RE: Gender Issues in Technical Communication

Subject: RE: Gender Issues in Technical Communication
From: Heather Hacker <HHacker -at- dtechdirect -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 21:26:27 -0400

I have had so many examples of blatant sexism in this industry that
it's hard to even know where to begin. It's to the point where I am no
longer surprised when someone asks me a question and then verifies my answer
with some younger, part time, male employee who does not know half of what I
know - and has not had half of the work experience I have - and sometimes
does not even know the answer to the particular question. I am no longer
surprised when someone second guesses my answers to technical questions,
introduces technical ideas to me as though they might be over my head and
assumes that I was hired for my writing skills only and not my technical
knowledge as well.
Let me try and think of some more specific examples. One time, I
went to a job interview for a technical writer/trainer position. I
should've known right away that the Human Resources Manager was sexist when
he referred to the Assistant LAN Administrator, who was female, as his
secretary. I was surprised he had even hired a female LAN admin - but, then
found out that he had only been working there for a few months while the
woman had been there for years. This man proceeded to question every
credential on my Resume (more than usual)- especially my time as an MIS for
a Market Research Company and the six years I spent as a Computer
Hardware/Software buyer for a major University. He began asking me this
series of "technical" questions that anyone who has ever looked at a
computer could answer. It was only after I surprised him, by answering all
of his questions correctly, that he began asking more complicated questions
- which, again, were nowhere near my level of expertise. When I pulled out
my writing portfolio he questioned whether I was really the author of my
documents and then asked me simple questions about them - like how did I
capture the screen shots? It was outrageous... he treated me as though I
knew nothing and then questioned my credibility when he found out I did know
something. At one point he asked me to explain to him how I would train
someone on setting up their e-mail and when I explained the steps I would
take (which, trust me, were correct - I was training Technical Support
Technicians at the time and writing all of the technical support
documentation for a large sales force automation company) he said "No -
that's WRONG! let me show you how you should train people on how to do
this. Then, he proceeded to show me how to do it in NT - not Windows 95/98
- and when I called him on it, he would not admit that it was different. In
the end he told me that he didn't think I was right for the management
position, even though I had six+ years of management experience, in fact -
he had already decided upon a male manager (I found out later) but that he
would consider hiring me on as an assistant at 25% less than what I was
making at the time. It was a giant waste of my time - and, trust me, that
is not an isolated incident.
I can not tell you how many times, I have had people explain things
as though I will never understand. One time I was setting up a department's
network and one of the guys in the department tried to explain to me what a
Zip Drive was! Speaking of ZIP drives- As an MIS director, I once had to
deal with a Service Technician who told me that a Zip drive wasn't working
on a Mac laptop because the Hard Drive was not SCSI compatible. In fact -
the Mac had a SCSI Hard Drive!!
Ugh... I feel extremely fortunate to be working at the company I am
currently employed, as my boss is extremely open-minded and the developers
here are taught by example not to question my technical knowledge.


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