The Good Parts of Being a Woman in Tech

This post was originally published as part of Tech Snack Blog provided by Orbit Digital.
It is also available in German.

Blog Post: The Good Parts of Being a Woman in Tech

Yep, women in average get paid less. Yep, women need to prove their value, whereas white, middle-aged men only lose their attributed competence if they slip up. Yep, women get catcalled at work. Things like “Smile for me, sweety!”, “Are you always that bossy?” or “Are boobs distracting while typing?” are pretty harmless examples.

The disadvantages women face at work are numerous and not only based on biological facts, like the temporal pause during and after pregnancy. Even if IT is a very open-minded industry and negative aspects therefore aren’t as prominent, they still appear. That’s not necessary; As a matter of fact more than 40% of women change their field of work due to the negative criteria after seven years of work in Tech.1 For a change, let’s look at the advantages of being a woman instead of the negatives!

The reasoning behind this post

My intention is not for everything “to stay as it is”. Even if many of the mentioned advantages arise due to women being a minority, I believe in an equal workplace. Diverse teams work that well due to their diversity. This post should serve as a motivation, lower concerns and hopefully encourage some who think about working in Tech to take the first step or to stay the course.

Lets get to the topic

Employing women holds numerous advantages from an employers point of view. There is a more balanced working atmosphere and the magnetic attraction of further female colleagues, since people of the same kind stick together. Women for whom a predominantly male working environment may seem daunting, hurdles diminish and further women come along as potential candidates via the network.

Instead of the positive aspects from a companies perspective, today it should be about those for the female individual itself. To clarify, I don’t represent the ultimate opinion of all women due to the huge variance in subjective perception. Some women have never had bad experiences in the workplace and others undergo negative incidents on a daily basis. Others lie in between these spaces where they have never experienced upsetting situations, but they may not be able to name positive moments either.

So, be ready for my very personal opinion:

Software development is filled with critics and cynics doubting our abilities. Some are scared off by that, but for others it awakens the fighting spirit. The opportunity to prove the idiots wrong makes us work as hard as we can. And even if these voices aren’t arising from the outside, we may have this tiny disbeliever inside us saying “God damn it, I’ll screw up”. We’ll silence this dickhead by showing unshakable discipline and the will to prove others, but first and foremost ourselves, wrong. This builds up our resistance and enables us to tackle challenges courageously, since we already proved ourselves that we can cope with them.

Scepticism if only one of the obstacles facing us. Being part of a minority, we are confronted with lots of challenges, but we can find solace in this statement: combatants reach out their hands instead of their elbows. Though we might not have much in common, we are united in our gender and profession. A Gemeinschaft (german for: community) that is everything but gemein (german for: cruel).2 On the contrary, helpfulness is accompanied by mutual support. In fact, there are collectives like Women in Tech or PyLadies, that offer a safe space for women to discuss and share knowledge.

Meet Ups aren’t the only social events offering advantages. Conferences are another great way for women to further their careers and network with others. There are special offers for minorities and you are actively invited to participate as speaker. I prefer gender neutral applications, but because the tech industry is largely made up of men, anonymous applications are not enough to adequately represent women. This is why I believe positive discrimination is not only beneficial, but necessary. It also allows women to visit discussions and events for free and to serve as a role model for other women.

If public speaking makes you sweat just thinking about it. don’t worry, put your mind at ease with these thoughts. Lots of small steps and actions can make a huge difference. Precisely due to the fact that we are a minority, we can actually change things. My former university named its lectures rooms after famous scientists. All of them were males without exception. A fellow student brought this to the attention and now women are considered as well. BAM! World improved! I am certain there are things in your everyday life that may have huge impact. Paying attention to the world around you and having your voice heard, for you and others, can make the world a better place.

Whereas these (more or less) known female scientists had to fight hard in their past, the working environment of Tech is pretty enjoyable these days. As a tech employee you are wooed by potential corporate suitors. Sometimes it feels as if employers are competing to get you on board at their company. In their bid to employ you, they offer loads of benefits from paying your Netflix subscription to special deals for sports memberships (which is very useful when you need to get rid of all the extra calories due to the never-ending supply of lemonades and beer). Necessity is the mother of invention. On top of all that. there is also a good work-life-balance resulting from the employee-friendly state of the market. Flexible working times and hours offer mothers (and fathers) a more manageable route to return to work after parental leave.

Needless to say the above mentioned advantages are valid for men as well, but women are sought after due to being a relative rarity in the industry. Women are often offered additional benefits like obtaining more interviews with prospective employers where successful employment dan arise. At least this is the case when there is an awareness of the discrimination of women and the positive influence a diverse team can bring to the workplace. When a company has no women on its team and two equally qualified applicants apply for a new role, the woman is likely to land the job. Even it that successful candidate is not better suited for the job from an experience or skills point of view, women boast other qualities that fill an otherwise existing gap. For example, women often possess more empathy. If the team respects women in leading positions, this trait may smooth the way towards management. Tech in general is a very open-minded field, therefore discrimination due to gender by comparison rarely happens. In contrast, job offers for leadership positions aren’t as uncommon. An amplifying effect on that certainly is the figurehead “we have women in leading positions” or the women’s quota. I may come back to discussing the necessity and the comparison to the quota of people with disabilities another day.

tl;dr: The good in short

I tend to talk quite verbose, see the most important aspects summarised below:

  • There is a proper baseline for negotiations, which sets the foundation for perfectly wonderful working conditions, e.g. flexible working hours.
  • As an orchid amongst all the flowers you are remembered, potential barriers for job interviews are lowered and job offerings are more like a rule than the exception.
  • Often there are reductions for attending conferences and it’s easier to obtain speaking opportunities.
  • Your gender offers an alliance:
    Welded together by the feeling of belonging together, you benefit from supporting each other and help can be found where help is needed.
  • We can change things because there is a lot to change; small actions and steps may even change the world.
  • The environment builds fortitude, encourages quick-wittedness and develops the courage to tackle challenges.

Before I forget:

If non of the above applies to you, here is one final thought: Toilets have shorter lines at tech events and you’ll get a mostly private bathroom with exclusive access at work. Now that’s happiness!


[1] Statistic from: “If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention”
[2] This pun only works in german

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