Women in tech have been glorified lately, as if they are doing an extraordinary thing. That in itself is discriminating. We are your average person, balancing work and life. It’s a fine irony that some of us have ended up in the tech world although for most of our lives we didn’t get along with STEM. We are not superheroes, we still go home after a jargon filled meeting and have a tea party with our daughters, walk the dog, or go out on date night with our husbands.
The fact that being a woman in tech is viewed as something out of the ordinary shows how behind mentalities are. No progress in this area whatsoever. Traditional roles have long changed, only people do not want to accept it. Everywhere I go, I am treated as an equal. I’ve found myself as the only woman in the room a few times, and I never felt disregarded, on the contrary.
But I have recently visited an office where there were over 10 men and 2 women. One was the receptionist, hidden behind an oversized desk. The other one was isolated in an office with glass walls, like a bird in a cage. All the men were huddled together in the large, open working space.
At CyberSwarm Inc. there have always been as many women as men, if not more sometimes. And that’s a cybersecurity startup I’m talking about, working on a dedicated CPU. It’s not fluff, let me tell you that. We’ve always supported each other, and we have come to terms with our status. It’s truly a workplace where you can thrive, even as a mother.
In the early days, someone made a poor joke at a networking event about not recognizing me without my IT uniform. I was supposed to look nerdy, and dress the part. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I love midi skirts and I have a passion for shoes and bags. I have learned to turn people underestimating me into an advantage.
My transition to tech has been like a roller coaster, easy and smooth at times, and incredibly stormy and filled with adrenaline at other moments. I have had to adapt and change who I was and the way I was used to doing things. I have had to learn constantly, and do that every day. My timing was also perfect, I grew at the same time the startup did.
As a girly girl who loves pink and sparkle, it was interesting to say the least to adapt to a team of techies. Fortunately, no one was injured during the collaboration, well except my ego sometimes, because I didn’t do my homework well enough. But all the small obstacles I came across made me more determined to learn further and become better at my job. Google searches and Wikipedia are my bffs, have been for a while & they’re here to stay.
Ironically, my academic background has nothing to do with Sciences, I’ve always struggled with it. But I’m good at telling stories & seeing things from new perspectives. That’s probably how I ended up doing marketing for a startup which is designing a cybersecurity processor. Talking and writing about tech can be difficult at times if you don’t keep up, innovation goes on and on. I just love picking up details and presenting them in such a manner that the general public will understand what the fuss is all about. That said, my actual technical experience goes as far as web design coding. I discovered I enjoyed making websites in college, it probably started out of boredom, because I had too much spare time. I still remember the thrill of seeing my first website go live over 10 years ago.
Behind the hashtag, there are the emotions. The role women have to play every day pretending they have everything under control in a hostile working environment. The moments they miss with their families because they have to be somewhere else work related. The guilt they feel for taking sick time off.
Maternity leave policies have room for a lot of improvement. It is extremely unfair to force a woman to choose between having a career and having a baby. Statistics show that women without children are more likely to be recommended for jobs or to be called after interviews. I know women who have been “trying” or “planning” to have a baby for a few years now. Yet that baby is nowhere in sight, although there’s no medical problem involved. They don’t have the courage to admit out loud that they do not want to risk or pause their career for a child. They are simply being dishonest.
Society does not support working mothers in any way. A solution could be working from home, but not all employers are open to it. Most of the times, returning to work after birth equals burnout. Waking up at least once a night, coupled with the anxiety of having to leave your child with a stranger, and the stress of deadlines and lack of understanding at work add up and lead to a downspiral. We are not allowed to enjoy many firsts in our children’s lives or to create a proper bond with them.
The untold truth few will admit is that we need to work harder than men to prove ourselves. Even when we land that dream job, it doesn’t end there. We have to constantly show our worth. Even more so when we have children. The stories of our lives are about opportunities, risks and timing. Seeing the bigger picture and helping build it. When you don’t have enough time or resources, you become more creative.
When I began my startup journey, I was 10 weeks pregnant with my second child. That didn’t stop me from doing things, even though my team took extreme care of me. When I was around 35 weeks pregnant, I was forced to bedrest, or bed arrest as I liked to call it. That was a turning point in my professional life. I learned to juggle 2 children, now 3, and work. I became more productive. And I can honestly say that is when my work and personal life reached a full balance.
Motherhood isn’t a disability. It makes us better humans, better employees, better leaders. When you become a mother, you become more responsible and mature. Your productivity increases, because you somehow learn to organize your time better. You adapt and you succeed in doing the exact amount of things you did before in less time, but keeping the same standards. According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, female tech entrepreneurs generated on average 35% higher returns than their male counterparts.
PS: while I have never felt discriminated in any way, I feel it’s our duty to raise our voice for those who can’t do that for various reasons. Peace of mind is a much better environment than any level of skyrocketing anxiety. And maybe if more of us speak up, the future will change for our daughters.