Confessions of a Woman in IT: The Highs, Lows, and Everything in Between

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Confessions of a Woman in IT: The Highs, Lows, and Everything in Between

This one goes out to all the women in tech. We see you.

· Agile Zone ·
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When I first embarked on my career as a web developer, a little over five years ago, I felt equally intimidated and enthusiastic. The intimidation wasn’t only because I was “infiltrating” a clearly male-dominated industry, but also because I knew that my efforts to push through all the obstacles went beyond my career.

I was well aware that I was contributing to something bigger here. And in the long run, that made me all the more determined.

Today, the underrepresentation of women in major tech companies is still appalling, and it paints a clear picture of the industry. But with all of our efforts combined, big and small, the atmosphere is changing and the discussion has gained momentum. We’re pushing barriers, knowing that tech is very much a woman’s world as well.

Here’s what I can tell you from my experience.

Managing the Bias

I’ll say it right out: I’ve been incredibly lucky when it comes to companies I’ve worked for.

Yes, gender discrimination is a hot topic within the tech industry. It’s all the more real considering that statistics show that women are more concerned than men about it, which is rather disheartening. But other sectors face this hideous problem, too, as well as the problem of sexual harassment. Essentially, it’s largely a matter of company culture.

Now, I say I’ve been lucky because the companies I worked for generally cultivated a culture of transparency, equality, and open-mindedness, thus giving all their employees (many of whom were women) fair opportunities for growth.

However, although the general atmosphere was welcoming, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I had to work hard to prove myself, but I’d run across colleagues here and there who’d still refuse to take me seriously. It also had a lot to do with me being young and just starting out, but looking back, I’d say that the men who were the same age as me gained respect more effortlessly.

Overall, the occasional patronizing smirk was definitely something that drove me up the wall, whether it was intentional or not.

Not to mention, research shows that gendered wording – in job advertisements, conferences and meetings – sustains gender inequality across various sectors. And when it comes to IT, it will probably take years to detach from stereotypical male examples and wording.

In the end, patience prevails. With time, I’ve learned to earn respect quickly with firmness and professionalism, no longer hesitating to point out an issue.

Finding Support – And Offering It

Women in tech comprise a wonderful community.

I had no idea of this when I first started out in the workforce. To be honest, I expected hostility from women (don’t blame me). So I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming tone and helpfulness of my female colleagues. There’s a real sense of support and mutual admiration, and this sense of unity is one of our strongest weapons.

My advice to any woman or girl just starting out in IT is, no matter how few female co-workers you may see, stick together. Help each other adjust, share resources, and discuss in person the obstacles you’re presented with as a minority.

This puts you in another mindset, one that helps you connect with other women at conferences at events where you’re likely to see only a few female faces. I’ve met a few of the women behind some of the most powerful and influential web design companies in New York, both through conferences and collaborative work, and the entire experience of meeting them has given me a new sense of belonging and motivation to push through. It has also made me more giving.

Being a part of this community has pushed me to address the crucial issue – the need to encourage young girls to participate in STEM, leading me to do some talks at my old schools. Those were amazing experiences, and I can’t say I would’ve had the courage to do something like that before.

Knowing Your Worth

Although it sounds like such a broad generalization, you’re likely to find that men are more self-promoting than women. In fact, there’s even a study showing that male scholars are more likely to engage in self-citation than their female counterparts.

From my experience within the IT industry, I’d say that this pattern is quite evident. The thing is, I’ve seen the majority of my male colleagues plunging into professional ventures with absolute confidence – even though their knowledge and skill set weren’t quite deserving of that confidence. And in the end, they would succeed.

Whereas I (and a number of my female colleagues) had felt intimidated and unworthy of the task, even with more competence.

This entire pattern, I have to admit, made me frustrated beyond words. I’ve lost some opportunities because of this, and looking back, I’d have to say that it’s only the intimidation that got to me.

But this has all taught me that I have to know my worth. To go for it, always.

Otherwise, I learned you get pushed to the back by people who’re not even trying to push you – they’re simply taking on challenges with tremendous confidence. Now, of course, you don’t want to be unrealistic, but my experience tells me that we, the women in tech, can do a lot more than we think. And in a male-dominated environment such as this one, evidence shows that confidence takes on a whole new level.

I’ve had some really great, genuinely helpful male colleagues, and they’ve often told me during honest discussions something along the lines of this.

Hopefully, you can take something away from all this, whether you’re just contemplating entering the IT industry or well underway of overcoming its obstacles. But I have to emphasize once again: we’ve come a long way, the paradigm is shifting slowly but steadily, and the future is looking bright for women in tech. Profound change takes a long time, but we’re pushing the limits continuously even in our everyday work.

agile, dev life, encouragement, it, women in tech

Published at DZone with permission of Nina Ritz . See the original article here.

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