6 Women in tech share their insight about being a female in tech

Women in tech

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Woman in tech It’s a well-known fact that there aren’t much women working in tech. Men dominate the technology sector and women can’t seem to be interested in getting a career in the technology sector. The most common way of thinking under women who currently don’t work in tech is that women who currently work in tech experience things as being the only woman in the room, thinking they ended up at a frat party while it should be a tech conference, or they experience a hostile work environment. Of course these things happen, but there are a lot of women who enjoy their career in tech, without coming across any of the before.

It’s a big and complex problem to get more women enthusiastic in a career in tech. We want to do our part in getting more women interested in a career in tech, so we’ve decided to create a roundup and ask 6 women who already work in tech about their experiences. We’ve asked about the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in tech, and how to deal with gender bias and discrimination.

The insights

All reactions are chronologically ordered

Sarah Frisk

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Sarah Frisk

For me, the major reason why I decided to going into a technology related field is that I love creating things. I used to write all the time while I was growing up, I love drawing, and I enjoy playing video games. Technology (specifically programming) always seemed like the natural next step to finding better ways to express myself. Luckily I had a family that was pretty supportive of letting me explore my interests, and helped provided the tools to do so. The fact that I get to spend my day creating things and solving puzzles is very rewarding to me, and makes me very glad that I chose this career path.

My experience as being a "woman in tech" has been fairly positive, and one that I've found pretty rewarding. For women who find they enjoy technology and wish to pursue it professionally, my major suggestion is to make friends with people in the industry. That means both men and women that can help form the basis of support network. That way if you do run into the odd company that has that "Oh, you're a girl and you don't know about this tech stuff," vibe going on, you don't have to stay there (or alternatively, assume all places are like that and quit the tech industry). The nice thing about being someone with strong technical skills, is that your skills are in high enough demand that you can find work elsewhere, and with a strong network of friends, finding a healthy place to work is a lot easier. In general, most places actually are awesome to work at as a woman, and you don't have to stay at a place that doesn't treat you with respect.

When it comes to leadership positions or in general progressing in your career, I have a few suggestions. First, always find ways to keep learning, even if it's just doing fun projects for yourself a few nights of the week. This is an industry that is constantly changing - making sure you keep your skills fresh will help you stay ahead. Second, I found that sometimes to get there, you have to take the initiative and maybe get outside of your comfort zone. For me, I started running local tech meetups for web development (since there weren't any in the area at the time), and practicing public speaking by talking at events on tech topics I was interested in. That helped people get to know me, and where my expertise was, and opened up leadership opportunities for me. If you allow yourself to be quiet in the background, no one will know who you are.

Overall, I've enjoyed my time in technology, and if you're interested, I highly suggest you try it out.

Peach Icaza Pellen

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Peach Icaza Pellen

Personally I've found the biggest advantage and disadvantage to being a woman in tech actually comes from the same place; the fact some people, (I've found it to be the minority, though this may be partially related to my being in a public facing role and others often knowing a little about me prior to actually meeting me in person) look at you and think you're going to be at best unintelligent and at worst, dumb. This is especially true if you're young and/or you don't look like a stereotypical "nerd".

The disadvantage is that you may not be asked for input or have to work harder to prove yourself in new teams. The advantage is that when someone forms this opinion, wrongly, you are given an opportunity to both make them question and hopefully improve their preconceived notions about women in tech, and to surprise them in a way our male counterparts are unable to, often giving you an edge and immediate credibility. For example, my typical response when it is presumed I'm a secretary and asked to fetch coffee is to respond with something like; "Sure, if you don't mind waiting while I finish debugging this module; I can do it while it's compiling." - it's polite and let's them reevaluate without feeling too embarrassed.

Of course, if someone says something like the all-too-common; "you're too hot to be smart!" (face palm) then you can always ask something deeply technical you know will make them feel clueless, which is fair enough in the face of rudeness.

The way I've handled this over the years has varied depending on the situation, what helped me most was advice from my mentor and partner, Carlos Icaza (R.I.P.), who told me years ago when he was my boss; "You'll have to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously with some people- and for a small group, you're never going to win them over- that's the sad truth... but most people aren't like that, and though it might seem cruel you have to work that much harder, you'll find it's worth it when working with the right people, because to them, like to me, they won't see you as a woman in tech, they'll see you as a rockstar of an engineer who is way ahead of most peers and has an amazing work ethic. That extra work you have to put in might be unfair, but it will make you a genius in your field, an outlier, and that ends up being more than worth it, because the ones that passionate, that dedicated, regardless of gender, are the ones who end up running companies." - in my experience, he was, as usual, completely right. It may not be fair, but I wouldn't be half as successful as I am if I hadn't taken that advice to heart.

Dana James Mwangi

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Dana James Mwangi

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in tech, and what would you say to women who consider a career in the tech industry?

Honestly I do not see any disadvantages to being a woman in tech. If more women chose tech occupations, I honestly believe women would absolutely kill the game as a group. I would advise women to first, research female tech leaders, and second, research female coders. It's important to get a good sense of all the possibilities that could unfold in your career, and create factual frames of references that replace all the myths around our industry.

What do you think is the best way to overcome gender bias and discrimination (did you encounter any gender bias and discrimination and if yes, how did you deal with it?)?

I’ve experienced some microaggressions as a woman in the tech industry, but ultimately, my path in getting out of that was starting my own business. In starting my own business, I came out of my introverted shell and I developed a boldness that I didn’t have when I was in corporate America. Today, most of my clients are male, and they are extremely professional, fun to work with, and most of all, they trust the decisions I make in the interest of their brand. I would tell all women, whether they work for themselves or not, to not buy in to the stereotypes, and not matter what, DO NOT SHRINK. Do not internalize the sexist attitudes directed at you.

When it comes to gender bias regarding unequal pay, I agree 100% with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In her book Lean In, she talks about having open conversations about pay and salaries with other women. It’s an unsaid thing, but keeping your salary quiet is encouraged in the workplace. Women should be more open with each other, even in a corporate setting, to form solidarity.

Michela Chiucini

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Michela Chiucini

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in tech, and what would you say to women who consider a career in the tech industry?

Working in tech requires a lot of dedication, this can be challenging for women sometimes, but it’s not different from many other fields, it’s just a matter of choice. I never experienced any form of sexism, or at least I never been aware of this, and this is of course a good thing. I see many women really appreciated for what they do in tech. So, in general I would speak of working in tech in general, because in my opinion advantages and downsides extend to men as well. I especially like to get in touch with other people from all around the world and improve my skills thanks to the huge community out there. Other fields are not that open.

What do you think is the best way to prevent women from leaving tech, and what is the best way for women to get leadership positions?

It would be interesting to know why they decide to leave the field. If I would decide to leave tech it would be not related with difficulties in get leadership positions but because of other priorities in my life. It would be nice to see more women considering work in this field, it’s probably more scaring when seen from the outside.

What do you think is the best way to overcome gender bias and discrimination (did you encounter any gender bias and discrimination and if yes, how did you deal with it?)?

As said above, I never experienced any form of discrimination, but I know some women did. Well, if this happens, probably you are dealing with the wrong people. In that case is also good to share the experience with the community, so we can raise more awareness.

Etiene Dalcol

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Etiene Dalcol

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in tech, and what would you say to women who consider a career in the tech industry?

The only disadvantage of being a woman in tech is that, I'm not going to lie, it could be a lonely journey. There still aren't many of us here and this makes space for discrimination, of course. But luckily the winds are turning and there are huge networks of support on the internet and many meet-ups to exchange ideas with other women in tech. Little by little most of the attitudes I dislike are becoming less socially acceptable. It's important to notice that the days of the stereotype of the antissocial nerd are over. To be successful in the most interesting jobs in technology nowadays, being a great communicator and working well in a team is as important as technical skills if not more. Since diverse teams communicate better, this is a highly valued skill today and the best companies are paying attention on that.

Concerning the advantages, I believe thy are the same for everyone. It's a nice career with great salaries perspectives. Let's be honest, most jobs seen as """female jobs""" aren't as highly valued. If they aren't as highly valued because they're taken as feminine or if they are taken as feminine because they aren't as highly valued is not an important question to the point I'm trying to make. The point is that tech is valued. And it's time to take some space and occupy the tech market. Which, great news, actually isn't a very difficult task. The market is always in need of tech people and it's easy to find a job nearly everywhere in the world. It's a highly flexible and modern industry, where things such as flexible hours, remote work and home office are not rare. The challenges of the tech career are interesting, it can be stressful sometimes, but sometimes I feel like they are puzzles I love to solve. I love my job and would absolutely recommend it. Not to mention it's also a great foundation for those who are interested to go on an entrepreneurial path. Since all great companies and ideas nowadays are bound to need technical knowledge even at early stages. Last but not least, it's also amazing to see that the technical mindset of constantly trying to improve and fix things often propagates beyond the technical area. Most of my colleagues are people interested on the betterment of society and they are absolutely wonderful people to have around.

What do you think is the best way to overcome gender bias and discrimination (did you encounter any gender bias and discrimination and if yes, how did you deal with it?)?

The best way is to remember that we absolutely do NOT have to deal with obnoxious issues if we don't want to. From the company's side, it is incredibly hard to hire good professionals. If you are not being treated nicely in an environment, leave. Get right off there immediately. Talk to your network or find other women on the internet and on meet-ups, and look for a better job that actually deserves your skills to be put into use. Companies are not doing you a favor by giving you a job, remember they get a financial profit. So I like making sure that my vision and the vision of the company I work for are well-aligned. And this has to come from the top management all the way down, not the contrary. Struggling to fix some issues from the bottom-up sometimes is not worth it. There are more than enough non-toxic places so we don't have to stay in the toxic ones.

I know this is easier saying than doing. I have encountered heavy discrimination in one of my previous jobs and standing up for myself did not come naturally. Of course I was worried about keeping my job and receive my salary at the end of the month. I had my bills to pay and I felt I depended on it. It is not so simple. We always believe some things are not going to happen to us. Then they do and we don't react as we imagine we would. What happened is that putting up with such discriminatory attitudes, directed at me and at others, eventually drained me until I was not doing a good job anymore and one day I had enough and had burst that got me fired. I got desperate for being unemployed during precisely only three days until I found a job that I loved with amazing people, that I left only because I moved to another country. So the one thing I learned is that I should have stood up for myself sooner, actually. And this is the lesson I'd like to pass on.

Amy Cheng

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Amy Cheng

I get one piece I'd give is to pursue your interests in tech and to try not to get discouraged by the climate. That is, don't take yourself our of the industry because you think it's hostile towards your gender. It may be in some parts but there's always allies and support, and people cheering you on!

GO Girls!

I’d like to thank all women who participated in this roundup. We hope many women come across this roundup and get inspired in a career in tech.

Don’t forget to share this roundup on your website and to follow me on Twitter!

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