Last month, we co-hosted a panel with GoodShift featuring some brilliant women who have completed a coding bootcamp (one of our very own!). The ladies chatted about what it’s like to work in tech, in particular during their early career phase, as well as the challenges of working in a male dominated industry.
The panel featured Winnie Street, Coder Academy alum and now Junior Developer at LifeIQ, Kiah Hickson, #CanChangeRatio instructor and wearables extraordinaire, Tanya Butenko, head of Node Girls Australia and Developer at Tabcorp, and Reena Rajani, another Node Girls organiser and developer at Tabcorp.
Here are the three key takeaways:
Sure, women should ‘Lean In’. But, men have to change how they act and what they prioritise, too.
A lot of the reason why women don’t fulfil their ultimate potential in male-dominated environments is because it’s confronting being a minority in such an environment. Some of this has to be overcome internally, but the rest needs to come from the surrounding environment. Women have to be braver and more commanding, and men need to listen more and be more conscious of their actions. Both ways of approaching interaction have to be accepted! Gender stereotyping aka 'biological determinism' of what men and women are naturally good at is a major barrier, which pigeonholes both genders. Winnie and Tanya astutely pointed out that women aren’t born knowing how to negotiate and thinking they need to do all the admin tasks around the office, even if they're not admin staff. It’s something they’re taught, and lessons that society has engrained. Most importantly, everyone can learn soft skills, which is critical to your success in tech!
Learn when a hostile situation is possible to fix. If it’s not, leave! There are other companies that will value you. You don’t have to stay and be a martyr.
If the environment is intimidating you, then it's your prerogative to get out of there. If you’re being treated poorly, and you know nothing will make them change, you should take it upon yourself to leave. There are countless other companies out there that will value you and treat you right. While you shouldn’t have to leave - that’s obviously the worst case scenario - if you know there’s no way for a situation to be solved, do it. If you’re thinking of leaving the industry, consider first if it’s just the company you are working for. If you’ve got the energy, work out why your co-workers are being aggressive. In Tanya’s case, a male staff member who didn’t know how to talk to women made her feel disliked. In reality, he was very shy, and once she sorted out the issue he was much easier to deal with.
A bit of persistence goes a long way.
Being a developer is mentally taxing, and not terribly easy. That’s why there’s been such a strong recent focus in the tech world on how to create ‘psychological safety’ in the workplace. To become a good developer, you need to focus, be patient, and have persistence. It also helps to not be afraid to break things and play around. Believe in yourself. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t know if you are right or wrong. Of course, it’s helpful to ask the rubber duck first before asking a co-worker! Sometimes you just need to spell the problem out.
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