This is a bit of a departure for me, since I'm not discussing the technology, itself, but I couldn't resist discussing my experience as a female in the IT world.
I'm not an "old hand" at this, much to my dismay. I started out as a contractor in the latter half of 1998. My first assignment was working support at a rather exclusive college. I was delighted to assist with installing ethernet cable in the library, imaging and installing PCs in the dorm microlabs, even helping users clean out their email accounts. I didn't find it so delightful teaching a new employee how to use a computer...but I digress.
At this first assignment, not only did I find myself receiving undesired offers for getting to know a fellow tech much better than his wife would have desired, but I found myself being overestimated when we were faced with the task of moving computers from one part of campus to another without carts. I just wasn't moving fast enough for my co-worker, and eventually stopped moving altogether, which pleased him not at all. When the exasperated technician asked me what my problem was, I bluntly (and with more than a little embarrassment) informed him that I wasn't as strong as he was. In my defense, I'm only 63" tall and was new to the job. PCs were heavier back then, too, and it WAS our second trip. I'd like to think that I'm a good bit stronger now}; after years on the job, I can even lift laser printers (but not those Tektronix Phasers ; those things must be made from collapsed stars!); of course, laser printers did get lighter, too, but I can lift the old ones.
At my last contractor assignment, underestimation was my most current problem. I cannot count how many times I'd call up users to ask if it was a good time for me to come look at the problem, and the person (usually female) would say, "Sure, he/they can come by any time." On many occasions, if I just dropped by without calling, someone would simply blurt out that she had been expecting a guy. It's not like they were disappointed to see me; in fact, some ladies expressed pleasure at seeing a female in a position where they usually saw males--and we won't go into the many times I was told it took a woman to finally do the job right.
There's another kind of underestimation I experienced after the users got used to the concept of a female tech. Again, we're back to the heavy things. It is truly mortifying when a 50+ year-old lady offers to help me move her PC or printer, or, worse, do it for me. It is sweet, but not necessary to offer to help me push a cart loaded with computers up a hill to the next building. I don't mind if somebody holds the door while I try not to wonder who might be seeing me and getting flashbacks of the Harriet Tubman movie :). Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but the way I see it, I'm paid to do the job of a computer support tech, and that means doing what the others do, and I'm pretty certain the guys don't let their users do their jobs for them. This doesn't mean I'm not grateful for LCDs and the small form factor PCs (when they don't overheat and burst the capacitors on the motherboards!), though.
I've known users who felt bad because I had to get on the floor under their desks to do work. Some do more than apologize; they offer to do it for me. My feelings on this are the same as for the heavy lifting: if it must be done, then I am the one to do it. Don't worry about my clothing; I buy what follows my employer's rules, and one day I'll find that job where I can wear the appropriate tech attire (jeans).
That just about does it for actual work, but I must relate something that occurred in a social situation once. As some friends, my husband and I were headed into a local restaurant, some guys who were leaving the restaurant were recognized as fellow UNIX sysadmins for the same major IT corporation. Some conversation ensued, and during introductions, one of my friends' coworkers asked my husband if he knew anything about UNIX. When my friend replied that my husband didn't, but that I did, the inquiring mind didn't even acknowledge my presence.
And the tech goes on...