Diversity talk: People who act as gatekeepers in the tech community are part of the problem
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.
What got you interested in technology?
Like many women my age, my interest didn’t start in tech, it started in creativity. Technology was simply a means to an end – figuring out how to manipulate computer games, and then code, to express what I wanted. I wasn’t coding for the sake of coding, I was writing code to build a website for my Halo 2 team, or to update my Xanga page.
By the time I reached college(university), I knew I wanted to study graphic design and thought I wanted to be a creative director. When I graduated, the US economy had tanked and I couldn’t find a job, but I was able to book freelancing work to design and build websites, so I really had to teach myself to code to be able to deliver for my clients. I think the biggest obstacles I faced were ones I set up for myself based on society’s coaching – that because I was a woman I wasn’t supposed to be good at math (when in reality I loved logic puzzles and really excelled at them) and when I struggled I should just give up because it meant I wasn’t smart enough.
My parents have always been supportive of me but definitely didn’t have the knowledge base to realize all the different technology opportunities that were available and expose me to them. They knew I was good with computers but didn’t know a career to point me to.
I think when I was younger, my role models were characters from movies, I always tended to identify with the female leads in male-dominated casts: Becky (Icebox) from Little Giants and Julie “The Cat” Gaffney from D2: The Mighty Ducks. Today I don’t necessarily have a role model, but I get inspired by all the women helping each other in this male-dominated tech space.
People, regardless of gender, can be insecure and jealous and look for reasons to blame others for their lack of other success, which can lead to destructive and malicious behavior. I think I’ve encountered that more – with individuals trying to tear me down after being successful vs. trying to prevent me from advancing in the first place.
A day in Jennifer’s life
I also run a nonprofit called Kansas City Women in Technology where I manage 40+ people, so it’s nice to be able to write code during the day, and then devote my emotional energy to running a team in my after hours because it’s a very different skillset. I also speak internationally, so there are some weeks when I’m splitting my time between working and speaking at technical conferences.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m most proud of building Kansas City Women in Technology, my non-profit. We’ve built several different programs, coding workshops, networking events, and mentoring opportunities to support the women in our community and it’s amazing to see how many women have started their path into a tech career and have the confidence to pursue it because of our work.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
Society for one. We’ve created these gender-focused constructs of what’s “appropriate” for women and men to like and excel at, and it’s incredibly harmful. Many women feel they don’t “belong” in tech, and don’t even attempt to see if they like it.
One of the programs we run, Coding & Cupcakes, is aimed at getting girls to explore technology and coding, but we’re actually marketing to the parents who think “coding isn’t for girls”. I actually give a talk on diversity in tech, slides can be found here.
I’m not sure what the current estimated date for gender parity in the tech industry is right now, but the work my organization focuses more on the impact we can make today, knowing that will move the needle slowly forward for the future.
In addition to societal problems I mentioned previously that make women feel they shouldn’t be in tech, there is blatant sexism and people who act as gatekeepers in the tech community. The Google Manifestbro showed us there are people who believe that women, or even POC shouldn’t be in tech.
There are numerous women in my network who get comments that they only got their job because of diversity efforts + them being a woman, or only get booked as a speaker for the same reason. People are blaming women’s “success” on diversity efforts rather than acknowledging these women may actually be good at what they do and deserve a seat at the table.
Tips & tricks
I’m a software engineer, so most of my advice is geared towards writing code. Coding is like any other skill, it takes hard work and practice.
I see a lot of women attempt coding and give up almost immediately because it’s hard and they feel like they’re not “good” at it. I tell them if you’re learning to dance hip-hop (or anything really) for the first time, you won’t be good at it either. It takes time, effort, and energy. Just don’t give up.
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
- Everyday superheroes: “I don’t have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes”
- Diversity talk: For tech, it’s less about a pipeline problem and more of a marketing problem
- Diversity talk: It’s important to receive support from tech communities
- Everyday superheroes: Women just need to see more of us — techie women
- Anyone who wants to learn and grow won’t continue in an industry that tells them they are stupid
- There is too much allowance for tolerating toxic people in tech
- Coding myths and how finding communities like Hear Me Code helps you learn best
- 3 strategies to try out if you want to support women in tech
- Young women carry less career gender bias and more media influence
- Women are often pigeonholed into “soft skill” roles and pushed away from engineering
- Diversity talk: Many women suffer from the impostor syndrome
- How to succeed in tech: Shutterstock’s Rashi Khurana gives her tips
- Diversity talk: Using lingo is making tech sound harder than it really is
- Diversity talk: “We can’t expect men to hand us equality on a silver platter”
- How to succeed in tech: Agnès Crepet gives her tips
- “Many people still need to be taught that diversity is more than just a trend”
- “Many companies lack the infrastructure & career growth opportunities to support female employees”
- “Diverse teams can help prevent unhealthy competition that occurs sometimes in male-dominated teams”
- How to succeed in tech: Testlio’s Kristel Kruustük shares her tips
- “As the tech field becomes cloud-based, the flexibility and remote work culture will grow”
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from Atlassian’s Molly Hellerman
- Diversity talk: “Women should not be herded into a career to meet quotas”
- “The tech industry can move even faster by increasing the diversity of talent”
- Diversity talk: Even if your team is not very diverse, what matters is that they value you
- Diversity talk: Exec reveals her secret to success — Always be curious
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from GitLab’s Barbie Brewer
- Diversity talk: Tips from Lisk’s Gina Contrino on how to succeed in tech
- “The combination of tech IQ and people EQ can set you apart in the tech world”
- “Mentorship, acceptance, and trust are really important in fostering gender diversity in the workplace”
- The tech industry is not solely responsible for pushing gender diversity
- “There isn’t enough clarity on what it means to work in tech and to be a woman in tech”
- Diversity talk: Exec reveals her secret to success — Become comfortable with change
- Diversity in the AI world & how imposter syndrome is vital!
- “Even if women decide to work as developers because they are passionate and qualified, they are sometimes treated like diversity hires”
- “We need fewer WiT luncheons and more women coding & deploying projects side by side with men”
- Diversity talk: How to overcome challenges in the workplace
- “We need to increase the awareness of the benefits and challenges of diversity”
- Diversity talk: The biggest obstacle we currently face is the idea that equality is here already
- How to succeed in tech: “Go ahead and do it. This is a great option for women”
- “I think the topic of diversity is viewed very narrowly to only mean race or gender”
- Breaking the mold: “Women are not solely responsible for solving the diversity challenge”
- How to succeed in tech: Katerina Skroumpelou gives her tips
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Ana Cidre shares her tips & tricks
- Diversity talk: “We need to ditch the idea that women don’t love their careers as much as men do”
- How to succeed in tech: Samantha Quiñones gives her tips