With men making up the majority of those in the tech space, it's no surprise that there are still major challenges that women face in the industry. The value of having women in the tech space is undeniable - given that women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce. Nonetheless, being a woman never held me back – and it doesn't have to hamper your career either. In fact, I excelled at my job because of the women who came before me, and my personal determination to succeed.
Throughout my career, I've learned a few things that helped me embrace my gender, become a strong leader in tech and also help my fellow female counterparts along the way.
Take Advantage of New Technical Background Opportunities:
'You should never be afraid and think that just because there are fewer women in tech, that the guys are better than you. You are capable of the same. Don't overthink it, just go for it.'
There are several factors that prevent women from pursuing a career in tech. With less than half of computer science students being women, many women that might have an interest in tech may think they don't have the right educational background to pursue a career in the industry. However, just because you didn't graduate with an education in tech, doesn't mean it's too late to jump in the tech space. In fact, there are many postgraduate programs that people interested in tech can pursue to strengthen their skills. Likewise, there are companies in the space that are looking for new diverse talent that offer to teach their employees how to code and learn new skill sets.
My advice to young women interested in pursuing a tech career, who didn't graduate with a computer science degree, is to not be intimidated and consider it to be too late. Look into programs online or in your city that can help you gain the technical background you desire.
We're In This Together:
Starting and maintaining a successful career can be siloed and as women, we often try to resolve issues and roadblocks on our own. I have found throughout my career that having the right role models and peer network group is a vital element of having an enjoyable and fruitful career.
There are many ways to build a network that can help you solve workplace issues, support you as you are taking on a new challenge and even swap stories and relate to during your career. This includes finding a mentor who has already navigated the same career path you are hoping to achieve. Having someone on your side that has already paved the way gives you a resource to turn to when problems arise or when you need to weigh career options.
Secondly, I have found it helpful to have peers supporting me who are on the same career trajectory as me, but not necessarily working at the same company or tech space like myself. These women in my life are often the ears that listen to me talk through daily work events and I know can relate to anything I am going through professionally.
Lastly, there are so many larger networking groups and organizations that offer regular events and meetups to connect with other professionals and leaders in the tech space. I find it refreshing to tap into these networks and meet with other women I might not otherwise know to hear their stories and learn about their approaches to their careers. I have also found that through these connections women have a great opportunity to learn about available job positions in the tech world and get their foot in the door. A few organizations that have helped me include Techstars, Woman in Hardware in NY, Hardware Club, and New Lab.
Acknowledging Gender/Unconscious Bias:
'Being a great female leader is not trying to mirror a man.'
It's important that while we celebrate all the achievements women in tech have accomplished these past few decades, we need to have an ongoing conversation about all that still needs work.
Although I have had a successful career in tech and secured a seat at the table, I've still faced situations where I was the only woman in the room. At first, I thought the best approach to navigate this was to change and morph my leadership and work style to fit my male counterparts. I quickly learned though that my sex isn't a problem that needs to be fixed, it is a fact that needs to be embraced. As women, even if we are the only representation in the room, it is important that we maintain our personalities and approaches and let our capabilities strengths shine through rather than projecting what we think others want to see.
In addition to staying true to myself and embracing my gender, I have also learned that it is imperative that acknowledge unconscious bias head-on rather than letting it continue. There have been many times in my career when I have faced unconscious bias where individuals have taken a different approach to me vs my male counterparts. It is easy to let these moments pass by and certainly can be less awkward, but I have learned that if I don't speak up and address these issues we won't change behavior and change the world for better opportunity and equality.
Paving the Path for Tomorrow's Women:
Having the confidence to pursue a career that is male-focused, embrace your gender even if you are the only woman at the table or to speak up when you experience unconscious bias takes a lot of courage. I've learned though that staying focused and continuing to work hard for my dreams has led me to have the career that I want leading a rising tech company and also has helped me pave the way for women to follow. When I get discouraged or think it would be easier to stay in the shadows, I always think that if I don't do it now, how will the future get brighter for women in tech?
Serena Williams said it best - "I embrace being a leader and continuing to pave the way for the next generation."
The more we do today will only bring more opportunities to women in tech tomorrow.
Motherhood, no matter how you slice or dice it, is never easy. Running after small children, feeding them, tending to their physical and emotional wounds, and just taking the time to shower them with love— that's a lifetime of internal resources. Now add a job on top of all of that? Geez. We spoke to 14 working mothers to get an open, honest look at the biggest day-to-day challenges they face, because despite what Instagram portrays, it's not all dresses on swingsets, heels, and flawless makeup.
1. “Motherhood in general is hard," shares Rachel Costello. “It's a complete upheaval of life as you once knew it. I have a 22-month-old due any minute and a baby. The hardest part is being pregnant with a toddler — chasing, wrangling, etc., all while tired, nauseous, and achey. Then the guilt sets in. The emotional roller coaster punctuated by hormones when you look at your baby, the first born, knowing that their life is about to be changed."
2. “I'm a work-from-home mom," shares Jene Luciano of TheGetItMom.com. “I have two children and two stepchildren. The hardest part about parenting for me is being the best mom I can be to someone else's children."
3. “I joined the Air Force at 18 and had my first child at 20," tells female power house Robyn Schenker Ruffo. “I had my second baby at 23. Working everyday, pumping at work and breastfeeding at lunch time at the base, home day care was rough. Being away from my babies during the day took a toll on me— especially the single mom days when they were toddlers. I had a great support system of friends and military camaraderie. The worst was being deployed when they were 6 months old, yes both, and I was gone for 90 days. Not seeing them every night was so depressing."
4. “Physically, the hardest part of the parenting experience (and so far, I'm only six months in with twins) was adjusting to the lack of sleep in the very beginning," shares Lauren Carasso. “Emotionally, the hardest part is going to work everyday with anxiety that I'm going to miss one of the twins' firsts or other milestones. I know they are in good care but potentially missing those special moments weighs heavy on my heart when I walk out the door each morning," she continues.
5. “The hardest part of being a parent is social media, actually," says Marina Levin. “Shutting out the judgmental sanctimommy noise and just doing what works best for you and your family in a given moment."
6. “Trying to raise a healthy, happy, confident and self-respecting girl, when I'm not a consistent example of those qualities is the hardest for me," explains Adrienne Wright. “Before motherhood I was a pretty secure woman, and I thought passing that onto my daughter would be a piece of cake. But in the age of social media where women are constantly ripping each other to shreds for the way they raise their kids, it's nearly impossible to feel confident all of the time. Nursing vs. formula, working vs. stay at home, vax vs. anti-vax, to circumcise vs. not, nanny vs. daycare— the list goes on and on. We're all doing the best we can with the resources we have. We should empower each other to feel confident in the decisions we make for our families."
7. “The hardest part is the sense of responsibility and worrying that comes along with it," says Orly Kagan. “Am I feeding my kids properly? Are they getting too much screen time? Are they getting enough attention and love? Are they developing as they should be? It goes on and on and on."
8. “For me, by far the hardest part of motherhood has been managing my own guilt. As many triumphant moments as there may be, the moments when I feel like I did badly or could have done better always stick out," confesses Julie Burke.
9. “Balancing work and doing all the mom things and all the home things and all the husband things are not the hardest part of motherhood (for me, anyway)," shares Zlata Faerman. “The hardest part of motherhood is trying to figure out just how to deal with the amount of love I have for my son. It can be super overwhelming and I'm either alone in this sentiment, or not enough moms talk about it."
10. “The hardest part for me is giving things up," shares Stacey Feintuch. “I have two boys, an almost 3-year-old and almost 7-year-old. I have to miss my older one's sports so I can watch the little guy while he naps or watch him at home since he will just run on the field. I hate that other parents can go to games and I can't. I also really miss going out to dinner. My older one can eat out but we rarely eat out since my younger one is a runner!"
11. “I think if I'm going to be completely real, the hardest part to date has been realIzing that I chose this life," shares Lora Jackle, a now married but formerly single mom to a special needs child. “I chose to foster and then adopt special needs, as opposed to many parents who find out about the special needs after their child is born. It's still okay to grieve it sometimes. It's still okay to hate it sometimes and 'escape' to work."
12. “I'm a work-at-home mother doing proofreading and teaching 10-20 hours a week. The hardest part for me is not yelling. I took the 30-Day No Yelling Challenge and kept having to restart. I love my kids, don't get me wrong," says Michelle Sydney, exemplifying the difficulty of balancing work with family.
13. “I'm a full-time working mom of a 2.5-year-old," shares Anna Spiewak. “I bring home equal pay, keep the apartment clean and take care of dinner. Still my male partner gets all the praise for being a good dad and basically sticking around. It's mainly from his side of the family, of course. What I do is taken for granted, even though I'm the one who still changes the diapers, bathes her and wakes up in the middle of the night on a work night when she cries. I wish all moms got credit for staying on top of things."
14. “I am a stay-at-home-mother and currently working full-time from home on my start-up clothing brand, Kindred Bravely," says Deeanne Akerson, founder of Kindred Bravely, a fashion line devoted to nursing, working mothers. “The hardest part of my parenting experience is the constant feeling of never doing quite enough. There is always more to do, meals to make, laundry to fold, kids that want my full attention, errands to run, or work in my business. And since there really always are more things to do it's easy to feel like you're failing on nearly every aspect of life!"
This piece was originally published July 18, 2018.