Today’s guest post comes from Judith Basler:
On Tuesday, June 28 Blurb and Thompson Reuters sponsored the meet-up group: Women & Technology, Bay Area. The event was dedicated to the topic of women in STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) fields. The registration filled up quickly and 150 participants (including a few men!) visited the Blurb office for an exciting after-work event.
The evening was opened by Sarah Granger. Sarah is a published author, professional blogger and speaker on the digital age. Following her inspiring opening words, the event organization showed the first 30 minutes of the documentary Code, debugging the gender gap. Made by Bay Area producer/director Robin Hauser Reynold. The movie is inspirational and educational in so many ways—a must-see to understand how deeply rooted the gender gap is in science-related fields, even for those at a young age. It follows several stories from girls and women on their path into the tech industry and supports them with valuable statistics. For example: “There will be 1.4 million jobs by 2020 in the computing-related fields. Less then 29% of them are going to be filled by Americans. Less then 3% of those will be filled by women.” These stifling stats presented the perfect conversation starter to our panel discussion, which was to follow.
The panel was packed with talented women in tech leadership, representing companies that included Thompson Reuters, Salesforce, Jawbone, and Blurb. The moderator Rachel O’Meara works at Google and is working on a book called Pause, which will be about the importance of taking breaks from our careers. The panelists spoke candidly and inspiringly about women in the tech industry, drawing from their personal experience. I had the honor to be part of the panel as well.
There will be 1.4 million jobs by 2020 in the computing-related fields. Less then 29% of them are going to be filled by Americans. Less then 3% of those will be filled by women.
It was my first time on a panel—or speaking in public professionally— and in the weeks leading up to the event, I found myself questioning whether I should be on stage. A voice in my head kept saying that I didn’t have the authority to speak among such accomplished women. This voice is one many women share. It’s the same voice that says we’re not as good as men, aren’t as capable, and deserving. Clearly untrue, but the voice is there. My experience on the panel turned out to be truly empowering. Hearing the incredible stories of all the women, I felt at ease, and was surprised to find I had much to add to the discussion. I’ve worked in the tech industry for over 10 years, and in listening to other’s experiences, my own confidence returned, and I also recognized that my experience held value to be shared as well.
Throughout the closing Q&A session with the audience. it became quickly clear that women in our industry are eager to share experiences and support each other along their career path. Many women from the audience brought stories from a work environment that’s less than supportive to their gender. One said they had a vote to eliminate the saying: “you guys” in their company to drive in how gender bias exists under the radar. Hearing some of these stories, I felt fortunate in my experience at Blurb. Blurb is a female-founded company and as such, perhaps more aware of gender balance and equality. It’s normal here to find a majority of women in leadership positions. When I got promoted while pregnant I took it in stride, and am now recognizing not all workplaces would have promoted me at a time when my responsibilities were likely to move away from work for a time.
I thought to myself, “How lucky I am”.
My takeaway from the event was that there is real value in time spent fostering community and a support network amongst women. Hopefully by doing so we can start closing the gender gap one by one. We are already looking forward to a follow-up event.