Guest post: Celebrating women in tech — #SheInspiresMe

Friday, 8 April 2016

Women’s History Month has come to a close, but the energy and inspiration of the amazing women all around us will continue throughout the year. On Tuesday, March 29, women in tech came together representing the beautiful diversity of our community with organizations such as Black Founders (@blackfounders), Latinas Think Big (@ThinkBigSociety), Lesbians Who Tech (@lesbiantech), Vietnamese Women in Tech, Persian Women in Tech (@PersianWIT), and many more. From digital marketers to engineers and entrepreneurs to corporate leaders, the event inspired a powerful discussion around key issues facing women in tech today. I was honored to be alongside a rock star panel including February Keeney (@ihavenotea), engineering manager at GitHub, Sepideh Nasiri (@sepidehn), founder of Persian Women in Tech, and Sharon Ly, engineering manager at Twitter.

These are my top five takeaways from the night:

1. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Just because you’re the only woman in the room, doesn’t mean you aren’t the smartest person in the room.

According to Stackoverflow’s developer survey, only 6% of developers are female. With these numbers, women inevitably will find themselves in a position where they are the only, or one of the few, women in a room. But, the only way to deal with this is to be present, speak up, and hold your seat at the table. You’re there for a reason.

2. How to combat imposter syndrome? Make a list.

Imposter syndrome is not a new concept, and many find comfort in just knowing that others also experience it. Harvard Business Review and many others pontificate around why women don’t apply for jobs unless they are 100% qualified, while men will apply when they are only 60% qualified. But what can we do about it? Make a list of all of the things you have accomplished, and all of the reasons why you are the one for the job, whether that’s something you’re currently working on or a job that you want. Putting it down on paper makes it easier to get rid of that self doubt.

3. Kick ass at your job, and do it on your own terms.

Work life balance is important for everyone. We’re all better off if we balance our work responsibilities with outside the office activities — family life, “me” time, friend time, hobbies, down time, and more. Take time for other things that are important for your well being. Do amazing work, but make sure you take time for yourself in the process.

4. “Office Housework”? If you take on certain tasks, make it your decision, and know why you’re doing it.

Sheryl Sandberg has been very open about her thoughts on Office Housework, but our panel had some differing views on the subject. One perspective is that if you volunteer for things like taking notes, your colleagues will make you the go-to person as you would have the knowledge/expertise on a subject. On the other hand, why is it always the women taking on these tasks? How does that help to fight stereotypes and traditional gender roles? Regardless of where you stand, if you do take these on, be sure that it is a choice you are deliberately making, and not an expectation that your colleagues are imposing on you.

5. Be proactive about finding mentors, and don’t be afraid to seek out those that don’t look like you.

Mentors can be formal, but often they are informal — people that you meet along the way, that you think you can learn from. Ask them to coffee. Seek out their advice. And, while it’s awesome if you can find folks that are similar to you (e.g., gender, ethnicity, etc.) be open to the fact that you can learn a lot from people that might not resemble you. Having a support system is critical, and it should include individuals from across the spectrum.