Nov19

I Want to Hear from Women in Tech!

Yesterday at a meeting for my college ministry, we were asked to think about which specific community of people we want to serve. This is a question that we are always asked to think about because we each have individual strengths. My answer has always been techies and artists because I identify with both groups.

What does it mean to serve?

Being able to serve – meaning connect personally, build relationships, love, make changes – a community requires more than just identification. For example, I identify as an Asian American, but that is a super diverse group of people with different backgrounds and needs. Previously, I have tried to serve the engineering community because I attend the School of Engineering, only to see that I didn’t know much about science or engineering at all. Earlier this year I also had the opportunity to serve the gaming & anime community at New York University, and while it was amazing to meet people with similar interests, I couldn’t find a direction for myself. (To be honest I’m also really bad at video games.)

After a lot of thinking, I found myself having a heart for specifically women in tech. Even though I do see myself as an artist, I haven’t worked in the art and design industry since 2013, and I don’t really follow it anymore either. I have three years of experience as a web developer then WordPress developer, and though I stepping my foot in game design right now, I still see myself doing freelance web work in the future. I am familiar with the industry and what women go through as a minority.

The most qualified woman lost to the least qualified man?

In light of the recent election where a hardworking woman who has been campaigning for nine years and preparing her entire life lost to a man who one day decided he wants to be president, many women no doubt have been losing confidence. It seems like society will let men get away with anything yet keep a record of every move women make. A man can get away with sexual assault, yet a woman will be asked what she was wearing? A man can get away with harassment, yet a woman will be asked if she was leading him on?

Is the workplace the same that a woman with ample work experience will make 78 cents while a man with no experience will make a dollar? Are men supposed to work on the frontline while the woman helps out?

Workplace Bullying

At one of my previous jobs, I was forced to do the job of three people who were bad at their work, for entry-level wage, while I was bossed around by people with absolutely no experience in design or technology.

At another job, I was one time spoken down on for having a bachelor’s degree and wanting to pursue a master’s, while the guy who had the same job as me only graduated from high school. I was called out for wasting my own money to get an education. Then, the guy shamelessly informed me his “good” salary. It was 2/3 of mine. I didn’t tell him though, so he thought it was okay to continue talking down on me.

The Beta Female

My first choice of a graduate program was NYU’s Game Design. However, both my parents warned me against my ability to become a game developer, and said it would be safer for me to apply to a similar program in the School of Engineering, where there are more men. I would be able to meet guys who have strong roots in their work, and find one I can work with and date.

This story has a positive turn though, and has not ended yet! Not long after I started graduate school, fate led me into a Christian fellowship and it gave me the confidence to throw that idea in the trash. I chose to pursue game design after all, even though I couldn’t leave my program. It has its hardships – I was (and am still) the only one in my program studying games, which meant I had to take a lot of core classes I’m not interested in and I couldn’t take interesting electives with my classmates. I had to look for free spots in the game design classes, but only after all the game design students had registered. I had to push back my graduation while my classmates got their degrees.

Meanwhile, I have gotten a lot of positive support from the game design program for my games, and a lot of encouragement from my friends for breaking free of the life I would have led if I didn’t know that I am whole, I am capable, and I am complete as a woman.

The Guilt

It’s hard to truly break free of the lie that as a woman in technology I need a man as my alpha. Two of the guys who asked me out this year work in technology and have more experience than me. Rejecting them was tough, not because I wanted to see if they could be potential dates but because I felt guilty about it. I don’t want to date someone just because they are “better” at technology than me. I don’t want to date someone just because we can work together.

I want to date someone who loves Jesus more than he loves me. I want to date someone who puts a smile on my face. There’s nothing about technology in that simple description.

My Energy

If you look at my NYU student ID photo, taken nearly two years ago in January 2015, you will see a person who isn’t smiling with eyes staring into space. That was who I was. I was emotionally numb, I didn’t want to meet new people to know them, but to find ways I could be useful. In a lot of my other photos I would wear excessive smokey eye makeup and natural but enhancing lipstick. I would only stick to one style of clothing and one kind of hairstyle. You can tell a lot about how a person is feeling just based on their appearance.

I’ve been told that I look so much happier nowadays, now that I know my career is mine and mine alone. I want to tell every little girl that nobody can take away their dreams.

I want to hear from YOU.

Many, though not all, of my readers are women in tech! Your voices matter to me. What were some hardships you went through as a woman in this industry? What keeps you determined to work hard and make a change?

Write a Comment

4 Comments to "I Want to Hear from Women in Tech!"

Georgie wrote on 23rd November 2016 at 6:49 PM

I’ve probably gone through a lot of my experiences with you and shared them on my blog, as there are quite a few hard things to deal with when it comes to being a woman working in the tech industry. It sounds like you have gone through your fair share and stood up for yourself each time. I really commend you for that.

It’s so immature to boast about salary and I laugh that you said nothing of the fact that that stupid high school graduate was not earning as much as you. Just own it haha. You’re definitely the better person. It can be really agitating being around men who think that they are much better than you – when women succeed, they often do it quietly and unexpectedly. I would bet if a supervisor pointed out that you work much harder than him, or something to that effect, he would be very embarrassed.

I’ve had constant struggles with men earning more money than me and being severely underpaid in general. Having a masters degree didn’t particularly help with negotiating my salary when I got my first job from graduating. I still got paid the same amount as a junior. When I switched jobs I deliberately lied about my salary because I knew I was not earning as much as I was worth (even though women have a tendency to undersell themselves, and men oversell themselves). I still didn’t get close to what I was ‘worth’, though, and when I got a pay rise of $16K a couple of months ago, I realised I had been severely underpaid for most of my life.

Another thing is the lack of diversity in the tech industry – there is a shockingly low amount of females. It’s upsetting because I’ve done a lot of coding events with school children, and girls are still being told or influenced by the media that computers are for boys and they should be doing something like makeup or dancing. I had to deal with cocky young boys who thought they were so good at coding, while the girls seemed generally disinterested and their enthusiasm (or what they had of it) was quashed by their male peers. Girls are not interested in coding and if you can’t get them in at an early age, you’ve pretty much lost hope there. 😞 They need to learn early.

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Jenny wrote on 28th November 2016 at 12:12 PM

I think in this day and age, it’s sad that as woman we still have to prove our worth in the workplace, and where behaviors are ok for men, we have to justify ourselves. While I think women are definitely underrepresented in the tech field, I also find most tech companies more open-minded and forward thinking, so I’ve actually never encountered any hardships when it comes to my gender…at least not yet. But I agree, this is definitely a problem, and I think the presidential election is not only proof of that, but it’s pretty discouraging to women in general as well.

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Cat wrote on 29th November 2016 at 2:17 PM

I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to my career. I went to a college that encouraged women in tech fields, and then joined a company that also treats women equally. It’s very upsetting to hear stories that aren’t the same way because there’s no good reason to look down on women in tech. We do just as well as men do, and when given equal treatment, we can really excel.

In college, I was actually annoyed at how much they were focusing on women in CS since I wasn’t running into the common issues that happen in the tech world. I got along with my classmates, I was a leader in a CS organization, and I was doing well in all of my classes. I didn’t want nor need their help. It made me feel like they were underestimating me by giving me special treatment. Looking back, I realize that programs like that can help a lot. Even if I didn’t need it, other women might, so now I’m glad my school paid attention to it.

At work, I got into a team lead position early on. I was the youngest, newest, and only woman on the team, yet my coworkers respected me, and I had no issues. Now I’m 1 of 6 female dev managers here, and I’m proud of our company for that. It’s about a third, which isn’t as ideal as a half, but I know that’s a high ratio for the industry.

Last year, I went to the largest conference for women in tech, and I heard so many stories of women who are disrespected and bullied at their companies. It’s so sad and frustrating that this still happens and at such a large scale. I’m sorry to hear that you also had to deal with workplace bullying, and that your parents didn’t support your first choice of graduate program. I’m glad you have been getting support from your friends and the game design program though!

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Sue wrote on 30th November 2016 at 11:17 AM

When I first went to college under computer science, there were only about 6 ladies in a class of about 100 people. We stuck together. I joined organizations such as Women in CS to fit in more. When applying for jobs, I remember being questioned for the qualifications I wrote on my resume, whether or not I actually have those skills I claim I have. I have received comments from men such as “well, of course you must be a front-end developer” implying that the back-end work is for the guys who know how to program. Front-end implies making things look pretty. I’d like to say I know more than just the front-end work, as I have worked with several server-side scripting languages, and I know how to set up my own server with Apache, PHP, MySQL, Ruby etc.

Other than that though, it hasn’t been that big of an issue being a woman in the tech industry. My work place has a lot of nice people, and I love my team. My manager is kind, and we have a caring environment where we help one another. I don’t feel that I am treated unequally for being a woman in tech at work.

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