My name is Sara, and I’m a woman in tech. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m kind of like a unicorn.
I walked in on my first day as employee number twenty, give or take. The breakdown of the women in the office was as follows:
- 1 marketing intern
- 2 co-op students
- 1 administrative assistant
- and me! (Community Manager)
So that makes 5 total, two of whom who had employee status. Now, just a year and a half later, the company is at about 80 employees. The number of women in the office has increased, but the ratio hasn’t changed significantly. Perhaps most noteworthy is that the number of women in positions of influence (director, VP, or Chief level) still remains at zero.
There are some little things you’ll notice when you’re one of the few women in a tech company. Navigating the kitchen is perhaps my favourite example. We have a nice kitchen. Cupboards, fridge, freezer, and of course: a dishwasher.
Working at a startup, there’s a strong “everyone pitches in” mentality. It’s great most of the time. But it creates a very awkward situation when the dishwasher is done running, and the dishes are clean.
You walk into the kitchen, and there are three or four people sitting around, chatting. They’re heating up their bagels, making their coffee, and generally shooting the shit. You go to make your coffee, and realize there are no mugs. That’s when you realize that everyone else just grabbed one clean mug from the dishwasher. Ouch.
What are your choices? You can:
a) Empty the dishwasher yourself
b) Comment. “Dishwasher’s empty. Let’s do this!”
c) Ignore the desire to pitch in, and pretend you didn’t notice the dishwasher was empty
I’ve heard of all three options being chosen. I don’t have an answer as to which one works best. Personally, I go for option B or C every time. Something about the first choice just rubs me the wrong way.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to talk about the systemic issues that are keeping females out of studying technical roles in university, and therefore keeping them out of technical roles in the workplace. I don’t want to complain about the lack of females in senior positions in the tech industry. I don’t even want to share my awkward, woman in tech stories (I assure you, we all have a few).
I want to address what’s perhaps the biggest issue I’ve experienced: We’re keeping each other down. Being a woman in tech is hard. Trying to establish a career as a woman in tech is even harder. For every girls in tech or ladies learning code initiative, there are five more females who think that a cut-throat, competitive nature is the only way you’ll make it. Women who will keep projects a secret, refuse to collaborate, and even turn down good advice, all in an attempt to be the one who gets to rise up. Everyone wants to be the next Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer. We’re working to be the exception to the rule, instead of working together to change the rule.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some incredible, supportive and intelligent women. And that kind of environment doesn’t just help one of us, it helps us all. It’s amazing what you can accomplish, as a team and as individuals, when you work to support each other.
So the dog-eat-dog world? It’s time to stop. It’s time to check your ego at the door, every day. It’s time to realize that we can accomplish a lot more when we work together. It’s time to make supporting each other our priority, and really mean it.
Who’s with me?