Spoiler alert!: I am a woman that works in tech. I am a feminist. That means I believe women are equal to men, and therefore should have equal power/benefits/pizza/rights to men. I do not believe that any type of person should have more power/benefits/pizza/rights than another person.
Now that the controversial pizza distribution topic has been addressed, let’s talk about the experiences I’ve had as a woman in tech. I was going to summarize an internal presentation I did talking about companies that do a great job supporting diversity versus companies who suck at supporting diversity. However, I procrastinated on that so much and realized that’s not what I wanted to deliver.
What am I about to deliver? Well, this is not a quick list about tech companies that crush the equality game. It’s also not a piece of “OMG find out what company fires women for eating pizza” clickbait. It’s a reflection of my experiences in my career and my desire to emphasize the importance of supporting employees as humans. Most information that I find about women in tech focuses on family benefits. Well, my family consists of two cats and two chickens, so I don’t foresee maternity leave in my near future. This is not for any particular reason aside from the fact that that’s not where I am in my life, so don’t read too much into that.
And, also, family benefits are very important and I believe people should be able to balance family and career, but that’s just not what I am writing about.
Enough disclaimers. Onto my feelings.
I’ve been in digital marketing for 10 years. I didn’t pursue a traditional career after college because I wanted to teach dance. Unlike (and like) many 16-22 year olds, there was nothing I wanted to do when I “grew up”. No career inspired as much passion in me as dance, so I took my Public Relations degree to the dance studio. After a few years, the inspiration of dance was spoiled by the logistics of adulting. Bills, health insurance, and body aches were all weighing heavy on me. I had to supplement my dance income with a retail job, and those are exhausting—especially for this introvert! I was exhausted and stressed.
During my period of exhaustion, companies began using social media for commercial purposes. That sparked my interest because I didn’t subscribe to traditional media, and I saw so much potential in the digital space as a whole for marketing. The definition of digital strategy I learned as an undergrad, just four years earlier, consisted of having a website. Period. Just a website. The horror! Ok, so fast forward and I’m getting a Master’s in Internet Marketing while working at a newspaper (say what? yes, a newspaper!). Then I started my first “grown up”* job in digital.
I worked at a corporate company headquartered in Europe. The office used contemporary architecture and was designed so every person could see a window. It had an open floor plan with modern furniture. Sounds like progress and innovation to me! Sounds like the people behind the business matter! Unfortunately, the building design and the products they make were, and still are, where the progress and innovation ends.
I was hired at this company to manage social media and pay-per-click advertising, but I never felt that they trusted my opinion or education. No one else in the company was as educated as me in our field, yet I was constantly told to be more humble. In addition, the company required salaried employees to clock in and out. They didn’t offer flex time, so you were expected to make up any missed time for work that same day excluding doctor appointments, vacation, and sick time. When I had questions and ideas, I was patronized most of the time by my manager.
I don’t believe my experience was unique based on my sex or gender, but the company did not support the work-life balance I expected from a seemingly progressive, European company. But at the end of my time there, I was still a woman in tech that had learned to ask more questions before accepting a job.
I left that company to pursue a job at an agency. The culture was much better! I felt trusted, and confirmed that I need that from my employer. I enjoyed the company, but quickly got tired of the work because it was heavily automated. I felt like I was working a conveyor line in a factory of PPC ads. Then, all my PPC princess dreams came true, and I landed at Workshop Digital!
Here I am, still a woman in tech. Obviously, I work here and am writing for our company blog, but I am being completely genuine when I say that I am finally in a place that I can see myself working at indefinitely. Why? Because the family leave policies are so great! Just Kidding. It’s because they support the employee as a whole human, and not a droid with human-like qualities. Any issues or questions I face, from client to technical to personal challenges, are addressed with respect and compassion. I have the benefit of unlimited vacation, so I can balance my other interests in life such as dance and yoga. Most importantly, the company benefits from my ability to pursue other interests with free yoga classes that I lead after work every so often ☺—but also with building a team of loyal employees. Turnover is low, progress and innovation are high!
Now here’s the last point: I am a woman in tech, but I am also a human that has to have a job to pay her bills. I respond well to trust and empowerment. That looks different for everyone, and includes balancing family and career, but I am really grateful to have found my place. I mean, the owners wrote this blog. Grab your tissues.
*note my use of quotes in this post. It alludes to the fact that I still don’t feel grown up and feel the grown up status is overrated and unrealistic.