Madame IT

"Madame IT," your profile of the female programmer, inspired me. I, too, am a female independent consultant in the Washington, D.C. area. I have been self-employed for almost four years and have been somewhat successful. Unfortunately, I have experienced mixed reactions.

I am 31, but I look very young. I am blonde and petite; I dress well and wear makeup, so people assume I cannot be technical. When I walk into a client site for the first time, the employees think I am a new temp. If I sit at a computer to work on the system, they hand me a memo to type, thinking that I must be a secretary. I respond, "Sorry, I only type commands fast." Clients often quiz me on my technical knowledge to see if I actually am intelligent. They explain, "You don't look like a dweeb."

Once a client actually told me to look as unattractive as possible when I went to his firm, so his wife would let me work there. The day after I worked on her computer for the first time, I was called and told that the firm no longer needed my services. Coincidence? Maybe. One client told his systems administrator that I was really smart for someone who looked like she was 12 years old.

I get negative responses from both women and men. It almost makes me want to change my career. I have worked very hard to get where I am, and I have always provided excellent service. I am very good at what I do. I used to think that, in this day and age, anyone could do anything without experiencing constant prejudice and stereotyping. Now I understand why there are so few female IT consultants.

Your article gave me hope -- maybe I shouldn't become a receptionist at a nail salon just yet.

Gina Tepper

I love your site and especially loved your piece about the independent IT professional woman. That's me, too! We are a rare breed, I know, but we're starting to pop up in the darndest places. Keep up the good work.

Linda Marie Wetzel
Shaker Heights, Ohio

Loved your article "Madame IT." I am a Web copywriter and a tech writer. I see women everywhere in IT, but not many in the core, "gung-ho," important roles -- the old chicken and egg story, I think.

I, too, experience discrimination as a female in IT, but of a very odd sort: it doesn't come from others on my project team or even from the clients. It comes from the tech people I interact with as a consumer -- ISP support desks, hardware resellers, male techie friends (all of whom seem to think an iMac would be "perfect" for me), and so on.

Perhaps actually being hired for a project pre-qualifies me in the workplace, but this doesn't happen in retail.

Anyway, great mag. Really well-organized, well-written and user-friendly.

Jenny MacKinnon