconds to think the way he would handle the situation. And think what is the gap between your natural way to announce you will not be present to the party/meeting/wedding…
I don’t know how would react your Roger. But my Roger would say : “Look, I am sorry honey/boss/colleague/lover/grandma but I can’t make it. Another day would be more appropriate for me”. Dot. Dot. And not “I-am-telling-you-everything-about-my-woman-mother-life”. This trick is working very well in various situations. You are requested by MissesPerferctMother to prepare some cakes for you kid’s school party (and you can’t or you don’t want). You don’t want to have lunch with your colleagues, cause you wanna be alone. You want to go out and have several mojitos with your friends instead of staying at home (and now you love me, because your life is going to change)…
Disclaimer one. This trick is a trick. You should not become Roger (or marry him, or whatever). This is just a mimetic exercise to help you to change your mindset, try to endorse a man attitude. Measure the gap. But you will have to find your own style in the end.
Disclaimer two. This post is not about demonstrating how bad men are. This post is about demonstrating that you guys, have a terrific relaxing way to manage priorities and make your point. And that girls should learn from you.
Disclaimer three. Some men told me that they were actually heavy at work, claiming that they were proud to be father and put high priority on their family and leisure. Thus they felt my post was not relevant. I would say that only few of them can dare to do that, and bravo ! (maybe they had a female version of Roger…).
Disclaimer four. This post talks about ‘girl’ at work. Amy commented why she prefers to be named woman (or dame, or lady). And I think she is right. I can only encourage you to read her view below.
Now, ladies, choose your(s) Roger(s), and let me know how it feels..
Thanks so much for your note, Virginie and your thoughtful consideration. It’s a pleasure to read your work and to have the chance to discuss it with you, Madame 🙂
Thanks Amy for bringing that on the discussion. Words do count, I agree. The usage of girl here was in the context of the girls in web, girls in tech – kind of ready-to-use words. Not sure I will use those anymore after your comment. Thanks again, you rock, Madame 😉
Would you please consider not using the term “girls” to include professional women? Many of us were raised with this term being used as a common form of patronizing or small contempt. Many of us don’t see “girls” in the work context as something fun but rather dismissive, unprofessional and demeaning as adults in the workplace – let alone the tech workplace where we can struggle to be seen as peers worthy of respect.
I have worked for decades; I am a professional. My worth is not in my youth (or appearance of youth). I have wisdom, I have skills which are worthy of respect. That I am a woman is something I am proud of. I am not a child and I should not be treated like one – nor called one.
Background: I hadn’t considered this “women not girls” thing until another woman pointed it out to me. Sorry for the long rant below but I think there are good reasons to consider these things – some of it is how we are perceived in the workplace and some of it is who you wish to engage (I hope it’s all of us). I know thinking and reading about this changed my thinking over time.
All that I know about you indicates you are a strong woman, a professional with a lot to offer and the desire to bring more bright and talented women into our tech sector. I hope you might be willing to think about the meanings of the words that you use as you do so, so I’m presenting this alternate view to you to consider because I think we can agree that words do have meanings and that as conscious and considerate people, it can be useful to consider not just how they’re intended but what they mean and how they are received.
Women working together do amazing things; we can be phenomenal when we listen and support and strive together. I think that we don’t need to pretend to be (or call ourselves) children to find strength in gathering together or in standing out.
For something which really changed my thinking, please see (it’s short and easy to watch)
“How to Get More Women in Tech by Caroline Drucker ”
from the transcript:
“because words are incredibly powerful
they reinforce and reflect societal power structures
words can be as powerful a protest as actions can be
because at the end of the day it’s about power
when people refer to someone who’s an adult woman as a girl
it implies authority on the part the speaker
girl is a diminutive so let’s think about the word boy
boys – notorious boys club – it’s always said with more than a hint of condescension
boys are immature their cannot be trusted
you don’t want an organization filled with boys so
what about girls? well they can’t drive they can join the army they can’t vote
and girls probably shouldn’t but most of all
girls aren’t threatening and appropriating the word girl
for an adult woman just doesn’t really make sense to me at least
because it’s not confronting sexism or inverting any power structures”
“Stop calling women ‘girls’. It’s either patronising or sexually suggestive ”
“As the playwright and commentator Bonnie Greer once put it: “A girl is someone who is not an adult, not a grownup, is not someone who takes responsibility for herself.””
“Calling women “girls” is especially undermining and patronising in the workplace.”
“The flip-side to the term girls, when not used as the patronising verbal equivalent of pinching someone’s cheeks or a pat on the head, is sexual. ”
“Woman, not Girl”
“Why don’t I like being called a girl? Because I’m an adult. I’m not a little kid, or a 15 year old. It can be a weird transition to make when you’re used to “woman” meaning someone 20 years older than you, but you can probably handle it. I personally used “lady” to ease my transition from saying girl to woman, but maybe you’re ready to go cold turkey.”
“But particularly in professional situations, you need to give women the respect of treating them and referring to them as adults. Unless you’re specifically asked to call someone a girl, your default word should be woman.”
“‘Girls? Ladies? Folks?’ Here’s A Visual Guide To What You Should Call That Group Of Individuals.”
” Shawna Hein, 28, a user experience designer from Berkeley, recently expressed annoyance on the list at the widespread use of the word “girls” to describe women long past elementary school age.”
So what do we say? Females? ugh, that’s a bit Star Trek Ferengi. Women? ok, neutral and accurate. Ladies? – maybe that’s a word that has more room for fun and whimsy. Otherwise, for other terms I’m a bit more stuck.
Note: I looked in the thesaurus to find other words and the number of English words for woman with negative connotations is depressing:
a woman in relation to a man/marriage: matron, dowager; wifie; maiden; maid; damsel
in relation to age (youth): lass, lassie; girlie; (old, derogatory): biddy, dame
a thing/animal: chick, filly, bird; piece, bit, mare, baggage; petticoat
derogatory: bint, popsy; besom, frail, bitch; wench
Note: I personally like “dame” but that’s because of a love for 40s noir detective movies. I don’t think it’s an entirely positive term (but it’s not a term of weakness and the women were not necessarily push-overs, either). This is may also be confusing to Brits who have actual Dames (like Knights/Lords). Just a personal aside.
Anyway, thanks for reading this and for all you do. I respect your work and your perspective so I appreciate the chance to offer my thoughts.