Wading Into Dangerous Waters

Okay. As the title might imply - I've been struggling with the words for and also whether or not this is really a topic that requires my particular input...

and as this post might imply, I didn't really find an answer. 


Today I lost my wallet. Now when I say I lost my wallet, what I mean is that I thought I put my wallet in my bag but actually left it in my apartment and only discovered its absence while I was about an hour away from said apartment.

At that particular moment, a classmate was buying me a 'thanks for the ride to the airport' lunch and I had decided that lunch was cool, but I was going to pay for my own muffin... cause muffins are just pushing it, right? 

I discovered the missing wallet, put the muffin back, ate lunch while poking around my bag and my car, shrugged, got a free muffin anyway and when I finally got home went to my apartment and found the wallet.

Was I calm because I knew  the wallet was in the apartment? 

No. I have faith in my ability to lose shit.  

I was calm because things usually tend to work out pretty well for me. I was also calm because I had my checkbook, my keys, parents who would send me cash if needed and classmates and professors who would probably be willing to lend me money.  

So no, I didn't want to lose my wallet. But I've structured my entire life around being able to handle losing a wallet.  


I think I'm very lucky. I was born into privilege. Not richness, but better than that, with really dedicated parents who taught me self worth, a good vocabulary, and a relatively centered disposition. I don't always do awesome at things, but I've never been fired from a job or failed an educational system. 


I also don't typically identify as a woman. 

That's sounds really weird and I probably don't mean it the way it comes across. What I mean is that I don't really identify as any gender specifically. I am a woman. I have the requisite parts and a pretty standard set of attractions. What I mean is that when I'm sitting down, working on something, I rarely if ever think about the fact that I am a woman (or man, or genderqueer, or human). And I'm usually working on something. It's hard to explain.  

The result... when I get invited to events that are 'for women', or people randomly bring up the fact that I am a woman in relation to something I've done it always catches me off guard.

--- -

So here's another story. I used to work for a construction company. I worked in the office, but pushed hard to work on the construction end of things and made an effort to go in the field so that I could understand what the bits of data I would push around meant. Also, it was fun to leave the office.

I considered myself 'friendly' with most, if not all of my coworkers.  

About two years into the job, I asked our commercial plumbing director to go out on a plumbing job. He told me no. This would never happen. His guys wouldn't get any work done. I wouldn't be safe. 

I laughed. He was (is) a funny guy. That was funny.

He wasn't kidding. He wasn't trying to hurt my feelings. I strongly doubt he remembers this exchange. In his head, these were just facts. And at the time, I just adjusted my expectations for what I was able to do or learn in construction. It never, until this past week, occurred to me that he thought his employees would hurt another employee and that this was NOT a reason to fire them. These were guys that I had hung out with, that had access to my office at 7 am when I was the only office employee in the building. I'd really like to think that they wouldn't have hurt me.

But again. I'm lucky. Or at least I think I'm lucky. I don't ever usually seriously think anyone will hurt me. 


So what's my point? I guess my point is that you don't always realize you've hit a glass ceiling when you've hit it. Sometimes you only notice when the bruises pop up. I'm taking this analogy a little far, but you get the point. 

I think the other time you notice a glass ceiling is when you see other people break them. Either for themselves or for others. 

So I've been trying to figure out why I can't get that plumbing story out of my head for the past few weeks and I think I have it nailed. 

I've heard a lot over the past few weeks about whether or not there is a sexism or discrimination related problem in programming. I'm not a comprehensive expert on the subject.... but here is my take... 

In three years of construction, no company ever paid for my lunch so that I could sit in a room and learn to weld (or any other skill) .

In fact, I have never worked in a job where the topic of sexism was seriously discussed. For better or for worse. 

But I have bashed into a shitload of glass ceilings. 


I have been very lucky my entire life. I've found places to work and play and learn, no matter how low the particular ceiling in the particular field. I have never felt screwed over beyond what every individual who wasn't born rich, charming, attractive and well off has been screwed by circumstance. 

But one of the luckiest breaks I've gotten was being able to get into programming. It's a field where people actively work to provide training and opportunities to create a positive environment. It's a place where your merit can be judged by your output much, much easier than your gender/looks/chutzpah. And I've been very lucky to be mentored by people who are great. 

Fucking A. Thank you, ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between. This is a good place to be right now.

And here is the really dangerous water part - but I'd be happy to help anyone who is disappointed write up a resume for the commercial construction field. I'll be interested to hear a follow up in a few years.