Proud of my cousin Cleoniki Kesidis, who wrote about why she's sick of being asked why she studies computer science: ottawacitizen.com/life/women+stu…
— Kate Heartfield (@kateheartfield) May 6, 2013
Ms. Kesidis' story reminds me of an incident from my own workplace years ago, when I lived in Vancouver.
I worked for a small company and there was nothing notable about that. This story involves my boss - who I followed from my previous job - and I could see this scene playing out in any office with him. That, I suppose, is the problem.
Here it is.
One day I came back from lunch, sat down in the office I shared with my coworker, and woke up my computer only to find it filled with porn websites. "Oh, ha ha ha" is what I'm supposed to say, I guess. Good one boss. There's no doubt who did it - only my boss would be immature enough to think that was funny. My co-worker and fellow computer nerd would rather install a bug into my code and watch me wrestle it down, swearing, for an afternoon. That would be a funny prank.
If my office was private that would have been the end of it. Move along. The problem is anyone passing in the hall can see my screen. Not appropriate at all. It made me angry.
Unfortunately my boss would not have understood if I'd explained it. (In retrospect, is this what mansplaining is? Can men mansplain to other men?)
Saying nothing I waited a few hours. Eventually my boss wandered in for a regular work related chat. I asked him to close the door. Our conversation went something like this. Let's use Mary as the name of the company's VP of Finance.
"Oh hi boss, I need to tell you something."
"Yes?" he said.
"When I was coming back from lunch I bumped into Mary in the elevator. She wanted me to run an alternate report on sales volumes, so I said we'd just head right to my desk to work on it."
"Oh", he said, with some sense of where this was going.
"It wasn't very cool to sit down with her at my desk and find porn all over my screen. Don't ever do that again."
I was lying of course, nothing of the sort happened. But it could have happened. I did random reports for Mary all the time as she needed them. The scenario is completely plausible.
My boss could be an idiot, but he wasn't stupid. Had my fiction been true, the results would have been bad, for him. What started for him as a funny prank with no repercussions, aside for me, or a co-worker being made to feel uncomfortable, might now get him fired.
He was made to feel queasy for just a few seconds - an otherwise happy workday interrupted by something distasteful and unexpected. An environment that was collegial and safe had been turned upside-down and filled with dread. "Ungh, how will I finish the day like this" probably passed through his head.
Good, because that's a feeling too many people have daily. Boss' odyssey lasted 30-seconds and likely hasn't been repeated since, an unearned bonus of playing on the lowest difficulty setting.
Ten years ago my mid-thirty-something boss wasn't any more evolved than Ms. Kesidis' computer science classmates are today.
Men, we've got a long road ahead.