One More #MeToo Story

I’m walking back from the post office on a crisp October afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and thinking random thoughts about what else I need to do this afternoon. My brain wanders onto the #MeToo discussions that have been going on this week. I think about some of the times it happened to me, and am grateful that none of them occurred during my college years. I start to wonder how many of my classmates weren’t so lucky, and contemplate asking the question in our class’s private Facebook group.

So of course, it’s the perfect time for a random guy sitting outside the local library to start catcalling me.

I felt the familiar clench in my stomach.

I didn’t call him out. I didn’t flip him off.

I picked up the pace and walked away from him.

And felt grateful that our building has a doorman in case the guy decided to follow me home.

Another Wednesday in an average suburban town in the USA.

It just doesn’t stop.

Branding The Resistance

Or, why I am not wearing red on “A Day Without Women”

One of the few bright spots in the political climate of 2017 has been the resurgence of female activism. Across the country, women who are dismayed (to say the least) about the reality of Donald Trump as POTUS are organizing, running for office, calling their representatives, and creating amazing communities.

The Women’s March in January was a pivotal moment. Millions of women across the USA and around the world stepped up to advocate for women’s right and a host of other related policies. And the iconic symbol of that march was a pink hat.

Women's March (VOA) 03

Bulding on that momentum, the organizers of the march are now promoting “A Day Without A Woman” on March 8th. Great! Keeping the momentum going in an activism community is important, and I’m all for it.

So why did the organizers make a basic marketing mistake? I get that not everyone in the community is thrilled with pink due to the gendered meaning attached to the color. But one thing I have learned in my marketing career is that if something works, go with it. If a completely grassroots effort like the Pussyhat Project generated that much success, don’t throw that advantage away. Own it.

On March 8th I’ll be wearing my pussyhat proudly. I hope I won’t be the only one.

Election Day 2016. AM Edition.

election-day-2016I voted this morning. I didn’t have to endure the hours-long lines some voters faced this season, lucky me. Five minutes total and I was in and out.

Like many of the women I know, I gave some thought to what I’d wear in the voting booth today. I worse as close to all-white as I own, to honor the suffragists. The blouse was my mother’s. I also wore jewelry that belonged to my mother, grandmother, and great-aunt. I wish so much they could have voted today too, but I took them with me into the booth.

I didn’t cry. I walked in with a big smile on my face and smiled as I completed my ballot. I only teared up a little as I walked back home, thinking of Mom. She would have voted for Hillary too, of that I am sure.

Now America waits to see if that highest glass ceiling will shatter tonight.

Working Women Stuck In The Middle – What Would You Do?

source: artist: graur razvan ionut I read “Speaking While Female” in the NY Times today, and felt a mixture of recognition, relief, frustration, and depression. Recognition – the stories told were all too familiar. Relief – that it wasn’t just me. Frustration – that nobody else seems to have solved the problem either. And depression – because it doesn’t seem like this is a problem that is going to change within my lifetime.

There’s this example from the article, to start. Something very similar happened to me at a meeting, just within the last week (not for the first time, either):

When a woman speaks in a professional setting … either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea.

It’s pretty frustrating to experience. If it happens too often, it’s easy to become demoralized and think “Why bother?”.

And even more depressing was this:

When male employees contributed ideas that brought in new revenue, they got significantly higher performance evaluations. But female employees who spoke up with equally valuable ideas did not improve their managers’ perception of their performance. Also, the more the men spoke up, the more helpful their managers believed them to be. But when women spoke up more, there was no increase in their perceived helpfulness.

So what is a woman to do? Speak up and be punished for upsetting the established power dynamic, or stay silent and locked in the status quo? Talk about a no-win situation. It’s no wonder that a woman has to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man.

Some have suggested the way out is for more women to start their own businesses. When you’re the boss, after all, the power dynamic is in your favor. And that solution may work for some women, but it doesn’t solve the issue for existing organizations.

Some companies (like Google) are starting to implement processes to try to deflect this built-in bias, but it remains to be seen if those tactics will work.

In the meantime, we working women are stuck in the middle.

What would you do?

Online Harassment Is As Old As The Internet: My Story

Cross-posted from Medium

Back in the early days of the Internet era I started a tiny little ISP / web hosting company in New York. As part of that work, I got active in various online mailing lists and other places where technical folks gathered, like IRC. I wasn’t the only woman in the community but I was one of a very small number. Overall, it was great. We were all figuring out something new together in a brand-new and rapidly expanding environment. It wasn’t easy but it was fun.

And then something funny happened. A small group decided I didn’t “belong” on IRC. And the harassment began. I would log into IRC and get barraged with messages calling me all sorts of ugly names. I would join a channel and that channel would get flooded with attacks on me.

I was fortunate that I knew the people who ran the channels I frequented, and that they were supportive of me, so they set up scripts to keep that crap off those channels. Those quickly became my only safe spaces on IRC. Anywhere else, I’d get flooded again.

Eventually I just stopped logging into IRC at all. Problem solved? No. Then it escalated.

First it was sending pornographic pictures to a professional discussion list I belonged to. Again, luckily, the list moderator was a friend of mine (and another woman to boot) so those never made it onto the list.

I was running my own ISP at the time, so they couldn’t go after me at work, but the guys harassing me quickly figured out where my husband worked and started sending email to his employer accusing him of all sorts of things. It impacted his job.

Eventually the harassers found other things to do with their time – maybe gaming? – and I changed career focus. I haven’t been harassed since. As a woman in marketing, I am not the “threat” that a more technical woman is, I suspect.

I consider myself lucky. I was never stalked or threatened the way women like Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Kathy Sierra are today. Reddit, 4chan, Google, social media – none of those things existed when I was getting harassed online. What happened to me was much more limited. And I have no regrets about changing my career focus. I love what I do.

I hate that being a woman in technology means having to know about and be prepared to deal with harassment. I can’t do much to impact it, but what little I can do is to stand up, share my story, and say what I believe:

  • Online harassment was wrong then, and it is wrong today.
  • We all need to do what we can to change the environment so that it cannot continue.
  • Why I Am (still) Not Going To BlogHer

    Back in 2005, the year BlogHer got off the ground, I wrote a post explaining why, despite some mixed feelings, I would not be attending the inaugural event.

    In the ensuing years, BlogHer has become hugely successful and grown into a massive 4,000+ person juggernaut.

    I still have mixed feelings about it, and I’m still not going. I wrote this in 2005:

    I think it is because I resist being labeled as a “woman blogger”. I am a woman, and I have a blog. But Fiat Lux is not a “woman’s blog” any more than it is a “Jewish blog” or even a “political blog”. It’s just MY blog.

    I write about politics a lot less these days, and business a lot more, but I still feel that way.

    You can add to that the rise of the “Mommy Bloggers”. The average female blogger today is far more likely to be chronicling the life and times of her family than anything else. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, but as a woman without children, I just don’t think I’d fit in too well.

    Plus there’s that whole “I work for a Big Brand” thing – even moreso now that things like influencer and advocate relations are a big part of my focus. I wouldn’t want to have to hide who I worked for, but on the other hand, I don’t want to have to spend the entire conference fending off requests for free stuff.

    All in all, between the no kids thing and the brand thing, it just doesn’t sound like it would be fun.

    Which is too bad.