Years ago, and I mean YEARS AGO, I worked in an all-male department at a data center. I was the first web person the company had ever hired, and we were all in the midst of figuring out this web thing. CSS wasn’t really a thing yet, and JavaScript mouseovers for hover effects was the rage. Lycos was still a search engine and Google was so very new. The internet itself was very new, but I knew it would be huge. I was invested. And I was there to learn.

I was young, ambitious, smart, and I was adorable. See?

I even had a headshot.

At the time, I was a little more marketing than I was tech, but I was learning. I was learning fast. And I think my learning was making some people a little uncomfortable.

I can’t exactly remember what was being discussed, but I said something that was immediately answered with, “What do you know, you’re just the marketing girl.”

Not marketing woman, not marketing lady, not the only person in the entire department who could write HTML and JavaScript with her eyes closed. I was the “marketing girl.”

I was enraged. I walked out, left work, got in my car, and I actually planned to not go back ever again. But then I realized quickly that the cats needed to be fed, and I drove back. I quietly walked back to my hellcube. My boss, aware of what was said, called me into his office and asked me to calm down. He didn’t say I was wrong for being upset, but as a typical Scorpio, he said, “Revenge is best served cold.”

I avoided the misogynist and did my job. I didn’t make waves. It was a different culture, and even though I had the support of management and the management above that, making huge waves was frowned upon.

Eventually a server the misogynist had helped to set up before I had even started got hacked. Even though it was a white hat, it was enough to ring alarm bells around the organization for security understanding, and many of us were sent to security training. There, I learned how to spoof emails, what 2600 was all about, and more. I decided then that security was going to be baked into everything I did. And so it has been.

And revenge was served through cleverly spoofed emails. Revenge was served cold.

It was all in good fun, approved by management. And I was never called the marketing girl again. Still, I didn’t stay at that job for long. After my boss left, I decided it was time to move on myself.

I used that experience and the rage that it brought up, to continue my education and to eventually play a practical joke that got a lot of laughs and helped me feel like I got my revenge.

That experience was the first time I experienced misogyny in tech, but it wasn’t the last. But I have always kept that advice of revenge being served cold in my mind.

When I read Michelle’s post about misogyny in WordPress, I didn’t expect it to bring up a lot of those feelings. The posts about how women shouldn’t code got me the most. I can understand how the person who wrote that feels threatened by women who can code way better than he can. After all, most misogyny and narcissism is rooted in feelings of inadequacy.

But that type of behavior needs to be called out. I’m strong enough at this point in my life to deal, and I work with and for people who are very supportive of all people. But for younger women who are just getting started learning to navigate the tech world and tech communities, we need more voices of “yes you can” and “here’s help for you” instead of misguided statements that discourage.

This is more than just WordPress. This is for all tech communities. We can do better.

Women Should Code. And more.

Here’s the thing. I’ve written recently about some of the challenges my family have gone through in the last few months. After my husband had a catastrophic stroke, I am now not only the only breadwinner for the family, I’m a single mom to a precocious almost 14 yr old, I have a house to care for, a job I love, and I am the primary caregiver for my husband because I refuse to allow the medical establishment to eat him alive.

If I wasn’t in tech, if I had stayed home to cook and clean like this moron has suggested, I wouldn’t have been able to care for the man I married. An actual MAN would probably be dead by now if it wasn’t for a woman who loves him.

If I wasn’t in tech, I would not have been able to be home for my kids over the last 20+ years working remotely in a technical field that didn’t require my presence in an office.

If I didn’t learn to code – HTML, JavaScript, CSS, SQL, PHP, and so much more – I would have never been able to give my kids the life they deserve.

I learned to code, but I didn’t stop there. I learned how to manage so much more than just code. Code complements my writing, complements my ability to talk to developers and site owners, helps me find ways to be of service where non-coders cannot. Being able to code helps me see opportunities. Code is the foundation of my success.

While I am most certainly the “marketing woman” these days, I sit on a throne of being able to hack, read and write code, and know what level of the stack a vulnerability might affect. I will never give up my technical prowess, and I’m not giving up my ability to connect with the audiences who look to get more out of their code.

I’m also not giving up my ability to exact revenge. Cold.

Leverage Anger for Good

I wasn’t expecting to be angry about some of those things in that post. I thought it was behind me. After all, I learned a lot from being faced with misogyny in tech at a very young age. I turned a bad thing into a good thing.

Maybe it’s because I’m sitting here this summer teaching my almost 14 yr old daughter how to publish. She’s learning her way around wp-admin, and I think I’d have to exact a spleen or other major organ out of any jerk that wants to tell her she can’t go deeper.

Because I’m going to bet that before too long, she’ll code circles around the guy who said women shouldn’t code.

She’ll code, but she’ll also do so much more than that, too.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

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