To be a “woman in tech”

I clicked on the WSJ headline (http://blogs.wsj.com/experts/2016/09/28/why-women-in-tech-might-consider-just-using-their-initials-online), because I couldn’t believe that in today’s world, there’s a suggestion that we would actually remove our names (and replace with initials) and remove photos of ourselves in order to be treated equally.

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I’ve been a woman in tech since the 1980’s.  Oh, of course, now I’m showing my age too.  But dammit, I’m unapologetically proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished.

 

The WSJ blog highlights exactly the problems that exist and continue.  We’ve got to change this.  Here are just a thoughts on what it has felt like to be a “woman in tech”:

The only woman in the room

For much of my career, I’ve been the only woman in the room.  This experience started as a college student as one of the only females in my upper division math classes, to then the only women in a code review as a new software engineer, to even in the last year, as the only female executive of a tech company.  Trust me, it takes guts to be heard in a room of 25 or 30 people, especially when you are the only woman.   My advice to women in tech:  don’t be intimidated by the numbers.  You can make a difference.  Learn to be heard.

Having a different voice

My strong opinion is that my opinion matters.  I refuse to be shut down.  Those that know me, know that I have strong opinions.  One CEO that I’ve worked with described me as being a really excellent marketeer, but “hard headed”.  I laughed.  Yup, I’ve got an opinion and this is business after all. I get high marks for being a great collaborator by my peers, so thankfully, I’ve never been characterized as a “bitch”.  That’s the double standard that drives me insane.  Even in the last year or so, I had a peer walk out of the room on me because he disagreed with my opinion.  Unprofessional and rude to say the least, but my advice to all the women in tech is to be firm.  Stand behind your convictions. And please, everyone, do not shut anyone down.  Stop, listen and learn.  Diversity of opinion does matter.

Always trying to fit in

Being one of the few female executives at many of the tech companies that I’ve worked for, I’ve tried to always fit in.  But there is a part of me that is tired of trying to fit in.   I will never be one of them.  I am uniquely different.  Thank goodness.   I could go on and on here about hanging out with the guys on the road, sports conversations, male oriented offsite and team building activities (skeet shooting and 4 wheeling), but I won’t.  I am proud that I am always true to myself and who I am.  I’ll participate when I can, but only if is something I’d like to be involved in.  My advice:  stay true to you.   And, yes, I did the skeet shooting and the 4 wheeling, it was fun!

So, how can we all improve the tech world to remove bias?  Let’s treat each other fairly, openly and honestly.  Let’s stop unconscious bias by training people to look for it.  Let’s treat each other with respect.  Remember the golden rule… treat others as you want to be treated.  That should go a long way to improving where we are.  It’s not about hiding our gender so we can get a foot in the door.  The door should be open for everyone.

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