Being a woman in the technology field comes with its own set of complications. I am fortunate to work for a great company, where women are valued and innovation is important, no matter who comes up with the idea. However, even in such a supportive and positive environment, there are several challenges that I face as a woman.
- Representation: In one of our department’s all-employee meetings, I looked around the room and noticed that out of about 250 attendees, there were about 20 women in the room. All the presenters were men, and many of them didn’t acknowledge that there were women in the room, only referring to the “network guys” or the “guys in security”. Yes, I know that “guys” is a term often used to include both men and women, but it still felt exclusive. The main presenter and head of this department did mention the “ladies and gentlemen” who make things great here, so that was nice. I IMed him after the meeting and thanked him for seeing the women in the room. No one else seemed to.
- Salary: No matter what anyone says, the pay gap exists. White women are paid 77c on the dollar, Black women are paid 64c on the dollar, and Latinas are paid 56c on the dollar, all in relation to men (Feminist Fight Club). I recently did the math and found out that I was indeed being paid 30% less than my market value. That was disturbing and a hard day. Also, I was never encouraged to fight for a good starting salary. I was always told to take what I could get and not negotiate. This could also be a generational problem, as jobs were harder to come by for millenials.
- The need to be exceptional: This may be a more personal and internal struggle (which probably indicates that many people struggle with this). I always feel that my actions at work are scrutinized more closely than my male counterparts. If I get invested in a project and get upset if something doesn’t go to plan, I’m deemed too “emotional”. This puts a lot of pressure on me and other women to be exceptional at all times. Let’s be honest, no one is exceptional at all times. No. One.
- Having my skills questioned: My skills are occasionally questioned or given a surprised reaction, like, how could a woman know how to do that? I enjoy bursting people’s’ bubbles on those occasions. Women are capable and intelligent. Women can do everything men can do. I occasionally have to confront my own engrained stereotypes and remember this, even as I ask others to do.
These are just a few of the unique challenges I face as a woman working in technology. I am lucky to know a lot of women who work in STEM, and it’s cool to see their accomplishments, even in the face of adversity. I hope to inspire other women to work in STEM, so we can all rise together.