Women in Early Tech
There are two women in this Data General team photo from 1980. Rosemarie Seale and Betty Shanahan. Seale, the secretary for the group, got the job by answering an ad in the paper that started
ARE YOU BORED?
Referred to as a “surrogate mother” she was annoyed by this until resigning herself to it saying “You are what you are. I might as well enjoy that too.” Her job was described in the book Soul of a New Machine as a long romance.
The circled one is Betty Shanahan the “one woman engineer” on the team. She was the first female engineer to be employed at Data General’s development facility. It was her first job after graduating from Michigan State. She had “fine credentials” and was hired in 1978 out of a pack of recent graduates when the hiring managers looked sideways at anyone who claimed to have too much of a family life. She was 22 years old.
In the book, she talks about the all-encompassing aspects of the job saying “My husband complained that the last three times he’s had to do the laundry.” The group she was in was called the Microkids. The other team, with no women, was called the Hardy Boys. When the project was finally wrapping up, the group leader made awards for all the team members. Shanahan’s was “for putting up with a bunch of creepy guys.” At a separate more formal event, the wives got their own awards. There is no mention of whether Shanahan’s husband received one of these awards, for all the times he did his own laundry.
Shanahan moved on to marketing management for technology products in 1990. In 2002 she became the first engineer to hold the position of Executive Director at the Society of Women Engineers, a position from which she only recently retired. She speaks frequently about the issues of women in technology fields.
“The value of diversity stems from the different approaches and challenges to traditional thinking that a diverse group can leverage…. The Anglo/male-dominated engineering workplace doesn’t typically offer an inclusive environment where all team members can participate while being authentic to themselves.”