Tech has been a predominantly male industry, with iconic male entrepreneurs gaining the most recognition for their contributions to the sector, rightfully so! However, women are playing a huge part too and more and more women are entering both regular and high-level positions in Tech.
On the International Day of the Girl, let’s celebrate the potential of every young woman to be a powerful voice in her community. I would like to share my journey, some experiences and advice to girls pursuing future in Tech
What got me into Engineering?
I think no one was more surprised than I was when I ended up in Engineering and coding! In high school, I was confused what I excelled in, lacked direction and was pretty nervous about what I’d be pursuing. First quarter at GeorgiaTech and then the University of Southern California, I took Operating Systems, Introduction to Networking and it ended up being my favorite class. I knew what I wanted to be and do! FINALLY!
This was also when I realized the importance of liking the people you work with—late-night coding sessions can be fun with a great group of people.
Before I even realized, I was hired as a Software Developer in the Silicon Valley. I coded for a couple of years. I loved being a producer of technology and not just a mere consumer of it. It’s incredibly empowering to be able to bring new products and services to life, ones that can scale easily and have transformative power for vast populations with just the free flow of bits and bytes. That’s what’s cool about being in tech. I moved on to being a Technical Marketing Engineer – Not only could I continue to code and carry forward the technical knowledge, but I was now talking to customers, learning about their environments and requirements, presenting, training, doing demos! Woah this is SO REWARDING.
It was always the little things that made me feel I didn’t belong. When I attended industry events, their first question was always, “Do you work in HR? Accounting?” like I couldn’t possibly have been an engineer. The most challenging discrimination is the insidious and unspoken one, based on an assumption that I, as a young woman, cannot be as committed, or as confident, or as educated, or as decisive as a man can be.
I’ve experienced blatant sexism or discrimination, so outright as to be comical — “Pretty girls don’t code!”, “What do you do, photocopy?” — but those incidents are easily filed away in their absurdity, for use primarily in conveying to disbelievers that sexism still exists.
Instead, it’s been the subtle, unspoken biases conveyed in careless dismissals of my role or qualifications or opinions, in awkwardly and unexpectedly friction-filled interactions with touchy egos, that have caused me the most anxiety and self-doubt.
I have actually never run into this at CloudGenix. The company has so many women employees and the culture emphasizes work-life balance and rewarding people who make an impact to the business. You could say I’ve handled it by choosing to work at a place where it’s not an issue.
How did I handle it?
I made my best effort to remain calm, considerate of the other person’s feelings, and courteous in my behavior. I made my best effort to conduct the meeting professionally and lead it to a productive outcome, which I believe is the only way to correct an intelligent person’s bias.
Intelligent, open-minded men (and women!) worth doing business with might have some unconscious gender bias, but generally can and will see past it when you prove your talents and abilities
Always be sympathetic with others, be them men or women, and not too quick to judge when you feel discriminated: remember, many biases are unconscious.
One of the greatest indicators of maturity is revealed in how you respond to the inexperience and the potentially offensive behavior of others. And when you find yourself struggling due to gender discrimination, find courage in knowing that your struggles will only make you even stronger.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in my experiences and reactions; it has helped tremendously to build out a network of people around me who validate that.
My advice to girls pursuing tech?
You don’t have to put up with an unsupportive workplace. Find people and companies who will value you for your ideas, regardless of gender.
Over and out!