I’m tired of being “smart for a girl”, or “successful for a woman”. I find it maddening that people are constantly reminding me that I’m a minority in my field of work. This topic, although meant to celebrate and encourage women, fills me with anxiety. Is my gender more important than my problem solving abilities or work ethic? Why does being female make me some sort of diverse edge case?
Unfortunately, this is the reality of the world we live in. Women are paid less than men. We have to work harder to earn respect. We are underrepresented in positions of power. The underlying (and sometimes not so underlying) societal narrative is that men are more valuable than women.
All this aside, we’ve come a long way over the past few decades. I have female friends who are doctors, data scientists, and engineers. Girls are taught that they can be anything when they grow up. This was not the case for my mother. In her generation, girls were taught that they could be school teachers or housewives, and not much else.
Even with all the forward progress, we are a long way off from where we should be. We’ve moved past blatant discrimination, but bias and stereotypes against women churn just below the surface. I have a vivid memory of a boy laughing at me in the 10th grade after I suggested that it might be a girl, not a boy, who held the highest grade in our precalculus class. Isolated events like this might seem insignificant, but over time they add up and impact you in a big way. Clearly, many women are deterred from entering tech and other STEM fields. I think we can do better.
The gender gap for women in tech is complex, and warrants a longer discussion than this blurb will do. Subconscious biases are something that we all share. Early childhood development cannot be unraveled in the span of a paragraph. Cultural tolerance, teaching empathy, and gaining support and money for early childhood education are multi-tiered issues. I’m not going to claim to be an expert at getting more women involved in tech. I can, however, say that I was extremely lucky to have influential, encouraging people in my life who overpowered my more negative experiences. As a result, I followed my interests into a STEM field and later became a software engineer.
Tech is fun, creative and challenging, and it definitely isn’t going anywhere. I look forward to welcoming more women to this field so that we can not only have a bigger pie, but share the pie equally.
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