Being a woman in a man's world

This chapter lists some tips for beginners and for women in particular.

A change of mind

Do it yourself, fight your daemons

First things first: if you want to learn Linux, you will have to take a lot of initiative. You will have to do things yourself and people who help you, will tell you so. As with learning a language, it won't do to have someone read to you in Arabic to learn it. You have to practice on yourself.

It starts with small things, such as situations where someone wants to explain something. It is logical for an experienced person to take the keyboard from you and quickly fix things, for all kinds of reasons. But you should protect your keyboard, and stay firm in your decision that you want to do things yourself. Lots of people will offer to do things for you, since you are one of the few women interested in their subject, but you have to resist the temptation. So ask for directions as much as is needed, but don't let anybody touch YOUR keyboard.

Learning to solve your own problems will greatly improve your chances of survival.

Speak up for yourself

Sooner or later, you will be in a conversation about a specific topic. Some people also tend to make it more difficult on purpose by bragging about their favorite subject in the most technical terms immaginable. If you lost the thread about an interesting topic, ask them to explain in plain language what they are talking about. Asking never hurt anyone, and men will usually admire your interest.

Don't be afraid to ask for clarity. And ask again if the answer is not to your satisfaction. Learn to find a wave length which can be used for explaining your problem.

If you're new somewhere, don't lock yourself up: try to get to know everyone, ask what they do, see who is best fit to help you with problems you may encounter, speak up for yourself. People often expect input from newcomers, and if not, it is often appreciated. Speaking up is also greatly appreciated when meetings are organized. Everybody is almost always afraid to talk, but talking is presumed to be one of our favorite wastes of time, so offer to do that speech! And collect the credits you earned for saving some other coward from having to stand in front of a group of people himself ;-)

Speaking up for yourself also if you think it is not worth the trouble, e.g. when you are stared at or when the nth sexist joke can not make you laugh any more. If you don't tell them what your limits are, men will never know what irritates you. They are working on techniques to read our thoughts, but they are far from achieving their goal ;-)

One general advise is to not walk away without making yourself heard. Women give up too often because of one small thing, irritating them beyond bearing. Talk about what is bothering you, you can always leave after trying that. Everyone has a boundary beyond which they are not willing to accept certain behavior. Try not to leave before telling the rest of the group about your boundaries, they are worthy of being respected.

The typical male

Getting to rate the local nerds on their degree of sexism was not the goal of the survey, yet someone made a remark worth putting in here, as a general advise to women in IT:

"The majority of people in IT is male and heterosexual. The majority of males see females as possible prey. Consequently, every technical discussion is spiced with rutting behavior. Realize this, and ignore it (or block it). Once men are past the rutting stage, their explanations become more clear."