On The Job: Sex and the System Admin Page 3

Deb Shinder

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 technical writing.

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 getting contracts

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?

This article was originally published on Oct 24, 2000

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