5 answers

As a woman of color going into the tech field, how can I flourish?

Asked Richmond, California

As a minority, I know that it'll be difficult to work in the tech field. With my different skin and different gender in an industry full of white males, how can I push back a potential toxic work environment, and shine through?

#tech #technology #engineering #civil-engineering #engineer #minority #self #selfimprovement #toxicworkenvironment #woman #poc

5 answers

Josephine’s Answer

Hi AJ,


I come from the same world. I'll tell you a story. For a short period of time in my early career, I was working as a Product Manager for team of software engineers. As a Product Manager, my job was to lead the team and provide details on what the engineers were going to code up next. I was the only female on a team of 10 males, all varying in age. Despite my anxieties of not being taken seriously due to my age (I was a lot younger and less experienced than my team), we trusted each other. I was fresh out of undergrad and given this amazing opportunity to build something amazing with a group of talented, brilliant professionals. And we did just that.


You will meet people in your life that will cheer you on and hold doors open for you. You will also meet people who may give you grief, intentionally or unintentionally. Always remember that you are capable and a rockstar and show the rest of the world that. Here's some things that were taught to me when I was worried about the same things:


  1. Build and form a support group of allies
  2. Always be diplomatic
  3. When something doesn't sit well with you, raise your hand and mention it.
  4. Remain authentic to who you are


Rock on!

Kim’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

AJ,

Sexism and racism is alive and well. Most of us know that. But, please understand, that, if you expect to find it, you will. What do I mean by that? Let's say a new white guy is given a complex assignment that will of course make him look good. And you think, wow, I'm senior, I should have gotten it before him. It could be that he has previous experience elsewhere, so it made sense to give it to him.


I went into law enforcement in 1984. Not a whole lot of female officers back then. What I found was, first and foremost, learn my job, learn it well, and do it well. I did not want to be a statistic. ("They only hired her because of affirmative action quotas.") Secondly, I was a cop. Not, "a female cop." But, "a cop." We all bleed blue. Color/gender does not matter. Third, accept that you will have times you need to ask for help. We can't go it alone. But also, there will be times others need to ask you for help. Give it. We are all part of a team. By recognizing each others' strengths and weaknesses, we can work together as a whole to make the company shine.


On a different note. I had to accept some mild off-color jokes. But nobody ever crossed the line around me. You cannot complain about every little thing. You also cannot let people cross boundaries. You can be "one of the guys" without compromising your self-respect. Know where you are going to draw the line. If someone crosses it, consider giving them one, and only one, break. Confront them directly. Wait until the second time to report it. (unless of course it is so bad that they leave you no choice.).


I cannot pretend to know what it is like being a person of color. But I hope something I have said here will help you in your professional journey. Be strong!


Kim

Star’s Answer

Updated Atlanta, Georgia

Great question. Like the others have mentioned, I would definitely seek mentorship. While there may be programs with your employer that assign mentors, it's always good to seek your own as well and these can be in or outside of the organization you work for. I would also join organizations that offer support and exposure in the areas that interest you. Also, as for any employee be conscious of the intended brand and image you want to project and make sure you are being your true authentic self and always nurturing this. In addition, seek 360 degree feedback from managers and peers so that you can constantly improve and bring your best self to the table.

Linda’s Answer

Updated

As a minority female, I entered the technical world doing switch maintenance, trouble shooting and repair, building frames and providing tier 3 software support at a time was all male.

There were challenges along the way as introducing females into the technical workforce was new. However, I studied, kept notes, observed, learned all that I could and worked hard at everything I did. I built relations and trust along the way. It was gratifying when the veteran techs appreciated work that was done and resolving issues they could not. There is also something to be said about self satisfaction. I never viewed myself as a female minority or used it as a crutch or excuse; just as a person who does their job well, takes pride in what they do and strives to make things better than they can be.

So, put aside your appearance and think about yourself as an individual who is passionate in going into the technical field. Make the time and extra effort to educate yourself in your field of interest and extending further. Excel. Teach others. Connect with those that you normally may not. You can learn a great deal form those that you tend to stray away from. Also, consider how you communicate verbally and written to others and what you can do to be effective. Good luck to you!

G. Mark’s Answer

Updated

For one thing, you should strive to be as "un-alone" as possible. What do I mean by that? Seek out professional groups focusing on your particular affected class, your gender and possibly even your age group. It can help you make connections, deal with social situations and even further your education and training in your field and outside the workplace. It will also make starting out in a new career less stressful. Secondly, seek out mentors. They may be at your place of work, but not necessarily. Professional groups will help you with that as well. And thirdly, seek out mentors in other groups as well. Make your concerns known to these folks. You'd be surprised how anxious professionals in your chosen field are to help new folks. And you'll make friends, which is always a helpful psychological advantage.

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