Gender inequality is alive and well

It's a lot more than a pay gap

I sat in studio yesterday evening before my weekly tech slot on Newstalk Drive and listened to Chris read some texts in reaction to an item on the gender pay gap. One of the texts referred to “the myth of gender inequality”. Both presenters refuted the use of the word “myth” in that text, but I sat in studio with my blood boiling and my brain buzzing.

This is, obviously enough, a personal issue for me, but it’s one that I rarely speak out on. Do you want to know why? It’s because I don’t see my gender when I’m in work. I don’t think of myself as a “female tech journalist”. I see myself as a tech journalist. That’s it. The end. Goodbye.

The only time my gender enters the equation is when other people make an issue of it. Very often, I’m referred to as “the tech girl on Newstalk” or “the tech one” from Newstalk. Neither of these bother me really. 

What does bother me, however, is when I’m asked to be on panels or speak at events purely to make up a gender quota. I was once approaced with the following pitch: “We need a girl to make up the panel”. I got ratty and asked if I’d be on a panel of “boys”. I did not take part in that panel.

Another time, I was asked to take part in a live tech event and review the “women’s tech products, like the vacuums and the hairdryers”. A male product reviewer would be doing the other stuff. I did not take part in that event.

I was once told to continue to play “the token chick in tech card”. 

I can, with my hand on my heart, say that I have never once played any form of card in my career; token chick or otherwise. I have gotten to where I am now in my career because I have worked my ass off since before I left college.

For the most part, I have received incredible support. I have worked with the likes of Pat Kenny, George Hook and Jonathan Healy – all of whom have supported me and helped me develop an on-air voice. I have been mentored by people like Patricia Monahan, programme director of Newstalk and Kiela Brodigan, Director of Digital at Newstalk. These women have pushed me to find my voice, period.

That being said, however, I have encountered my fair share of morons along the way. Here’s something I wrote back in 2012 about a person who treated me badly for no other reason than the fact that I’m not a man.

“There is someone I have to be associated with and in the vicinity of, who treats women like second-class citizens. I am usually quite good at shaking things like that off or just putting it down to the fact that the person is a complete moron, but this is different because it’s someone I deal with in a professional capacity and who almost made me question my ability to do what I do. And that’s what got to me.

He has walked all over me, because, clearly, what he’s doing is far more important than what I’m doing. I should state this is not someone professionally superior to me in any way, shape or form. This is someone I have to be associated with in a professional capacity but does not work with me directly.

When our paths cross, he’ll talk to my male colleagues and completely blank me or interrupt a conversation I’m having with someone, without an apology or excusing himself. The only time he has spoken to me (and not over me) was when he wanted me to do something for him. It happened twice. And you know what? I helped him, because that’s the kind of person I am. He then said “hi” to me twice after helping him for the second time – and made me feel grateful for it. What a pleb. Me, not him. 

Why would I let someone I know has confidence issues, and so takes it out on other people, make me question myself? He is one of these people who thinks he is so macho that he doesn’t need women around him. So he treats them like crap.

I know this, you see, because initially I thought he had an issue with me, so I watched him closely to see what kind of person he was and how I could have upset him – and it turns out he does it to every single woman he deems to be less worthy of oxygen than he and his macho chums (which is every woman).” 

I wrote this piece when I was 22 or 23. While this particular person is no longer around, stuff like this still happens. I’ve become better and calling out people who disrespect me, but I shouldn’t have to.

It’s such a frustrating waste of energy.

If you’re unsure as to whether or not gender inequality is a “thing” in the Ireland of 2016, let me assure you it is. We can continue to fight it, but it’d be swell if people with their closed minds could just keep their thoughts to themselves. It helps nobody.

The gender pay gap is one thing, but it’s another thing to disrespect or think less of a person purely because they are female.