Everyday superheroes: “I don’t have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Paola Katherine Pacheco, Director at Python Software Foundation.
Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Women in Tech — The Survey
We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!
Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.
Without further ado, we would like to introduce Paola Katherine Pacheco, Director at Python Software Foundation.
Paola Katherine Pacheco, Director at Python Software Foundation
Paola Katherine Pacheco is a backend Python developer and organizer of Python groups such as PyLadies Brazil, PyLadies Rio de Janeiro, Django Girls Rio de Janeiro, Pyladies Mendoza and Python Mendoza. She runs a YouTube channel where she teaches Python in Portuguese. She is a director of Python Software Foundation, where she’d like to increase diversity by promoting education and events to women and underrepresented groups.
Paola says she was chosen to work in technology. Her mother registered her in a technical high school in programming because she had heard that it was the future.
Paola completed the course and she liked it but in the end, she didn’t understand it well — it seemed that parts of learning were missing. As her class was the first, they were “guinea pigs”, which is why she thinks the course menu had gaps.
Paola chose to do a statistical graduation because she found herself lost in so many areas of technology and at the same time there was not enough information about them. Still, she was always delighted with the programming classes she was taking. She was attending two colleges, so she had to choose one: she chose Systems Analysis.
Overall, Paola chose technology because the challenge of putting together what she knew about math and writing lines of code and creating systems with only one computer seemed incredible.
“It got worse when I migrated to technology”
When I was a statistician, I was one of the five women in the room and it got worse when I migrated to technology. I became one of the three women in the room until, at one point, I was the only one since the others have given up and migrated to the management area.
Honestly, I thought I would migrate too despite the fact that I didn’t identify myself too much with management.
Two years before my graduation, I was working in another area — related to mathematics. I had heard many negative viewpoints because I was a woman and because I did not have enough background, because I was married and I always saw men being treated differently in interviews. So I thought it was a mistake to have switched my faculty.
Self-imposed deadline: Learn everything you can
And I decided (and had the incentive) to give it one year to go to events, meet people, see the operational part and leave the theory of classrooms. The first nine months were not that great: I was ignored at events, everyone confused me with waitresses, receptionists, I was transparent. In addition to attending talks and not understanding anything, it seemed that I had never taken any tech courses because I felt completely lost.
Finally, after my husband insisted, I went to one last event. Honestly, I no longer wanted to go to any event, I thought about finishing my college and that’s it. This event changed my life: I was seen, I was welcomed, I had the opportunity to meet programming icons and they talked with me and with everyone.
I was able to attend basic lectures where I could understand bits and pieces and that led me to decide that I should work with this. I had support from girls and the community for that.
And for three months I studied a lot, since I had no idea what Python was. I had already attended many semesters of college where companies did not expect me to become an intern. I left my job and got my first Python developer job at a company that supported me in my studies and taught me a lot. They treated me the same way they treated the other developers.
Where there’s a will there’s a way
Until I got married, I never got any support. Yes, my mother always encouraged but she has little knowledge about my work. After I got married, I got a lot of encouragement from my husband, I think without him I would have gone back to math if I had no support. After I started to get involved with the community, all the people supported me a lot.
I do not have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes, what I went through. I always tried to talk to other women to avoid making future mistakes.
I was called up for interviews because the interviewer found it curious that a woman had sent a resume. I never had support in the classroom, a lot of boys in my class doubted my ability and were surprised that I was good at math. After all, I came from a math-oriented college. That helped me a lot.
And with a lot of effort, I managed to give monitoring classes but it took one year to prove that I was good. By the time I finished college, I finally got support from teachers and students, but it took years and I always had to prove that I had it in me. I feel that because I was a woman, I had to do more than a man to be on the same level. I always needed to prove something.
A day in Paola’s life
I just moved to a new country and I have my own projects: I created my first company, which was something I always wanted to do but always delayed. I’m a backend developer and I’m currently working with Python and Django.
The fact that I am part of the Board of Directors of the PSF surprised me — to know that many voted for me and many felt that I should represent them. I am also happy to be able to put my projects into practice.
I think we never make mistakes, we always learn.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think today the problem is no longer in college or in business. Fortunately, in the main cities of Brazil, many people have already changed their way of thinking.
The biggest problem today is children’s education. Although we make events to bring girls who enjoy experimenting with technology but migrate to other areas out of fear, we do not have a large number of female participants. Many have already been “trained” by both parents since early childhood to follow another path.
Unfortunately, we still have a culture that thinks girls should be playing with cooking and boys play as miniature engineers.
Unfortunately, we still have a wage difference, which is a problem, because since a woman earns less, she faces more difficulties in becoming the head of the family. This practically maintains the culture that the man is the leader of the house.
In addition to being very prejudiced, I know that even though many major cities have an advanced thinking, in smaller (Brazilian) cities, there’s still this culture that women are just meant to be wives.
If we stop to reflect a bit, we used to have women in technology creating, developing many things and taking super important roles. And in my opinion and experience, I see in events and workshops examples of mixed teams and they seem much more creative because they have several opinions.
Today, we can see progress in capitals and large cities, but we still have a small number of women who opt to study technology. I think if we focus on primary education and keep events and incentives for college students, I believe that on average, in 10 years’ time, the world will change. I know the technological world is moving fast but we need to remember that it is made up of people.
Tips & tricks
- Technology is for everyone, no matter their gender, age, religion
- It is a job that does not demand physical effort.
- Today we have numerous free and paid materials on the internet.
- I believe in the potential of communities. I think when you have other people who support you, you have more strength to move on.
- The technology industry is very large, has space for everyone and for all tastes.
But of course, with all this, you have to keep in mind that working in tech means that you never stop learning because things change fast and the market always expects something better.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- “Technology reflects the people who make it”
- “In the right company, working in tech is a great career”
- Why women fall out of the tech pipeline
- Breaking the mold: ‘It’s not that you’re good — it’s that you’re female’
- How to avoid the culture of male programmers
- Creating an equal playing field is about more than just teaching someone coding skills
- The more women you see in STEM, the less intimidating it is for others to join
- The tech industry tends to lose women along the way. Change is underway
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Tips & tricks for women
- Transitioning into a tech career? Silicon Valley culture is one of the biggest initial obstacles
- Abby Kearns: “Diversity ensures continuous innovation”
- “In technology, you become a lifelong learner — More women should embrace this career”
- Cultural impact is not driven by gender, but by diversity