On being a woman in Tech
Happy International Women’s Day!
An equal world is an enabled world.
(Photo courtesy of IWD International Women’s Day)
I was invited to share some information about my career as a woman in Tech, in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th, 2020).
I had no idea what I wanted to do as an adult. I had always assumed I would work with animals, or else find a job where all I had to do was read all day . After all, my favorite subjects in school were foreign languages and literature.
It came as kind of a big surprise when I took an ‘aptitude test’ and the results suggested I would enjoy computer programming. WTH? We did not even have computers at school; we had typewriters! But I signed up for a 6 month course in programming, and much to my surprise, I loved it.
When I started to learn programming in 1978 (yes, that’s correct) I gave no thought to whether there were women in the field, or whether I’d be accepted. I was probably [more than a little] naive. But I loved programming – absolutely loved it! To me, learning to program was taking some things I already knew I loved, like foreign languages and mystery novels, and putting it all together in one package. I could learn a language, and solve the mystery of how to make this thing do what I needed.
I did not know that I wanted to work in technology until that lightbulb moment.
I was never a math geek or science geek in school, so the fact that I felt so passionately about computer programming was very surprising to me and to those who knew me well. In spite of myself, I found the career which I never knew I wanted. I really enjoy solving problems with code, and I’ve found that learning new languages is tough, yes, but also enriching.
I know that much of my professional life has been blessed, being with the same employer for over 3 decades. Whether the credit goes to my employer, my geographic region, or just plain luck, I never had to prove myself in the face of the ‘brogrammers’. My first programming team at MIT was about a 50-50 split between genders; the team I’m on today is 75% female. I’ve had both male and female supervisors, and never gave a thought to the difference.
A learning moment:
Last week, I voted early in the primary elections for my state. I’m so happy my town allows early voting – and the volunteers who staff the polling station are always kind and cheerful. I was taking my 19YO for *his* first time voting in a presidential primary. As we exited, we were having a pleasant exchange with the volunteer at the ballot box. When I told him I was excited to have my son with me for his first ever primary, the volunteer said ‘Well, I hope you voted for the right guy!’.
Learning moment. I replied ‘Or the right woman’ and smiled brightly.
This is what I will do. I will be kind and thoughtful. I will not engage in fiery debates, but I will tackle these seeming small and meaningless types of remarks that perpetuate micro stereotypes.
International Women’s Day:
The theme for this year’s IWD is #eachforequal. I really love this, because I think in the broader sense, we can expand this to include not just women, but people of all genders, races, and abilities. There is a lot to read on the IWD site, but my action items are these:
- I will be mindful of my internal dialog – so many of our biases as so internalized, we don’t even know it. If we hope to encourage others to be more open and accepting, we need to recognize those biases in ourselves first.
- I will support women, girls, and people of all genders and abilities – perhaps my support will show up in small ways – such as the #BlogItForward series?
- I will participate in the SAP Online Track – an amazing SAP Community event – SAP Online Track, a grassroots movement to benefit GirlsWhoCode! (Hat Tip to Jakob Marius Kjær )
I wish I had some global wisdom to offer; some piece of info that would enable all people, including but not limited to women, to achieve what they want to in the Tech space. I don’t! But that is one thing that makes the SAP Community so great – there are so many points of view, so many people who are willing to help from such diverse backgrounds. You never know where or how you will get your next light bulb moment, but it could easily be here.
Happy International Women’s Day, and hey, lets be #eachforequal too!