Subject: Re: A NEW TOPIC
From: Susan Stewart <susan -at- AVALANCHE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 15:06:43 -0600


I've been a technical writer for about 5 1/2 years and I've
worked for three companies (two very small, one mid-size).
I think I've been fortunate that I haven't really encountered
much gender discrimination. I have, however, been very frustrated
at times by intellectual discrimination on the part of engineers.

One (female) engineer actually stood in a room full of tech
writers and said that we deserve to be paid less than engineers
because the engineers had gone through a "harder" program in
college. She added that if we'd been smart enough to get into
an engineering program, we'd deserve salary parity. Still brings
me to a boil even though this happened at the beginning of my

The company I work for now really believes that documentation
is an integral part of the product, so I have the luxury of
being (and being treated as) a member of the design and
development team. There *are* good situations in the field.

I've tried the following stuff (with some success) to improve
less-than-ideal situations. Maybe they'll help you.

* Think of yourself and present yourself as a competent professional.
I think a big part of this is making sure the people you work with
know what you do.

* Treat your co-workers as competent professionals, even when
they don't seem to deserve it. If you understand something
about their job and their background, you'll have some idea
about why they treat you the way they do. Although you're
bound to run into the occasional major-league horse's patoot,
many of those who discriminate against you are unaware of
what's involved in being a tech writer. If they're uninformed,
educate them. If you don't know what they do, ask. Respect ought
to be reciprocal.

* Express an interest in what the your co-workers are working
on. This is useful because: 1) you'll probably have to document
it 2) people enjoy talking about themselves and their work 3) it
gives you a good opportunity to explain how what you're working
on relates 4) it's an easy way to establish communication.

* Try not react defensively. This one is tough.

* Acknowledge and reward positive behavior and refuse to accept
inappropriate behavior. If someone offends or belittles you, say
so -- stand up for yourself.

I don't usually go on at such length (in such a righteous tone)
but it's so *easy* to give advice.

One last idea... The next time someone treats you badly, ask
them, calmly and directly, why. I've had pretty good luck with
this tactic as I've gotten older and less patient. Be prepared to
explain why you object and how you would prefer to be treated. Also
be prepared to negotiate.

Good luck,

Susan Stewart
susan -at- avalanche -dot- com

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