On The Dot...
Talking about all things .NET related

The Sick Day

Thursday, October 20, 2011 10:05 AM

A friend of mine sent me an interesting blog post by Nadyne Richmond speaking about being female in the tech industry. The points in that post relate to being harassed when you put yourself in the spotlight in this industry.  However, harrassment arises behind closed doors as well, right within a company.

***Side Note: I just want to make a quick point to say that not all companies are like this, but there have been a small handful that I have experienced negative behaviour within. In the same respect, I have worked with many brilliant people in the industry (men and women combined), who were nurturing, fair, respectful, and great mentors, which have inspired me to continue on in this field rather than throw my hands up and walk away.
 
I’ve worked in many places where I was the lone female developer… or one of two women, at most. And with that, there are occasions where you witness bad behaviour that are a result of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, although that doesn’t make it right by any means.

One example off the top of my head involves a company I worked at early on in my career. It was operated as a factory-style environment, even though it was a small software consulting office. We were required to “punch-in” at 8am and “punch-out” at 5pm. Lunch was from 12pm – 1pm… no exceptions.
 
I worked on a laptop because I was expected to take it home and complete tasks that were assigned at the end of the day, as “homework”, to have ready for the morning. So I often worked 12 hour days between the office and home, while only getting paid for 8 of those hours.

The men in the office generally had a "forgiveness-factor" for being 10 minutes late, leaving a few minutes early, taking extended lunches, or stepping out for appointments. The women in the office, which consisted of myself, one other female developer, and the female receptionist, didn't have those privileges.

One morning, I received a call from my daughter’s daycare requesting that I pick her up immediately and take her to the doctor, as she had a high temperature of 104 degrees. I walked into the boss’ office and let him know of the emergency. I assured him I would be able to take her to the doctor, and then ensure she was in the care of a family member afterwards, so I could return to the office within a couple of hours. I knew asking for the rest of the day off would be out of the question. So that was my compromise.
 
His first response was, “Well I’d be a real prick if I said you couldn’t leave, wouldn’t I?”
 
I didn’t bat an eyelash and responded with, “Yes you would. And I would go anyway.”
 
Considering I had only been in the workforce for a year at this point, and had no other job prospects or connections to land another job if this one went sour, it was a pretty ballsy statement on my part. But then again, you just don’t mess with a mother when it comes to her child… especially a sick child.
 
I was out of the office for 2 hours in total.  When I returned, my boss marched over to my desk and demanded that I still mark the day as a sick day in the time tracking system. I refused to do so, citing that I was out of the office for two hours, where one hour was my lunch hour. I also noted that I would be working the normal additional 4 hours at home that evening, which more than made up the shortfall. This logic didn’t seem to sit well with the big boss. His answer in short was “You can’t bank your hours here. That’s not how it works”.
 
When payday rolled around, everyone had a cheque on their desks except for me (yes, you heard me… paper cheques). My boss indicated I hadn’t worked a full 40 hour work week in the office, during the regulated time, and until I corrected it in the time tracking system, he had instructed his accountant to withhold my pay.

Being a single mother, just having gone through a divorce at that point, I had my fill of being put in my place. I remember telling him that if I didn’t have a cheque in my hands before Monday morning, I would not return to work. Plain and simple.
 
While driving home, I knew it was time to update my resume and start looking for a another job being newly unemployed, after all. I was certain Big Boss Man didn’t care about the type of employee he was losing. After all, I was “just a girl”.

He must have either realized the impact I had to his current project,  or that he was going to be losing 20+ hours of free development each week. Regardless of the reason, it was clear he had a sudden change of heart, because within a half an hour of arriving at my apartment, there was my co-worker standing at my door, cheque in hand, asking if I would be returning to the office.

True to my word, I did return on Monday morning.