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?
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.
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.
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?