Many geeks end up doing tech support for their extended family and friends. We were talking about this with my friend who runs a Fort Collins laptop repair company, and that’s true for women, with added dimensions. Because women are often expected to do a lot of free labor already in the home, for family, in various caretaking roles, and for schools and local community, adding another job to our plate can really suck. We get the second shift as women, and then the third shift as geeks. Or, if you’re in a non-techy job, you might be that person in the office who can always fix the printer or get spyware off your boss’s computer, you might not be acknowledged or paid for your technical expertise and work – which I believe is especially a problem for women.
It’s a problem for me at times. Yet for me as a feminist, and a basically nice person, I want to support others, especially women, who can benefit from my tech knowledge. It’s payback, too, for all the times co-workers gave me advice, or ex-boyfriends fixed my laptop despite a breakup. It’s important for us to fix things in a way that teaches rather than mystifies & obfuscates. Doing tech support well is useful, empowering activism.
Do you find yourself in this position? Are you on call 24/7 for your mom-in-law’s broken net connection and your great-uncle’s mail merge and your kid’s teacher’s wiki page? How do you handle balance and boundaries?