For as long as I can remember, since I was first
able to hold a pencil and put words together on paper, I dreamed of being a
writer. Through several other careers: paralegal work, municipal government and
elected office, police work, and computer networking, I continued to write and
to dream. I published a few articles in journals and magazines, I had a few
editorials printed in the local newspapers, I contributed to newsletters, and
filled a couple of closet shelves with almost-finished novels. I never thought I
would be able to actually make a living as a writer, though, until I found
Or, to be more accurate, technical writing found
me. Okay, to be really accurate, technical writing found my husband. The
two of us were frequent, heavy contributors to several high-profile
technology-oriented mailing lists. One day a tech book publisher who monitored
the lists contacted Tom, asking if he would be interested in writing a chapter
for an upcoming book. Tom mentioned that I was a writer, and both of us ended up
Why didn’t that first publisher contact me? Gender
discrimination didn’t enter my mind; I assumed it was the “magic”
title that I’d seen open so many doors during our marriage: Tom is Dr. Shinder.
I’m not. The grueling years he spent in medical school, internship and residency
are still good for something, and I don’t begrudge him that. It’s a form of
discrimination (of the positive variety) that he earned. Several months later,
after we’d both established ourselves as dependable, accurate writers for the
first publishing company, an editor from a second publisher did contact me, and
contracted with me to write a book on my own.
No, it wasn’t from the publishers that I felt
that first sting of gender discrimination.
The Fan Club
Instead, it turned out to be my loyal readers –
most of them members of our peer group of networking professionals – who
brought home to me the fact that gender discrimination is alive and well
in the IT world.
Writing our first book was almost like giving
birth to a child. As it should be in childbirth, Tom was there with me, and did
a lot. But I wrote ten chapters of that book, and I was darn proud of it.
Proud of finishing it on time, proud of how well it turned out. And it wasn’t
just “parental pride.” The book got rave reviews. Everyone was
praising it and recommending it.
There was just one problem. Somehow, in the
course of all these wonderful reviews, it morphed from Troubleshooting
Windows 2000 TCP/IP by Debra Littlejohn Shinder and Thomas W. Shinder, M.D into
just “Tom Shinder’s book.”
What did that mean?