I made the decision to learn audio engineering for two rather unimpressive, slightly shameful reasons: the first being because of a boy, and the second being because no one else was willing or interested in taking over the department. I mean, Cabe was really cute and it looked like a easy gig. Microphone on, microphone off. Cue thunder sound effect. That kind of stuff.
Fast forward four months to a theater gone dark, save for the emergency exit lights and the fluorescent light spilling out from the windows of the tech booth where I sat alone pouring over a manual and some “audio for dummies” print outs. There were buttons called “auxs” and apparently “frequencies” were a thing that mattered.
It seemed I had made a terrible mistake.
And yet, somewhere along the way I had uncovered an addicting fascination for things that created sound, and things that made sound louder. I puzzled all the buttons and knobs and terms together, and built a passion from a misguided venture.
There was no end in sight – I was a tech-girl now.
I was a fortunate geeky girl. Despite growing up in the southern Texas suburbs, I was often encouraged to take leadership roles and break stereotypes. My close female friends at the time were keeping pace with my strides in other fields of the tech-dom. We challenged each other, we cheered each other; we collaborated. By our senior year, the theater department had female technicians at the head of every department, and naively I assumed that this was normal.
First day of college orientation shattered that illusion.
I spent the next three-and-a-half years feeling quite small. We’re talking fish from a tiny little pond thrown in the sea. A massive sea. The Pacific Ocean. I was one of four girls out of a class of 56 individuals in a college environment that was 92% male. It’s a rather odd sensation, being an anomaly – for any girl who hasn’t ever entered a field of study or employment that is traditionally male-dominated, it’s hard to explain. Some see you as bit of a spectacle, some see you as an annoyance, a rare few see you as a threat. Any way you look at it, you are viewed as separate from the group. A tiny fish in the Pacific Ocean that had been ousted from the school.
Pretty much like this.
But then again, that was school. As I headed out in to the real world, I was sure I would be judged based solely on my intelligence and abilities. With eager optimism, I began to interview for jobs in both the live sound and audio post-production fields.
At one point, I had an interview with a live sound production company in which the interviewer told me I might be too attractive to work with his team.
I had another interview with a studio in which the owner said my resume was impressive, for a girl.
At my job as a live sound engineer, I had musicians come up to me at the sound board and ask me where my boyfriend, the sound guy, had gone.
As a producer, I had a coworker tell me the reason I was good at multitasking was because women were programmed to have lots of babies.
This is what the world is right now.
I am a tech-girl. I love computers and gadgets and things that are streamlined. I love talking about the Internet. I want to know how to write code better, and I’m learning how to build a computer from the ground, up. In a way, women are lucky to be outnumbered in the fields of science and technology, because we work harder; but we shouldn’t always have to. That’s where the problem lies. Thankfully, communities like IGGPPC and Minute Mentoring by are working towards the solution. And now I am, too.
I spent years fighting against my fellow female audiophiles and it got me absolutely nowhere. If anything, I only managed to further isolate myself; I only swam further away from the school. Then I got lost, and almost eaten by a shark.
And while I was swimming, frantic and directionless in hopes to live another day, I realized it would be really great to have someone to brainstorm “how to not get eaten” ideas. Someone who also knew what it felt like to have to swim outside of the safety of the school, someone like a fellow tech-girl.
Iggles, I’m not asking you to go out and picket your local dot com startup. I’m not saying you should wage war on forums, or burn your bra. That’s weird, and not really helpful in any tangible way. No, I only want to say that if you are passionate about science, technology, or wood-working – you go and do it, no matter what. If you have a friend who is also harboring a secret love of welding or software development, you help each other. With enough tech-girls and geek-girls swimming alongside each other, with enough Iggles challenging and cheering and collaborating, we could form our own school.
A better school.
Preferably this school: