A few years ago I did some speaking on the issues plaguing women in tech and the teams that are (or not) supporting those women. I spoke about maternity leave, work/life balance, paying for equal work, women negotiating their salaries from the start. You know, the usual stuff.
Many years later, that speech feels rather quaint. The last time I gave this talk was right before the 2016 election. I gave my presentation with an “I’m with Her” sticker proudly plastered on my laptop. I felt hopeful for the road ahead and the women who were coming up the ranks.
But then, without warning, Hillary lost the election and women everywhere were angry. And all of a sudden anything I had to say about supporting women in tech felt secondary to what was going on with Trump, the Women’s March and most significantly, #MeToo.
I have always been the only woman in the room. I remember going to bars in the lower east side to meet a group of flash developers who would all stare at the 20-something in a dress who could talk tech with the boys. And yet, I never once felt like I was being taken advantage of because of my gender. I generally used my otherness as an advantage to stand out and move up the ranks. But feeling like “the other” was easy for me. I’m not a person who is easily threatened or intimidated. I also have an uncanny ability to expect the best out of people and assume they have the best of intentions. So perhaps I was being harassed but I chose to brush it off because I wanted my peers to be their best selves and it was easier if I just saw them that way. Regardless, not once did I ever feel like I was being silenced or pushed aside because I was a women in tech.
Today I am lucky enough to work in an office that values diversity. My boss regularly brags about his female CTO and wears our pretty much 50/50 gender split like a badge of honor. We are all deeply respectful of each other’s personal boundaries and feelings.
But that came with a lot of conversations, boundary setting, trial and error. I was, and still am, the only person in my office to ever have a baby and go on maternity leave. I worked out my leave by finding a suitable replacement for the time I’d be gone and worked out how much time I would take paid vs unpaid. It still wasn’t enough but at least my office was able to do something. My work/life balance can often get nuts. It takes a lot of forgiveness and understanding to work with my sometimes erratic schedule. But open communication and honesty has helped soften the blow of being late to work or having to work from home.
I realize that so many women are not supported the way I am and have been throughout my entire career. It is the job of women like me to reach out to those women and help them get the leg up they need.
A great organization that I have been involved with that is helping further the cause of getting women into tech is Tech Ladies. I am a founding member and will often check their facebook group first for women looking to be hired as developers. Another group I frequent is Women Who Tech who support women operated startups. There are countless other organizations out there that help get women into and stay in tech and I encourage you to do a quick google search for one near you.
Anyway I’m not sure there is a point to all of this other than to say, this topic is constantly evolving and morphing. Sometimes it feels like the biggest issue and sometimes it seems small in the scope of the world’s problems. But I’m constantly trying to find ways to make a women’s work in tech more important and noticed.