Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

The Truth About the Women In Tech Cult

Spoilers: I Approve.

Look ma, no hands typing at 90 WPM.

I purposely got up earlier than my natural rhythm today, a Monday morning of all days, to attend a Women in Technology Networking event hosted by the City of Toronto. The event featured a panel of reputable female leaders in the industry who shared their unconventional tales of how they got to be as awesome as they were today (my words not theirs, rest assured).

Most had come from a background in the Arts and lived a good 5–10 years as an adult in the workforce before waking up one day and deciding

“I’m going to check out what this tech craze is all about.”

This was eventually followed by a major pivot in life trajectory brought on by a genuine desire for drastic change. A change that, as I’m sure most of the event’s audience would agree, was a positive one.

The thing is, a past me would have been very skeptical to even consider attending an event like this. Maybe I was too proud to admit I had belonged to a community that was underserved and that didn’t face equal opportunity. Maybe I thought that if I continued to ignore this truth, then it wouldn’t be true. Maybe I didn’t want to be herded into a group that I felt I didn’t identify with because I rose above the ranks. Clearly, none of that was true. Insecurity guided those false beliefs. In fact, much of my success had been earned by my economic privileges.

Another fact that had became clear to me, in the many years where I worked as a female in the tech industry, it became undeniable that the need to host female-led events in support of other females was critical to the reshaping of the industry as a whole to promote fair play and equality. I was glad to be there.

It didn’t go how I pictured it would go.

There wasn’t an overwhelming message of

“we are girls and we kick ass!”

Being part of a sorority, at times I admit I do cringe when an all-female crowd stands together to declare “girl power!” with force. As someone who considers personality before gender, I never did find it natural to pin who I was so strongly by what gender I identified as. To me, gender was just one aspect of identity. That being the case, I was glad that the energy in the room leaned more towards

“we are girls and we can kick ass if we so choose to!”

The emphasis here being on our sense of choice. So often is the case that the agenda of

“we need more females in tech! Join our tribe!”

gets pushed. It was refreshing to hear the panelists encourage women to embrace their sense of choice rather than make attempts at persuasion.

There were a couple fresh perspectives I took away from the event:

Stop Thinking ‘What’s Next’?

Being ambitious is a positive trait, so long as it doesn’t pull you away from learning from the present moment. When you’re constantly thinking about how to get to the next stage of your career, you aren’t 100% dedicated to doing what you’re currently doing. It’s unfair to the team you’re part of and it’s unfair to you to not let yourself focus on the situation at hand. If you’re over-concerned with how to be a better version of yourself down the line, then you’re not trying to be the best version of yourself now.

Raise Your Hand More Often

Develop patterns of behaviour where you are proactively seeking out opportunities to make a change. Don’t wait for others to ask if you’re interested. If you’re interested, just do it. If it’s not welcomed, question why the organization needs to adhere to status quo. Perhaps there is a misalignment between the culture you’re part of and the culture you want to be part of.

Asking For Help Can Be an Act of Giving

Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to ask for help when you view it as taking up another person’s time and resource. But why not reframe it and consider your ask as an opportunity? It’s an opportunity for the helper to hone their knowledge sharing abilities. They get to practice how to distill information and consider a problem from a different perspective. Personally, I enjoy the act of helping those who ask. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to share knowledge and be trusted as someone who wouldn’t judge you for having a question to raise. Remember, your success does not come at the expense of another.

All in all, it was three hours well spent.

Though I’d woken up with a non-committal goal of taking one or two points away, I ended up networking with a couple awesome women from the public sector — a sector where I didn’t have many key contacts in to begin with. I even met a woman who also decided to take a year off and invest the time exploring personal interests. We were both on our professional break to learn programming and even shared similar to identical ideas of how to go about initiating our own businesses.

It’s strange to think that for a split second this morning upon waking up, I had considered simply falling back asleep altogether.

My takeaway:

sometimes you need to just do things that you feel skeptical towards because they have the chance to defy your expectations.