Excerpt for Cyber Revolution by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Cyber Revolution

By Forest Handford

This book is a work of fiction. All characters are from the author’s imagination and no similarity to real people should be drawn or implied. All events in this book are also fiction.

Copyright © 2018 by Forest J. Handford

All rights reserved including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Published by East Coast Games at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

50% of royalties from this book will be donated to the International Rescue Committee. According to their website, “The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.” Learn more at .

This book is dedicated to women. It is written with a dream of workforce parity for them and all others.

Table of Contents

Zero: First Date

One: Market Share

Two: The Brutal Truth

Three: Backlash

Four: A New Mentor

Five: Dry-Run

Six: Showtime

Seven: Intermission

Eight: School Woes

Nine: Nothing is Forever

Ten: A Goodbye

Eleven: Election Night

Twelve: The Invitation

Thirteen: Muckraking

Fourteen: Women’s March

Fifteen: The Registry

Sixteen: Independence Day

Seventeen: Defiance

Eighteen: Andorra

Nineteen: Response

Twenty: Sabbatical

Twenty-One: Retaliation

Twenty-Two: The Visit

Twenty-Three: Action

Twenty-Four: Normalcy

Twenty-Five: Gone Fishing

Twenty-Six: Don't Poke the Bear

Twenty-Seven: Fake News

Twenty-Eight: Counter Strike

Twenty-Nine: Engagement

Thirty: Moving

Thirty-One: Call to Serve

Thirty-Two: Crazy Talk

Thirty-Three: First Meeting

Thirty-Four: Homecoming

Thirty-Five: Democrat Chat

Thirty-Six: Reconnecting

Thirty-Seven: Running Mate

Thirty-Eight: Win or Lose

Thirty-Nine: Military

Forty: Education

Forty-One: Midterm

Forty-Two: America First

Forty-Three: Securing America

Forty-Four: Farewell



Connect with the Author

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Martin Niemöller

Zero: First Date

Friday, December 2nd, 1994, 7:40 pm

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” - Emma Lazarus

Rosa had never been on a blind date before. When Marcia, a college roommate, heard Rosa moved to Connecticut, Marcia told Rosa she absolutely had to meet Brent. Brent was Marcia's cousin. Marcia said he had a heart of gold, and was a looker. According to her, he had just returned from the Peace Corps and was single. Rosa had her doubts. He was a couple of years older than her and didn't have a full-time job.

They met for coffee at a little place in Danbury which Marcia recommended. Rosa’s eyes lit up when she saw that Brent was tall and handsome. When he took off his winter coat, she could see he was thin but muscular.

When Marcia told her Brent had been in the Peace Corps, it hadn't set a high expectation. It had been so important to her to get through college and into a good company. What kind of financial security would a guy like this provide?

They started with usual first date chit chat. She told him a bit about her work as an engineer at Fast Futures Machines (FFM) and he told her about his time in the Peace Corps in Senegal. Volunteering and helping people was very important to him and he was felt fortunate to be able to continue doing so by volunteering at the local fire department. That must be how he kept in shape, thought Rosa. Brent didn't say much about how he currently made a living, just that he started doing freelance work after his two years of Peace Corps service in Senegal ended.

After a while, Brent asked Rosa a deeper question, “Who inspires you?”

His question took her by surprise and Rosa looked away for a moment before she told him, “I've always felt inspired by Valentina Tereshkova. When I was little I wanted to go to space just like her.”

“Interesting,” Brent replied, “I’ve heard of her, she was a cosmonaut right?”

“Yes, she was the first woman in space and her first flight was in 1963.”

“1963? Wow, I didn’t know there were any women were in space flights before the ‘80’s.”

“Yeah,” said Rosa, “I saw her picture in an old issue of LIFE magazine I found in the library. I wanted to know who the woman was wearing the space helmet. I had someone read the article to me. My father told me not to talk about Valentina, because of the cold war. I remember being confused that America took so long to send a woman astronaut into space. Weren’t we the best country? Why had it taken so long for the US to catch up?”

Rosa laughed and Brent smiled, encouraging her to go on.

“My brother, Jorge, used to tease me about Valentina. I idolized her so much that I named one of my dolls after her and even made her a space suit out of a toilet paper roll. He was such a pain! One time he stole Valentina and ripped up her space suit. I cried for days and then made a new and even better suit. I made such a mess with the paper, glue, and crayons and drove my parents crazy! But I protected her from that point on, at least, until…” Rosa trailed off.

She remembered the time she almost lost Valentina because of the INS. As she remembered it, Brent asked, “Are you okay? You seem . . . hurt.”

“Sorry, I was just remembering a rough time in my youth.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

She was unsure. They seemed to have strayed from first date material. Finally she let out a breath and said, “Okay, but then it’s your turn for a personal share.”

Brent winked.

“I was born in San Diego and lived there when I was little. I don’t remember much about living there until the I turned five.

“My parents and grandmother had already given me a few gifts and I was so excited about my party. We were going to spend the day celebrating at a park near our apartment in Chula Vista. I spent most of the day making party favors and thank you notes for my guests. My abuela had already told me that I didn't need to write notes yet. Still, I was going to do it anyway.

* * *

The phone started ringing in the hall. She heard her grandmother answer it, “¿Hola?” There was a pause, then she said, “¡Si, Padre Gómez!”

Rosa had heard the phone slam down, which seemed odd. Abuela was usually delicate with the phone. Her grandmother had a fearful expression and shouted, “¡Rosa, Mariana, rápido!”

Something was wrong. Her grandmother was shouting for her and her sister. She stood up quickly, scattering the cards, pencils, and crayons she was using and ran to the stairs. Her grandmother had left the phone and was getting her sister to come downstairs.

Her grandmother saw her from the stairwell and said, “¡Zapatos, Rosa, Zapatos!”

Rosa quickly got her shoes on as her grandmother had requested. She was clearly afraid of something. When Rosa finished getting her shoes on, Abuela was holding her purse and had Mariana in her arms. She rushed them out of the apartment and took one of the rear exits from the building. It was like a fire drill, but no fire alarm was going off. Was Russia attacking like everyone said they would? Why would Valentina's country attack? Had the church called to warn them? Were they supposed to duck and cover like her brothers taught her?

Mariana seemed to be in a panic. She was crying incoherently. Occasionally she said, “No, Abuela, no!”

Rosa wanted to reassure Mariana, despite being unsure herself. She could tell by the look on her abuela’s face that it wouldn’t do any good to shout or cry. They got on a bus. Mariana was still crying, and Rosa said, “Shh, we’re okay, Mariana. It's my birthday. Nothing goes wrong on birthdays.”

Mariana relaxed a bit. Their grandmother didn't know much English, but it was obvious she appreciated what Rosa had said. Rosa wanted to ask why they had left so suddenly, but she didn't want Mariana to start getting upset again. They got off at the stop by Castle Park School. The school didn't look like a castle, but it sounded cool. How many people got to go to a school that had castle or park on its name? Those were two of her favorite things and she couldn’t wait to go to that school next year.

Abuela brought them to the playground and told them to play. She said she'd be right back. After she left Mariana said, “I want to go back home. I was playing. I don't want to be at this stupid school.”

“Mariana,” Rosa said, “this is where Pedro goes to school. I'll go here next year and you’ll go here when you turn five!”

“I don't want to go here. I want to go back home!”

Rosa nodded. “Okay, you'd rather be home. Well, Abuela has something super important to do here, so we need to wait.”

“I don't want to wait.”

Rosa saw the slide and had an idea. She ran to it and said, “Bet I can climb up this slide.”

Mariana walked over and watched as Rosa climbed up the slide. The metal was slippery, but she figured out a way up. As soon as she got to the top she turned around, plopped down, and slid to the bottom saying, “Whee!”

Mariana said, “I want to try!”

“Okay, I'll help.”

Mariana needed help climbing up. The first part of the slide was flat, but the rest was tilted. Mariana couldn't get a solid grip, so Rosa pushed from behind. It was much harder to get Mariana up than to get up alone, but it seemed to be keeping her occupied.

After they played on the slide for a while they moved to the swings. Mariana said, “Push me!”

Rosa said, “No, you push me.”

“I can't, you're too big.”

“But I pushed you last time.”

“No, I pushed you last time.”

This was a game they’d often played. They pretended they could take turns at carrying each other and pushing each other when really only Rosa could do either.

Rosa finally said with mock disappointment, “Fine.”

Rosa was realizing that she liked helping her sister. She had no reason to feel any safer than Mariana, but reassuring Mariana helped reassure herself. It felt really good look out for someone. Was that what it was like for Valentina? Was this why Valentina had moved on to politics?

While Rosa was pushing Mariana, their grandmother came out with Pedro. This didn't seem like a bomb warning because no other adults were getting their kids. Pedro looked fine, except for having gotten dirt all over his corduroy pants. Boys, they could never stay clean for a day. What was happening?

They walked back to the bus stop. Pedro didn't seem to know what was going on either. They got on a bus that was going the wrong way from their home. They went to the high school where they picked up Jorge. Jorge looked pretty worried. Did he know what was going on? Was she too young to know?

Maybe this wasn't a geographical emergency, maybe it was a religious emergency. It was Padre Gómez who started this. Maybe the members of the church all needed to come together and pray to keep God from being angry! At church they always talked about the power of prayer. Maybe right now they needed a concentrated blast of prayer to help fix some problem in the community, like maybe someone was sick in the church and they were going to heal them through prayer!

They took the bus to the docks. Why would they go there? Was this where her father was working? Her grandmother made the kids stay together with Jorge in charge. Rosa wanted to ask her brother if he knew what was happening, but she still didn't want Mariana to get upset. After what seemed like an eternity, her grandmother came back with her father. This must be some big emergency to interrupt her father at work.

They were on the move again, this time they did end up at the church. Maybe she was right. Would she have to know a special prayer? Could kids help?

Padre Gómez met them at the door and said, “Buenos dias, kids. I have some snacks laid out for you in the classroom. Why don't you head down while I talk to your parents.”

The kids politely said, “Si, Padre Gómez.” That’s when Rosa saw her mother. Rosa looked at her mother with questions in her eyes but her mother nodded for them to go downstairs. They headed to the basement kids room. They found a bag of cheddar fries. They started eating nervously.

Mariana asked, “When are we going home? I want to go home!”

Pedro shrugged.

Jorge said, “Let’s make the best of what we have. We can turn on the TV. I bet we can find Scooby Doo on one of the UHF channels.”

Mariana said, “Will it be scary?”

Pedro said with exasperation, “The monsters are always a character in a mask. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Jorge turned the TV on and started looking. “Hey, I think this is Little House on the Prairie. Want to watch this?”

“Boring,” said Mariana.

Pedro retorted, “But not scary!”

Jorge said, “It’s okay, I’ll keep looking.”

On the next channel that came in they saw Henry Winkler saying, “Hey.”

“Happy Days!” said Pedro.

Jorge nodded, then said, “Girls, is this okay?”

Rosa shrugged. She didn’t care, whatever passed the time.

Mariana said, “Fine, it’s kind of funny.”

They watched the rest of the episode and started looking for another show when their parents and grandmother came back. Jorge switched off the television. Their father sat down in a chair facing them and started to explain, “The INS is deporting people. Padre Gómez got a list of people in the area who might be deported and . . . we’re on the list. Mariana and Rosa were born in San Diego, so they are citizens. But Jorge, Pedro, Abuela, Mamá, and I are not citizens. If we get caught, we will be sent back and it isn't safe for us to return to Mexico.”

Their grandmother looked really upset. It wasn't everclear to Rosa why her family moved, but she knew something had happened to her grandfather that was so awful nobody ever brought it up.

“Padre Gómez has friends that are willing to help us move,” said her father. “Things will be a little tough as we relocate, but it will all work out.”

* * *

They weren't able to go back to their house. The friends of Padre Gómez packed all their stuff. Most of it was put into storage. Rosa was able to get Valentina back.

Rosa told Brent, “I remember feeling stupid for leaving Valentina. I was lucky that one of the padre’s friends were able to find her.”

“What about your birthday party?”

The birthday projects had been tossed out. The party had to be cancelled. “I remember how sad I was that the party was cancelled, but I felt I needed to stay strong for Mariana. If I could be okay with losing my birthday, then Mariana could try to make due.”

Her family had gotten help moving to LA. It turned out the work for Rosa's father was better at Long Beach than it had been in San Diego. Rosa's mother got a couple of jobs as well. Their grandmother stayed at home helping take care of the kids, while both parents were working. It was very stressful for the first couple of months. Anytime a siren could be heard Abuela and her parents would tense up. Her father had them all make a ‘bug-out bag.’

That was the first time she’d talked about her fifth birthday with anyone outside her family. He really listened to her. He wasn't just waiting to speak, but actually listening. It was hard to imagine making a life with him, but they could certainly have some fun together.

One: Market Share

Wednesday, January 10th, 2001, 9:20 am

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, 'We've always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.” - Grace Hopper

Rosa sat in her office, within Fast Future Machines headquarters. She was reviewing her deluge of morning email. Her office was tidy, by her standards. Her standards, however, were a bit different from the average member of management at FFM. She had family pictures on her desk, pens, a stapler, her steaming mug of coffee with the FFM logo on it, a company phone, the latest prototype FFM desktop computer with monitor, stacks of paper, a candy dish (which, in theory, was for visitors), a ruler, several books (some that were technical while others were about leadership), some highlighters, a white-out container still in its original plastic wrap, a three-level desk organizer filled with paper, a statuette of the Virgin Mary, her Valentina doll, and a laptop. Beyond her desk she had a coat rack that held a backup umbrella, a couple of hats, her winter coat, a sweater, and a fleece jacket with the FFM logo. That table also had stacks of papers. The walls were decorated with motivational pictures of mountainscapes covered in snow and ice.

Rosa’s phone started ringing. She groaned. There wasn't enough coffee in the world for her to handle that horrific sound after another sleepless night with Katy, her five-month-old. Co-sleeping made nursing Katy simple in the middle of the night. But, Katie was teething and not sleeping much at night. Thankfully, Brent took turns with her, which helped, but it still made for interrupted sleep.

After the third ring she pressed the speakerphone button and said, “Hello, this is Rosa.”

“Good morning, Rosa. I hope Katy is doing well.”

“Hey, Todd. She was up most of the night in pain.”

“Mmm, sorry to hear it. Her teeth will come in . . . eventually. Anyway, I need you for this strategy meeting. Can you join us in the Kenya Room?”

“Sure, I'll be right there.”

“Thanks, Rosa. See you soon.”

“Okay. Bye.”

Rosa quickly grabbed her coffee and laptop. The Kenya room was packed. It was barely capable of seating twenty, and she wasn't the first to be left standing, trying to hold her seven-pound computer. She took a spot standing behind where Todd was sitting.

The meeting was comprised mostly of executives, including the CEO, Alfred Ricci. Some of the seated people she didn't know by name, but they were all part of FFM. She noticed she was the only woman in the room. She was the only Hispanic in the room, too.

The present conversation was clearly uncomfortable. The sales and marketing executives were posturing defensively. When Todd noticed her, he interrupted the conversation by clearing his throat. He then stood up and said to the room, “Here is Rosa Alvarez, one my very brightest Development Directors”.

The CEO stood and appeared caught off guard. He stammered, “Well . . . I . . . uh.”

She wondered how bright her warm cheeks looked. Did he remember that night he mistook her for a member of the cleaning crew?

Alfred cleared his throat and said, “Rosa, thanks for joining us on short notice. We have a problem we are discussing and I'd really appreciate the group getting your thoughts on the matter”.

“Please, have a seat”, Todd said gesturing to the one he just vacated. She sat, awkward level at an all time high.

Alfred, continued, “Welcome, Rosa. We’re here to discuss our market share issues. As you know, Apple launched their iTunes program yesterday at MacWorld. Rather than focusing on how to increase market share for their hardware, Apple has chosen to diversify. Our market share has been in decline over the last few years. We are brainstorming to find ways to reverse our declining revenue.”

There was an awkward pause. In fact, it was a very long and awkward pause . . . perhaps a pause that broke records for both length and awkwardness. It was finally broken by James Durand, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales who said, “Let’s start writing our ideas on the board. Ground rules: there are no bad ideas. Do not be negative about other’s ideas.” He got up and walked over to the board. “All right, let’s hear some.”

A man standing on the opposite side from James said, “Reducing bugs and faults.”

“Great,” said James as he wrote it down, “what else?”

One of the men at the table said, “We’ve never sold direct to schools. It could be a huge market.”

“Okay,” said Jim, as he wrote, ‘market to schools’.

A guy wearing a bowtie said, “If we bundle our computers with expensive video games we could get more gamers.”

One of the manufacturing VPs said, “We could change our painting process to allow custom colors and designs. We could even get artists to design custom pieces for our computers.”

As people continued to call out ideas, an idea began to stir in Rosa’s mind. At first she felt unsure about saying it, but as she heard more and more ideas she realized she had to say it. “Let’s market to women! Most of our ads are meant to appeal to men and boys.”

Mark Thompson, Junior Vice President of Emerging Markets said, “None of today’s computer manufacturers are targeting women. Seventy percent of all consumer sales are made by women, yet personal computer sales is higher for men. That’s a huge market to tap into.”

A man wearing a mustard-yellow shirt said, “Let's make a secure email service. It could be open source so that we replace the existing standards that are prone to spam and spoofing. We could make money through advertising as a web email client like Hotmail. We could also sell email services to companies that don't want to host their own email servers.”

The ideas continued to popcorn for an hour. Once the ideas started to die off, Jim said, “Let's prioritize these. Each person gets three points to spend. You can spend them all on one idea, spend one on three ideas, or spend one on one idea and two on another idea”.

Jim asked each person for their votes. The first person to go was the man closest to Jim. The man said, “I really like Mark’s idea of promoting to women. I'll put all my points on that.”

As Jim started to write tally marks next to the idea, Alfred said, “Just a correction, that was Rosa’s idea, not Mark’s.” Rosa had barely processed the error by the time it had been corrected, by the CEO no less.

By the end of the meeting the three top ideas were the email idea, the idea about custom computer cases, and Rosa’s idea about women. Jim recorded all the details, and Alfred asked for time and cost estimates on the top three ideas by the end of the following week. Todd and Rosa left together. Todd said as they walked, “I’m glad I asked you to join us.”

“Thanks. I didn’t expect my idea would be so accepted. I'm not even sure why you invited me.”

“Rosa, I wanted you there because you see things differently from most of us here. Our white male perspectives are . . . rather limited. You understand our world, but you come from a different one.” He stopped walking and turned to her. “It used to be that a company of FFM’s age and size would take decades to fall apart. That was the way of industrial age companies. We live in the information age now where technology advances so quickly that we could be out of business in a few years, like Data General, if we don't adapt. We need people like you to help remove our blind spots so we don't become extinct.”

He was right. The color had drained from her face. Rosa felt nervous and anxious. She didn't mind being responsible, but Todd made it sound like the whole future of the company might depend on her. She wasn't special. What could she really do? In many ways her current position felt overwhelming, especially with her family responsibilities. She had only just gotten back from maternity leave.

Somedays it felt like, except for the cleaning crew, she was the only Hispanic woman at FFM. There were many times she had been mistaken as being a member of the cleaning crew. One night she had been working late after having spent a day with executives from a big box store chain that were threatening to pull FFM products off the shelf due to a series of bugs that led to some national newspapers bashing the chain for carrying the product. She had been typing up her notes from the meeting and making proposals on which bugs to prioritize. Rosa had needed some more coffee and went into the kitchen where she bumped into Alfred, of all people, who was working late. He was washing his coffee cup while she started to refill hers. He had turned and said, “Oh, hi, I think you missed my area. Nobody has picked up the trash there.” Apparently he hadn’t noticed her suit jacket and pencil skirt, her skin color standing out instead as her uniform.

After a moment she simply said, “Oh.”

Todd went on, “I'm sorry. I realize this is probably an uncomfortable position to be in. As much as we say we are an equal opportunity employer, from a meeting like that, you can tell we aren't. At the moment, Alfred is open to making huge changes because he knows how much we need to adapt.”

Despite the sheer terror of having such a burden, she had long ago accepted responsibility for the team she managed. A team that currently had the unfathomable headcount of one hundred and twenty employees. She had to make sure the company could continue to provide for her team and for the rest of the staff.

She straightened her back and tightened her face. “Okay, I'll do it. I'll start by getting together the estimate Alfred asked for.”

Two: The Brutal Truth

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001, 10:00am

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” - Brene Brown

Rosa scheduled a meeting that gathered as many women from the company as possible. She specifically wanted women from the technical groups and marketing groups. The final tally was thirty women who gathered in the South Africa Auditorium.

As women started filing in, she met them at the door and thanked them for making time for the meeting. “I have asked you all here, to get your perspective on why the industry has so few women buying computers and how we can fix it. So, as soon as you have an idea, let me know and I'll add it. Who has an idea to get us started?”

This was that moment when the social barrier between audience and participants was at its highest. She needed someone to be the first to break that barrier. Maybe she should have planted a person to start.

The silence was fortunately broken, by a woman wearing a blazer who said, “Sometimes we throw parties at tech events where there are women dancers who wear suggestive clothing. One time they just had body paint. This is completely inappropriate. We should only hire family friendly entertainers.”

While Rosa was writing, someone shouted out, “No more booth babes!” Some of the crowd clapped at that.

A woman in the front row raised her hand and said, “I’m embarrassed by our commercials. Do you remember that one in the newspaper where there was a guy wearing a shirt with our logo and two gorgeous women drooling over him? I threw it out, afraid my daughters would see it. Our ads tell women that computers are for men. We need to show they are for women too.”

Another woman stood up and said, “I'm sorry, my team wrote that. I tried to change their minds, but they said I just couldn't take a joke.”

A woman near the back said, “Whenever I disagree with the men on my team they ask me if I have my period.”

A woman in jeans and a sweatshirt said, “Whenever I try to lobby for an idea, I'm called bossy.”

Rosa felt like the meeting was getting off topic, yet these were issues that she had encountered too, and also needed to be addressed. An older woman said, “I once found a bug in a man’s code and came in the next day to see 'feminazi’ written in permanent marker on my desk. I don't know why I didn't quit.”

There was a woman in a wheelchair who said, “I know women that have quit because of the culture here. It’s toxic, but so is every other tech company.” There were murmurs of agreement.

There was a pause, and Rosa asked, “With a show of hands, does everyone feel there is prejudice here at FFM against women?”

All the women raised their hands. A woman with a scarf, that was from marketing, said, “There are a few times my group has had two to three women. I've found those times to be less hostile. When I did run into sexism from the group, I had people I could talk to about it. It helped me to gauge if there was gaslighting.”

Rosa asked, “How many of you have been in groups with two or more women?” She certainly had more than two women in her team, but she had never been in a group where her manager had two direct reports that were women. A few people raised their hands, only one of them was in a technical group.

“Okay, so we seem to have a cultural issue, which may contribute to the bigger issue we are trying to solve,” said Rosa. “I'm going to create an email group so we can continue to discuss this. Let's get back to the customer side of things.”

Jessica, a shy programmer from Rosa’s team, said, “Rosa, I think that this is a big part of the problem. We are underrepresented, which means our ideas aren't part of our products or advertising. Even the marketing teams, who have multiple women, are facing sexism that blocks our ideas. The ads are just a symptom. Even if the ads were fixed,” she used air quotes when saying fixed, “we still have the underlying problem.”

“Well,” Rosa said, “maybe we can tackle both. I think upper management prefers we focus on increasing market share, so we need clearly defined goals for it. At the same time, we can set goals for improving the culture here. It might be harder to get buy-in for the culture changes. With that said, what are ways we can fix these issues?”

The woman with the scarf said, “I think it is easier to work in groups of at least two women.”

Rosa wrote, ‘women in groups with 2+ women.’

“There are times groups, including mine, have gone to strip clubs for lunch,” said an older woman. “That's not appropriate.”

The woman from the group that created the sexist newspaper ad said, “I have several ideas for ads we could run. It would help if I got support for them.”

The woman in the wheelchair said, “At least 20% of computer science graduates are women. We don’t have anywhere near that percentage of women in our technical positions. We should try to hire them.”

A woman from the middle of the room who wore a red skirt with a white blouse said, “We need to change our job postings. They all say things like, ‘Looking for a top performing candidate that can succeed in a competitive environment. Strong technical skills required to help us continue to dominate the market.’ These aren’t descriptions I would want to apply for.”

A woman in the back named Samantha, that Rosa knew from one of the hardware groups, said, “Men will apply for anything, even if they only meet a few of the job requirements. Most women won’t apply unless we know we meet all the criteria. This means a higher percentage of men will apply, and the chances of hiring a woman are lower.”

A woman near the front, with jeans and a polo shirt, said, “I’d have loved it if a company like ours had programs for me when I was a kid. There are tons of computer summer camps, but some of them are only for boys.”

“Afterschool programs would be great too,” said a young woman who wore a green dress.

There were a ton of ideas on the whiteboard as they got to the scheduled end time. Rosa rushed through the prioritization process and then she went to the door and thanked each attendee as they left. The last woman to leave was Samantha, who stopped to say, “Rosa, thank you so much for holding this meeting. I really appreciate that you gave us a forum to talk about the issues where we wouldn’t get shot down. I think it would be nice to have meetings like this on a regular basis.”

Rosa blushed. “You’re welcome. I didn’t realize how important it was to have this meeting. I didn't know so many women at FFM were having these issues, even women that work for me. You’re right, we should meet more, maybe we could have a monthly lunch meeting.”

“That would be awesome!”

After the meeting, Rosa wrote up her notes, and began reaching out to people who could help estimate the work required. This was much more far-reaching project than she expected. She had expected the brunt of the work would be done by marketing. Now she was having to reach out to human resources, recruiting, and any manager that had a woman on their team. On the night of the meeting, she had to leave at her regular time so she could nurse Katy.

Brent had known about the project and was able to work from home the next two days, so he could pick up Katy from daycare. He usually dropped Katy off in the morning, at the daycare, and Rosa picked her up after work. Brent liked spending time with his daughter.

As she grew to know him she learned that his freelance work paid well, and gave him the flexibility to work on other projects. While it didn't have the stability she would have liked, she soon realized he was a really sweet man and that was important! Brent had joined the Peace Corps hoping to make a difference in the world. He volunteered with the fire department so that he could help people. Now he took care of their daughter because Katy was important to him.

Her parents hadn't been too excited about him. Her mother said, “you can do better.” If anything, her parents helped push her to realize that he was right for her. What relationship wasn't a risk? He was such a caring man. Making a family with him might be a financial risk but it was clearly not an emotional risk.

They both hated having Katy in daycare so often, but neither of them had a relative that lived close enough to help. Rosa’s mother wanted to help the same way her grandmother had, but she was busy with grandkids in LA. Katy wasn’t a fan of the daycare either, but they knew she just disliked the separation from her family. It was a great place, several of their friends had kids that either went there, or had gone there when they were younger. Rosa and Brent hoped Katy would grow to like it more. They needed both of their salaries in order to pay all the bills, save for college, and save for retirement.

She had enough milk pumped so that Thursday night she was able to stay late. Todd was very supportive, and got some of his other managers to work with her. The easiest change was to have monthly women’s meetings in each office’s cafeteria. On Thursday night, she made reservations in each cafeteria, and with HR’s help, sent invitations to all the women. Rosa got the estimate to Alfred Friday night, which let her relax over the weekend.

Three: Backlash

Tuesday, March 27th, 2001, 6:30am

I am not, I never have been, nor will I ever be, your 'baby’!” - Joy Jennings

A few months later, Rosa had been able to get all of the technical and marketing teams reorganized based on gender. Now any team that had women had at least two, but most had three. The idea of having women-only teams had been brought up, but then those teams would be missing the male perspective. Ultimately, the aim became having at least two men, and two women, on each team. The few existing teams that had two women either had a woman added, or were left as is. The teams that had no women were left alone. Most of the teams that had just one woman were re-organized by swapping the lone woman with a man from a team that also had one woman. Most managers, and teams, that became all-male, were happy with the change. They said things like, ‘She had just been weighing the group down anyway,’ ‘She was too bossy to fit in,’ ‘Thanks for taking her before she decided to have kids,’ ‘She was so moody, she could never take a joke,’ and ‘She was never able to put in the hours.’

A few of the managers who lost a woman were upset. Some felt that they were being punished as sexists. Some of the managers, who were behind on deadlines, complained because the productivity of the now all male team was reduced.

Now that every team with women had at least two, the recruiters made sure that all female candidates interviewed with at least two women. In just 30 days the percentage of women accepting roles went from 15% to 35%. Only one of the new ads had run, yet all the major news networks were covering the new marketing approach. It was too early to see if there was a change in consumer purchases, but anecdotal information showed they were getting higher numbers of women to buy their computers.

One morning Rosa, Katy, and Brent were eating breakfast, some more messily than others, the phone started ringing. They let the answering machine pick it up. The outgoing message said in a mechanical pace, “Hello hu-man, the organic lifeforms or this domicile are currently busy. Please leave a message after the short high toned sound.”

The caller said, “Hi, this is a message for Rosa. This is Melissa from HR. I have a problem I need to discuss with you as soon as you get this. Please call me at extension 3045 as soon as possible.”

Rosa got up and grabbed the cordless phone. She walked into the office as she dialed the long sequence of numbers. When the phone connected she heard Melissa say, “Hello, Rosa?”

“Yes, hi Melissa. What happened?”

“A woman was assaulted by her former manager. We need you to come in right away.”

“Okay, I'll be in soon. I'll call you when I get there.”

“Thank you.”

Rosa hung up. She went back to the dining room and said, “There's a problem at work. I'll nurse Katy and then head in.”

Brent said, “Bummer, what happened?”

“I don't know the details, it sounds like a woman got hurt by a former manager.”

She quickly ate as much of her breakfast as possible, and then nursed Katy. Once Katy was done, she kissed Katy and her husband, and headed out to work. She went straight to Melissa's office.

The office was spartan. There were a couple of family photos and a motivational poster on the wall that said, “‘The most effective way to do it, is to do it.’ - Amelia Earhart”. The computer on Melissa's desk was one of the oldest FFM models still supported. The only other things on her desk were a pen, a coffee cup, and a phone.

As Rosa entered Melissa's office, she shut the door behind her. She sat at the seat facing Melissa. Rosa said, “So?”

“Do you know Margot Roux?”

“A little, she is a hardware engineer, right? Is she okay?”

“That's her, and no, she's not alright.” Melissa took a paper out of her desk drawer, took in a deep breath and said, “She was transferred to a group that had two pre-existing women just before she was due for a salary review. Her previous manager, Ian Walsh, scheduled a meeting late yesterday afternoon with Margot to discuss the review.” She started reading from the paper, “After Margot sat down he stood behind her and started rubbing her shoulders. He told her that she never really fit into the group but he appreciated her for being eye candy for the team.”

Rosa's jaw dropped.

“He said to Margot that the team would miss seeing her, but that he was glad women were being quarantined to other groups. He said, ‘I want to give a good review to set a good impression for your new manager but you’d need to do something for it.’ Then he dropped one of his hands over her shoulder onto one of her breasts. Margot stood up and said, 'Stop, no.’ Ian blocked her from leaving and said, 'I don't mean any harm. You know I like you. Think it over. You want a good review, don't you?’”

Melissa put the paper away. They sat in silence for a moment. Rosa felt traumatized just having heard the story. Rosa finally said, “That's awful, I'm so sorry.”

“I talked to her this morning. The paper is a print-out from an email she sent me late last night.”

“Doesn’t Ian have a daughter? How could he do something like that?”

“Yes, I think he has a daughter. I can’t say I understand what motivates . . .”, Melissa paused. “I don’t know. From what I’ve read in books, sexual assault is often done to humiliate, control, or even abuse people. The sad truth is he probably wanted to be a manager in order to have control over others. As you know, our policy requires we end Ian’s employment. As soon as Ian and his director are in I’ll meet with them to begin the termination process.”

“What about Margot? What will happen to her? Can we do anything to help?”

“Well, as you probably know, this isn’t the first sexual assault at FFM. Often the victims quit. I’ve told Margot that she can contact the police and we will do everything we can to support her. Further, I told her she can take some time off to recover. Margot is worried about retaliation.”

“How so? If Ian is fired what can he do? You don’t think . . . he’d stalk her do you?”

“No, but remember the part about quarantine?”

“Yes,” Rosa said.

“There are lots of people who feel like we’re dividing up the workforce. Some people, like Ian, think it is to contain or eliminate women. Others think we are punishing the groups that had few or no women.”

“But that’s not true.”

“Sure, but that’s how some people feel. Even worse, this isn’t the first incident. I’ve gotten some other reports from women that after their transfer, they had very negative interactions with their former group. Some former team members are actually obstructing the women who previously worked in their group. And of the managers who have gotten more women have gotten . . . vulgar messages.”

“What do you think we should do?”

Melissa sighed, “I don’t know. I wish I had time to discuss this more, but I need to keep working on moving forward with Ian’s termination.”

“I understand, thank you. I’ll see what I can come up with. Would it help if I talked to Margot?”

“No, not now at least.”

It was still early. Todd wasn’t in yet. Rosa went to her office. There were clearly deep-seated issues. She stared at the Valentina doll thinking, ‘What would Valentina Tereshkova do? What should I do?’

There had been a letter sent to the company about the strategic changes that were taking place. The section about promoting to women focused mostly on changes to marketing. It had briefly mentioned the re-organization as part of the effort, but not the reasons.

Rosa went back to HR and asked one of the clerks for access to records for her employees. Despite being a tech company, their employee records were still stored on paper. She took a sampling of reviews of her female employees, and a sampling of reviews from her male employees. She wrote down each salary for men in one column and each for women in another column. It looked like this:

The average salary for the men in her team was $7,625 higher than that for women. Men were making almost 12% more than women. She wrote another table with quotes from the reviews:

There was clearly a difference in the terms being used in reviews for the two genders. What she found especially frustrating was that some of the harshest language and lowest salaries for women came from one of her female managers. She began looking at reviews she herself had written. She was happy to see that she never wrote anything about family or clothing. While re-reading reviews she had written, she noticed that she often wrote about business outcomes, and technical skills in her reviews of men, but not of women. She also found that she was more likely to use words like “helpful”, “supportive”, and “team-player” in reviews for women.

She looked at the time. She’d spent almost two hours looking at reviews. Todd would already be in. Rosa piled up all the reviews and returned them to the clerk, thanking him for his help. When she got to Todd’s office he was finishing a meeting with a VP from hardware. As soon as the other VP left she went into his office and shut the door.

“Did you hear about Ian Walsh?”

He nodded.

“I talked to Melissa,” she said. "This appears to be a symptom of a bigger issue. I think we need to make a clearer message of what we are doing, and why.”

“Alright, let's talk to Alfred. I'll ask his administrative assistant to pencil us in as soon as possible.”

Four: A New Mentor

Thursday, March 29th, 2001, 4:00pm

In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” - Maya Angelou

Alfred was FFM’s third CEO. The previous CEO, Theo Brown, Jr., had been the son of the first CEO, Theo Brown, Sr.. Alfred had joined the company while Theo Brown, Sr. had still been running it and had worked very closely with the previous CEO. Despite Alfred having no family ties to the founder, the family, who owned much of the stock when Alfred was first appointed, fully supported him.

Alfred’s office was like a museum. There was a giant picture of Theo Brown Sr. in the office. Underneath the picture of the founder was an old wooden cash register, the very first product FFM made. There were lots of other old machines in the office, many of which Rosa didn’t recognize.

Alfred stood up and gestured for them to come in. “Good to see you both. Sorry it took so long to fit you in. Your work is a high priority for this company and I’m glad to see how you’ve progressed. Please, let’s sit.”

Alfred motioned to a semi-circle of couches that faced a set of windows with a view of the neighboring wilderness. Once they were seated, Todd said, “The credit really goes to Rosa. She’s done an exceptional job creating a project plan, and making sure it was executed while still maintaining her existing responsibilities.”

“Impressive,” Alfred said. “Rosa, I have a confession. Before we were introduced I had noticed you in the office. I’d assumed you were a member of the cleaning crew. When you were introduced, I was caught off-guard, as I realized my mistake. I’m sorry, it was wrong of me to judge you by your skin color.”

“Thank you sir. I was so embarrassed at the time I didn’t notice.”

“Well, enough of that. No need to call me sir, just makes me feel old. Please, call me Alfred.”

“Yes . . . Alfred.”

“Now,” Alfred said, “what seems to be the problem?”

Rosa looked at Todd. It seemed right to let him speak first, Todd was her boss and must have known Alfred for years. Todd gestured for her to go ahead.

She took a deep breath and said, “There has been some backlash from the re-org. One of the women who was moved was . . .” she paused biting her lip, unsure about discussing sexual assault with her elderly CEO.

Alfred supplied, “Her manager was untoward with her?”

“Yes. He said that the re-org had been a quarantine to get women out of the way of the business. It seems many people have this belief. Some people feel punished by the changes.”

Alfred stood up and looked at the window for a moment. When he turned back he said, “Change is hard. We are leaders, not only of FFM, but of the whole information industry. We need to stop this culture of misogyny. I know the changes you’ve helped make have already improved the company. Our stock has risen from its slump, and is close to an all time high. I’m getting reports from VPs that our productivity, and quality, is through the roof. What can I do to empower you to get us through these bumps?”

He sat back down and leaned forward to listen. Rosa said, “I think we made some mistakes in how we presented the changes. I think we need to have a company meeting to explain the changes.”

“Great. I'll get it scheduled. You give a presentation and I'll introduce you. Sound good?”

“Yes sir- I mean yes.”

“Excellent. It was great to talk to you again. Todd, could you stay behind a bit. I need to discuss a separate matter with you.”

After the meeting, Rosa put her years of Toastmasters training to work, and began preparing a presentation. There were multiple goals for the presentation. First, make it clear why the changes were made in order to get buy in. Second, explain how all of us have biases, and that we need to acknowledge them in order to reduce them. Third, that we all need to work together to recognize discrimination and stop it. Fourth, that there has been sexual harassment at work, and it will be treated harshly moving forward. Fifth, the best way to determine if you are doing something based on a person's gender is to imagine doing the same thing to someone of the opposite gender.

She started to outline the talk. While it was critical to stress that blatant sexism would not be tolerated, it was also important to create a blame-free feel to the talk. It had to be made clear that everyone, regardless of intent, holds unconscious biases. It had to be made clear that being entitled doesn’t mean you have to bear the burden of feeling guilty, that you just need to bear the responsibility of equality. It had to be made clear that, like any other problem FFM had faced, these problems would be overcome.

She had joined a mailing list about sexism in technology a few months earlier. One of the threads had talked about a project started by Anthony Greenwald to study unconscious biases. They had created a series of Implicit Association Tests (IAT) on a website at the University of Washington. The tests helped people realize the biases they might not consciously be aware of. Rosa took the Gender-Career IAT. It showed that she had a small bias of women equating to family, and men equating to career. As part of the invitation, she would ask everyone to take the same IAT.

After working on the presentation, she checked in with HR. Margot was on leave. It sounded like Margot was glad that Ian had been let go. Melissa was hoping Margot would feel ready to come back in a few weeks. The number of smaller issues with the re-org seemed to remain the same, or maybe even increased. Fortunately, there had been no further assaults. Melissa was impressed with what Rosa had told her about the presentation, and agreed to review it over the next few days.

Five: Dry-Run

Monday, April 9th, 2001, 10:00am

It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.” - Maya Angelou

Alfred and Rosa spent a lot of time planning and reviewing each other’s presentations for the company meeting. Todd gave occasional advice, but mostly stayed out of the way. The Monday before the presentation they were finally ready for a dry-run. Rosa met Alfred at his office promptly at 10am. When she arrived, Alfred welcomed her in as usual, but said, “Let’s sit and chat for a minute.”

“Okay,” she said, as they both took seats on opposing couches.

“You’ve been doing a grade-A job on this project and Todd and I think it’s time to make you a VP.”

She blushed, this wasn’t something she had expected. Although, historically, she hadn’t really expected any of her promotions. She certainly hadn't asked for any. Rosa didn’t feel ready to be a vice president. She barely was able to keep the names of her current 120 employees straight.

“Why? I don’t understand.”

“I must be clear, we’re not doing this to promote the cause, we are doing this to promote you. Your work has increased our sales, productivity, and quality. Your work has a huge business value that we need to recognize. This is only the beginning of the effort, and with the promotion, we can empower you to continue this work and whatever work comes next. We need people like you to usher us into the next phases of FFM.”

“But Alfred, A VP of what?”

“Of strategic growth. You’ll be reporting to James Durand in the sales and marketing division.”

“Sales and Marketing? What do I know about sales and marketing? I’m an engineer.”

Alfred chuckled. “Sure, you started here as an engineer. As a manager, you engineered a team that delivered bug fixes, security patches, and enhancements at a pace thousands of times faster than your predecessors. As a director, you engineered growth and revival of a team that had been flailing. Now you’ve engineered a way to bring market share to our company, that has our competitors scratching their heads. I need you to engineer ways to keep momentum for these changes going.”

“Sure, but the teams I lead do work that I used to do and understand. How will I be able to lead marketing?”

“Rosa, how well do you think I understand the jobs of all the people who work at FFM?”

Alfred had started in sales. It was unlikely that he had taken any technical courses in college. “You obviously knew about sales.”

“Yup, sales was my bread and butter. Then I was asked to run marketing, too. Marketing is like sales, but the work is more long tail. Now, as CEO, I understand just a fraction of what FFM employees do. I know how to use a computer, how to show off the latest features, but I can’t repair one. I can’t put one together. Programming sounds like magic to me. I don’t need to know how to program. But I need to know how to inspire programmers, and empower them to define goals that help FFM. You won’t need to know how to market FFM, your team will know that bit. They need you to show them what, when, and why to market. It’s a team effort, just like your current job.”

Rosa let out a breath. “Let me think about it.”

“Of course. I know this work isn’t for everyone, but you’ve already proven you can do it. I don’t like salary being a deciding factor, but your new salary would be $166,000. Let me know by Thursday. I want to make an internal announcement during the meeting, and have a press release late Monday.”

A press release. She would be the subject of a press release, for FFM. Her head was swimming. $166,000 was a huge jump up. Would she really be able to do the job? She needed to talk to Brent and process this.

“I'll give you my answer by Thursday.”

“Great, now let's practice.”

It was hard to stay focused after what he just told her. The dry run went fairly well. After her meeting she was able to go for a walk to get some fresh air. She called her husband from her cellphone.


“Hi honey . . . I just got asked by Alfred Ricci if I would take a VP position in marketing.”

“Wow! Congratulations! That's awesome. Do you want it?”

“I . . . I don't know.”

“Well . . . what do you see as the pros and cons?”

“The pros are that I can be more impactful and I would make $166,000. The cons are that I would have more responsibility, that I don't know anything about marketing, and maybe less time for our kids.”

They only had Katy at the moment, but it always made both of them feel a flutter of excitement to speak as if they would have multiple kids.

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