Women in Tech: “Diversity isn’t just Gender – it’s culture and language too!”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we 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 Martina Kraus, Google Developer Expert.
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?
Two years ago, we 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 Martina Kraus, Google Developer Expert.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Martina Kraus, Google Developer Expert
Martina Kraus has been involved in Web Development since her early years. The implementation of large-scale software solutions in Node.js and Angular had always fascinated her. Besides her work as a private professor for Web Development at the University of Mannheim, she works full time as a Software Developer, primarily with Angular and C++.
In her role as a Google Developer Expert (GDE) she also loves to spread the knowledge about Angular at national and international conferences, and regularly organizes ngGirls Events (free Angular workshops for women) and the local Angular Heidelberg Meetup.
What first got you interested in tech?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been sitting in front of a computer. I had the great luck to grow up with two wonderful older brothers (six and ten years older), thus, I already sat in front of a command line input and smashed those keys at three years old. 🙂
Computers have always fascinated me and I quickly came to develop a self-interest in programming. I think I was thirteen when I developed my own website – there was something flashy everywhere, with glaring fonts on a colourful background. It just wouldn’t be done like that nowadays! 😀 That is also how it came about that I did my Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
I didn’t want to emulate someone; instead, I wanted to walk my own path.
I clearly have to mention my family here, especially my mother who worked hard so that all three of her children could go to university. To this day, I am still very grateful to her for this. Also, of course, my brothers, who always let me use their computers, or let me watch when they were tinkering with something.
I never had a direct role model. I didn’t want to emulate someone; instead, I wanted to walk my own path.
Many people I met in the last few years have inspired me. They say that as soon as you meet a person, you are influenced by them. That’s why I like to travel around the world and meet as many different people as possible, because I believe that you develop your own way of thinking very quickly through that.
A day in Martina’s life
The path to my current job was quite straightforward. I knew what I wanted to be before I went to school (back then I just called it “technician” 😀). However, I also had a short period when I considered studying mathematics. But I soon realized that I was more interested in mathematical topics than a potential profession. So, in the end, the only question left for me was whether I should study pure computer science or technical computer science. However, due to the higher mathematics, I decided on the latter.
In the meantime, I am self-employed. That means I develop or consult with different development teams for different projects, mostly in the frontend with Angular. Due to my role as Google Developer Expert in Angular and Web Technologies and Ambassador for the Women Techmakers, I also travel frequently to various conferences and regularly give talks in both areas. In addition, I love to share my knowledge of programming with others and actively support this as a mentor and organizer in clubs like Hackerstolz, AngularGirls, or Coding Coach.
In my spare time, I am mostly occupied with game development or artificial intelligence. Currently, I’m working with friends on a small RPG to finally get deeper into Unity development.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
This is a very difficult question for me personally, since I was very lucky to never have to encounter serious hurdles – or never perceived them as such. My two most important life mottoes are: “Fail early, fail often” and “If you really want something, you will achieve it”. Of course, the latter is a bit exaggerated, but I think the most important thing is definitely to strengthen self-confidence, for example, by offering women the opportunity to develop self-confidence through many small experiences of success in a so-called safe space.
I also think that it is not only due to the few offers for women, but that there is also (unfortunately) a historical reason why only men have carried out technical professions. In my opinion, it is always difficult to accuse companies of having such a low women’s quota. In the meantime, I have made the experience that many teams would like to have women as colleagues, but conversely, far too few very good female developers dare to apply for a technological profession. But this why we are here now – to change that.
Women in STEM
Diversity of gender, culture, or language always has the advantage that different thoughts, ways, and ideas meet. Not only the employer, but every single employee can benefit greatly from this.
Diversity refers not only to gender, but also to culture and language.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and knows something that the other person does not know. Constant communication and reflection with as many diverse groups as possible should always be the goal. For me, diversity refers not only to gender, but also to culture and language. I think there is still a lot of work ahead of us, but I already see very positive developments. Especially when I am on the move at conferences, a lot of attention is paid to achieve a high level of diversity among the speakers. But I also think that there isn’t a particular moment when it can be said: “Now there no longer is a debate”. In my opinion, the debate is only over when you no longer have to point out diversity and you just are. For example, if you don’t need a women’s quota on the executive level, because there are a lot of women on this level already.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
Oh dear – I think I have to go into detail here. 😀 The whole topic is actually more complex than it might seem at first. There are men free of any stereotype about women, and, of course, those who still follow the typical “housewife and mother” image. But this is also the case among women. There were many women in my childhood and youth who suggested that as a girl you cannot really be as good in mathematics and technology as I was. I can also recall that my elementary school teacher constantly told my mother I should wear some dresses to school instead of pants. 😀 But I tend to categorize this as a generational issue or as a history-related perspective, which I can even comprehend.
Last but not least, there are of course also women (I honestly mean nobody in particular), who in my personal opinion try too hard to push through emancipation. Maybe feedback from a colleague is simply normal feedback and not “I criticize you just because you are a woman”. This is, of course, a very narrow bridge, and even if I personally — fortunately — have not yet encountered any obstacles, in the meantime, I have come to understand how important it is to constantly draw people’s attention to the fact that what is said or how they behave towards the opposite sex isn’t okay.
In the end, all involved parties should work actively on themselves. For example, if I travel to another country, I should also inform myself about the culture beforehand, because statements or behaviour that seems normal to us may be considered very negatively in that culture. This is also the case between men and women in the workplace. The most important question that you should always ask yourself first is: “Will I possibly hurt the feelings of my counterpart if I do this?”. Accordingly, the most important characteristic is to be able to put yourself in the position of the other person.
I think I’ve been very lucky in my life. As I said, no one has put obstacles in my way. Of course, I even failed an exam during my studies and was not accepted for a job interview, but that’s still somehow “normal”, isn’t it?
What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?
It’s too easy to just say, “Women, be more confident!” As I have already said, all the parties involved must work on their own. I read in a great article that motivation usually doesn’t come out of nowhere, but only as a result of an action.
I would recommend simply going to a women’s tech event as the first port of call. There are so many offers now: AngularGirls, CodingCoach, OpenTechSchool, Google’s Women Techmakers and many more. My e-mail inbox and my Twitter DMs are always open for questions. I myself also offer 1:1 mentoring for women who want to get actively involved in development or who want to continue their education.
I want to encourage all women and girls.
The HackerStolz association, in which I am also active, set the goal of bringing professions in the tech scene closer to all people with simple workshops and to replace the typical image of the “nerdy hacker in the basement”, which is simply not true. I love programming. There are many small tasks and challenges in development. These are also found in any other profession. Developers simply use their computers and a programming language to solve challenges.
I want to encourage all women and girls to pursue the profession they enjoy most. If it is a profession as a developer, then you should also pursue this desire. If you have any questions: write to me. For me, it is one of the most beautiful things when I actually can support other people to do what they want to do.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Women in Tech: Rachel Taylor – “Gender bias is creating massive challenges across social, ethnic, and economic groups.”
- Women in Tech: Katrin Rabow – “A higher proportion of women in our industry will change the way we think”
- Women in Tech: Milecia McGregor – “It is a difficult industry, but it’s nothing that you can’t handle”
- Women in Tech: Emily Jiang – “Your track record of successful delivery is enough to show the truth.”
- Women in Tech: Ina Einemann – “Women and men must be equally represented”