There's a refreshingly friendly, balanced view of working as a woman in a mostly-male environment (in this case, the games industry) by Michelle Clay over at WomenGamers.com. Overall her points are very reasonable and mirror, I'm sure, a lot of similar experiences that women have had. There's just one teensy flaw: she seems to be encouraging more women to join the industry because there's a slight advantage to being the minority - although these points are somewhat played for humor in the article. And yet, if women did as the writer suggests, wouldn't their immigration annihilate the condition of their minority status and instead lead to a more equal distribution of men and women?
And isn't that, ultimately, what we want - including, I think, the writer of the article?
Wanting to be the only women in a group of male colleagues is a double-edged sword. If that's what you base your work happiness on, what will happen when another woman joins the team? Jealousy, and insecurity, because suddenly that which you valued is gone. I don't suggest that Michelle is advocating this; I think she's genuinely simply trying to persuade more women not to be frightened off by the male-ness of the industry. Still, I think there are some women who are drawn to the industry precisely because of its maleness.
Then there is the backlash - the feeling among some of your unkind male colleagues that you only exist there because you are a woman; and thus you are reduced to your femininity. Moreover, you become the focal point for any discussion of "what women want" - suddenly you are an expert, because you are female, and often you get put into the position of speaking for all womankind.
And what if you do have standards of behavior and language that are different? Do you feel compelled to suppress them because you want to fit in? I'm curious, this is a real question I have. I tend to have an "off" sense of humor anyway, as do many nerds and geeks, in my experience, and we used to make jokes about "sexual harrassment" and we could do so, because we all trusted one another. Michelle seems to have a graceful way to also upend gender stereotypes. But not all wpeople are comfortable in those situations; should we adopt similar standards to other business cultures? Or is it okay to keep acting on a case-by-case basis? Personally, I've been more pertrubed by offhand homophobic comments than ones that I felt were sexist, and I tended to speak up in those cases to make sure people knew, without being accusatory or unpleasant, that I didn't want to go along with their jokes.
I geniuinely miss my mostly male colleagues at Ziff Davis, at 1UP.com, and especially at Gamevideos.com. We bonded, after all - sharing hotel rooms and late nights and awful and wonderful experiences. And yet there is something refreshing about being in a more gender-balanced environment; and my currently team is almost all women. It's definitely a different sort of energy.
My only complaint: the women's bathroom gets a lot more crowded!
Other women who work in male-dominated places, what's been your experience?