“I want to learn those Microsoft applications, they seem so challenging and I like challenges” Those were my thoughts when I decided to go back to school and study Office Technology. I decided to go to the nearest school and speak to an advisor. She asked:
-“Why do you want to learn technology”?
-“All my friends are learning Word, Excel and PowerPoint, I heard is the next “big thing” I said.
The advisor advised they did not offer that program, but they had a very similar one: Information Technology. I sure did not know the big differences between the two, but I decided to give it a try. “I think you will love it” She said. I enrolled in the Information Technology program, expecting to learn nothing but Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and so I did, but also registered for required and challenging courses such as programming, Statistics and Operating Systems. Every new semester, I looked forward to see more female students in the classroom, but it never happened. Out of 20 students, only three were females, or sometimes it was just me. Regardless of my deceiving expectation I decided to go for it and continued my career. During my journey, while working on several contract projects, I still remember comments such as “I feel bad for this girl, working on a male dominated field” Then I realized why most women refused to enroll in anything but computer science. “I hate computers” Some of my girlfriends said in response to my comments about choosing technology. Most said, it’s a male dominated field, or it had too much coding and math they wouldn’t understand.
Today I still wonder if Information Technology will ever escape the negative geek stereotype. Unfortunately, despite the increased popularity of the “geek” culture, the so called nerd, and anti-social ‘geek’ still suffers from our culture’s negative label. This explains why women still shy away from careers in information technology. Somehow, when women think about computer science, they automatically link it with the nerdy look, wearing glasses and being anti-social. It’s the culture, not because math is hard. In addition, tech room environments can feel discriminatory for some women. This issue does not refer to women being unable to do the job, but to feel comfortable and earn respect from their colleagues. Women in particular have to demonstrate that we are educated and highly trained in the field. Working in the technology room can be quite challenging, but also rewarding and fun. If like me, you are a female working your way up in a male dominated career, keep this in mind in to survive in this environment:
-Be polite and communicate (respect others and network as much as you can).
-Know your industry (get informed and find opportunities to demonstrate women’s strengths).
-Learn from “the guys” (your male colleagues usually have plenty of experience, get involved).
-Promote diversity (show your friends that being the only female in your team is rewarding).
Some coworkers may never accept the idea of working with women, and will subtly or overtly make this obvious to you. With these individuals, the best response is to accomplish our job consistently well. There is no point in engaging in a debate with such a person, and no one can argue with results. You may never be able to win over your entire team, but you can represent our gender to the best of your abilities. The rewards for you and future generations of working women in technology will bear the fruit of our efforts.