30 Dec 2019


Alternative title: How it feels like to be a woman in the male-dominated field :)
source: shutterstock
Gender imbalance in tech is not taking place behind closed doors. Being a woman in IT terrain equally means you’re a minority. In reality, many things could make us be cut from the same cloth yet there are abundant aspects inevitably dividing us into groups, for instance: age, ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, etc. Hence, the majority-minority issue happens all the time to the point it became mundane and (perhaps) is tedious to be discussed anymore. But still, I want to talk about it since the experience provided me new outlooks and perspectives which are unseen from the outside.

Based on research conducted by Hegewisch and Williams-Baron (2018), in the United States, only 6.6% of women worked full-time in male-dominated occupations in 20171. Besides, nextgeneration.ie stated that (only) less than 7% of tech positions in Europe are filled by women. While it’s statistically proven that gender diversity benefits companies (according to researchers at the University of Castilla la Mancha, Spain, gender diverse R&D teams lead to greater creativity and better decisions)2, gender disparities in the respective discipline are palpable.

Many of you have noticed it already that I also dive in the IT world—something closely associated with man. It has been a long time that I want to write this kind of writing but it took me years to eventually able to be here. The aforementioned studies’ results about underrepresented gender in tech are among the reasons that I decided to finally want to address this issue here. I’d like to share with you my opinion on the issue. Also, I’ll be open about some of the inner feelings and thoughts I have all these times and of course what I learned from my current field of work:

(But before we move forward, let me tell you these things as the disclaimers: first, I have no IT background. I had never formally learned information systems or information technology or whatever it’s called as a part of my education journey. Accordingly, my experience could be a bit different from the ones who are naturally gifted and/or educated and/or talented in IT. Secondly, what I said here is the results and accumulation of years of experience, not just of my present team. Also, if it happens that my words come out unrefined or indelicate, I didn’t mean to offend anyone especially the current peers of mine).

1. People tend to think that I’m less capable (or honestly that’s the hard truth) than my male counterparts

When you see a group of IT people with a woman within, believe it or not, you’ll immediately think she’s the least capable. When she shows her ability off, it’s highly likely that she wouldn’t be taken as seriously as any male in the team. (As a matter of fact, not just in tech, negative gender stereotype happens across industries). The perception of incompetence has been not-so-innocently attached to a woman since the very first step she takes into the field. It’s something unavoidable though since the male is always considered better and smarter in the IT area. 

But for my case, that’s not solely people’s perspective. I always consider myself lacking and less competent than anyone in the room. I am always aware that I’m not as good as anyone in the group. But, rather than complaining about gender bias people had on me, I just accept the fact that I’m not as capable but still can contribute in my unique way. Rather than getting annoyed by the assumption implied “because of your gender, you’re in the second class”, I embraced the saying for it’s the truth. By admitting that, I could focus on doing what I can do for example enriching the team’s perspective simply because woman usually has a different approach to an issue. Because I am different, I bring a distinct color to the team and I can say that, instead of being grumpy by the fact that I’m the minority, I’m thankful. I’m grateful that maybe my insights are valuable for a team dominated by men. Because I am dissimilar, I have a contribution that is different from what my peers do. Indeed, diversity provides a richness of ideas and points of view.  So what I want to promote here is not balancing the male-female portion in a team (although that's also important), but diversity by having a decent amount of woman representation in the team.

2. The state of having a strong urge to work harder

As aforesaid, generally, people have negative gender stereotypes to the woman in tech. It could damage a woman’s confidence or else change her for better. In my case, insecurities indeed burdening my shoulders from time to time because of both the perception and the reality of incompetence. Just imagine that sometimes something easy for the others is an arduous task for me—how intimidating is that. LoL. Consequently, I have to walk at a faster pace to be parallel with them. But on a positive note, the hunger to be as good as my counterparts drives me to work harder. I have this constant eagerness to prove myself that I stand on the same level with the men (when it isn’t utmostly necessary since as I said before, a woman can occupy different roles or contribute differently). Every day I’m battling just to confirm that I equally deserve a spot in the team. Again, I won’t whine of the stereotype for it makes me put a lot of effort to be better. Instead, how thankful I am to have a strong desire to improve myself continuously because of that.

What I learned: don’t be intimidated by the situation. In place of, turn every insecurity into the reason to improve yourself rapidly. Remember that you deserve to be there—not any less than a man but work ethics shouldn't be left behind.

3. I am expected to handle all the miscellaneous feminine thingies

While there is no written rule about who should be the "office housekeeper", as the only woman in the team, I should voluntarily do the chores. A woman is automatically having the responsibility to do all the miscellaneous feminine thingies from becoming the team’s treasurer, "event organizer", "administrative officer", until something as simple as ordering food for the team’s meeting.

Moral value: back to our discussion above, just consider that those responsibilities as our piece of the pie for the group. Because we’re women, while it’s not required by the regulation or anything, just do them as long as they are within reasonable limits. I mean, even a tiny contribution means something for the team. Once again, even a minuscule contribution could mean a lot for the team. 
(to be continued)

1Ariane Hegewisch and Emma Williams-Baron, Fact Sheet: The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2017 and by Race and Ethnicity (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2018).
2Cristina Díaz-García, Angela González-Moreno, Francisco Jose Sáez-Martínez. Gender diversity within R&D teams: Its impact on radicalness of innovation. Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, 2013; 15 (2): 149 DOI: 10.5172/impp.2013.15.2.149

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