Mikell works in technology.
“I’ve been in technology now for more than a decade professionally and this topic of harassment and sexism and discrimination in tech comes up repeatedly.”
As a teenager, in a robotics competition, she and every other member of her all-girls team were groped in a human tunnel. They were assisted by their male mentors to effectively address this situation. It taught her about the value of men who are prepared to listen to and accept women’s experiences.
“The reasons I’m in tech still and haven’t kind of given up is that I have had very good allies. I have had men who they do their best to be empathetic, they do their best to support me. They take me seriously when I say there’s a problem.”
At university, studying engineering, Mikell made friends predominantly with males. She identified it as a coping mechanism for being in a male-dominated field. She looked down upon traditionally feminine ways of dressing and behaving.
“It took a real mental shift for me to basically deal with what was effectively internalised misogyny and be willing to be overtly feminine and be willing to be friends with women and to try to nurture those friendships.”
Mikell has long prided herself on being skilled at dealing effectively with sexist men, in order to get her job done. It is a work in progress towards not taking responsibility for managing their sexist behaviours.
She reflected back to the experience of being groped as a teenager.
“Our whole experience really hinged on the fact that we were a group of women who had all just had the same experience. We talked to each other, we agreed that we weren’t crazy, that this had actually happened and we went together as a united front to deal with it.”
Mikell still experiences gratitude to the young men who were so supportive of the adolescent girls. She also draws the conclusion that in addressing sexism and harassment, male allies and female solidarity is crucial in effecting change.
“There is strength in numbers in these kinds of situations and not allowing women or other minorities in tech to leverage that is a dangerous thing.”