While technology is advancing way beyond our imaginations, it’s still a sector that is lacking diversity.
In the US, less than 20% of tech roles are done by women. What’s worse than this, is
women now hold a lower share of computer science jobs than they did in the 1980s, this is surprising
because unemployment across tech positions in 2016 at 2.5 percent was significantly lower than the 4.9 percent national average.
Statistics tell us the overall gist, but what is it really like being a woman in tech in 2019?
I spoke to Rachel, a Quality Engineering and Assurance Lead for one of the largest tech companies in the world to see just how it felt being in this position.
1. What exactly is your job role?
So, I am a Quality Engineering and Assurance Lead. I basically own the quality of the project I’m currently working on. I have a team of testers I have to manage. I have to coordinate, communicate and make sure the software does what the business requires it to do before it’s released. I also work with international team, which, i’d say, is the most exciting part of my job.
2. What made you want to break into the world of tech?
My background is in Forensics. Forensic Anthropology more specifically. I didn’t see a lot of technology in the field work while I was studying. I’m currently working on a publication with my old professor. To summarise, the study uses simple tools to execute metric analysis of the femur and patella to identify ancestry. Data collection was so strenuous and time consuming. It made me think of what would make this process faster? So to cut the long story short, I started applying for Technology roles after I graduated. I believe technology is the future. We can already see innovation and technology at play in very rural parts of the world. When used wisely and responsibly, technology is an incredible tool. I’d like to take the skills i’m currently learning and implement them into the world of Anthropology one day, if they will take me!
3. What do you think is the hardest part about being a woman in tech?
Respect, or lack thereof.
I’ve heard lots of similar stories from my fellow women that work in tech.
We live in a hyper-sexualised, individualistic culture. We tend to objectify and self-satisfy before we appreciate skills and think of others.
Disclaimer: I’m not making sweeping generalised statements and accusing all men or even men solely of being guilty of this. Women are just as capable and not everyone I’ve come across has objectified me.
However, there have been a few. I wish to be more than my body and smile, and be recognised for my communication, my leadership qualities, my coding skills. Yes, sex sells. But intelligence sustains. There’s so much more, and I’d be up to start a conversation about the difficulties of being a woman in tech.
4. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your job?
There’s 2 main parts of my job that make it worth the negatives:
Colleagues: I LOVE my job because of my colleagues. Both my company colleagues and client colleagues. Over the past year or so I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some incredible people. They’re an absolute hoot to work with! One of my colleagues who has become a dear friend looks me right in the eye and says ‘girl, YOU can’. So I consider it a great reward to be working with people like him.
Recognition: Being recognised for my work is, I’d say, the most rewarding part of my job so far. It’s given me a sense of satisfaction and I know I’ve earned the money i get paid. Which is another obvious reward – monies, the dollars, the mula, and i’m grateful for it.
5. What would you like to see change in the tech industry?
I would like to see more diversity.
More Black and Asian women. More transgender representation.
I’d also like to see a space where I don’t need to trade my femininity to be taken seriously. Please note that I very intentionally said MY femininity as I believe women demonstrate femininity very differently and all of those expressions are and should be accepted.
6. What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into your sector?
Professional advice: Pay attention: be assertive. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Read the environment and train yourself to act appropriately in different scenarios. Learn to shut up and when to do so. I learned that the hard way! I’m thankful for the people who were patient with me while I learned that lesson. Finally, listen. We take in a LOT of information which will help us make wise judgements.
Personal advice: Be yourself. Yeah, I know that’s a cliché. It’s a cliché for a reason. If you’re anything like me, you are not going to be liked by everyone and that’s ok! Just enjoy your work and your life.
Huge thank you to Rachel for taking the time to show us even a peek into what it’s like being a woman in tech.