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

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

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Gloria’s Answer

I am a minority female in an industry that has a lot of females, Learning and Development. I use technology within my job, but it is not the focus of my job. I am an Instructional Designer. The reason that I wanted to post a response to your question had to do with the minority element. It can be difficult to a minority in any job field, mostly because of the challenges presented by misconceptions others have about race. However, the world is changing. Your perceived disadvantage can be an advantage. In some ways, you are being asked to become someone that is from a different mold than you. In that way, you learn about what is considered "proper" in your field. Your advantage is that you came from another mold, one that you can use to think about how things could be different. To those "proper" people, you will look and act like an innovative, out-of-the-box thinker.

So how did I use this in my job? I am an advocate for the students of the training that I create within my own Instructional Design peer group. I grew up in a household that considered two languages equal - English and Spanish. The challenge, of course, is that the structure of these two languages is very different. Even common idioms have historical significance within each culture that make them almost incomprehensible in the other language. In my role as an instructional designer, the audience that I write training for are often non-native English speakers. They vary from Chinese to Spanish to Slovakian language speakers. Most of my colleagues are single language speakers of American English. And they write as if everyone in the world speaks American English. Students suffer from this single language choice since it can be confusing. English-as-a-Second-Language users are often translating verbatim in their mind the words on the page. Most American English only speakers don't see how confusion can be possible. English is English right? I can since I grew with two languages. English was my strongest so every time that I read Spanish, I translated it into English in my head. And sometimes the result was very disturbing. I now strive to write for any English speaker. I avoid idioms that may cause challenges. I use the first definition of the word whenever possible. I teach these ideas to my peer group and give them solid examples. (I always wonder what a person who grew up in the Philippines thinks when someone says "I threw him under the bus. I am pretty sure they are thinking that is probably attempted murder rather than the actual meaning of "I blamed him for the mistake that I made" or some such variation.) This can feel like common sense to me, but then I remind myself that common sense really isn’t a thing. What is common sense to me as a Puerto Rican is very different from an Irish person. I am considered radical by some of my peers and I am okay with that.

So I would offer that your different cultural perspective can be an advantage. However, you also still need to be good at what you do. At the end of the day, skill can offset almost all perceived disadvantages. At the same time, be yourself. It can be a powerful advantage.
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Star’s Answer

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.

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Mariana’s Answer

At first, try to find out a company that have the same belifes that you. Its hard at the first time, but look for that always!
Unfortunately there´s a lot of that do not respect you gender or race. be the voice to chance it.
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Chaitra’s Answer

The tech field is also as other fields has its part in Racisim . Don't bother about it. Do your best. Keep an open mind to learn and flourish in your field.
Thank you comment icon Hey Chaitra, how were you able to ignore it? Any tips you can share would be incredibly helpful not just for this student, but so many other women of color! Gurpreet Lally, Admin
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Doloris’s Answer

The most important approach I have found for my career is being my own advocate. As a minority woman and leader, I have found it has been necessary for me to seek out mentors and establish relationships that are beneficial to my growth and understanding throughout my career. In addition, I found it was essential to do my research on companies, their diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as continuous required employee training on the subject. I found that not all companies have robust programs and heavy emphasis on diversity in its many forms within the organization.

I hope this helps!
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Tim’s Answer

Use it rather to your advantage. Now is a good time. Show enthusiasm and initiative. Many companies, mine included, are seeking diversity. If you can bring that, and requisite skills, you have an advantage.
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Kim’s Answer

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

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Josie’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!

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G. Mark’s Answer

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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Linda’s Answer

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!

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Chandan’s Answer

No color or gender matters when you do things from your heart. There might be rejection at first but if your work is good, you will outshine
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jennifer’s Answer

It is unfortunately true that women and people of color often face challenges and discrimination in the tech industry. However, there are steps you can take to help you flourish in your career:

Build your skills: Focus on developing your technical skills and knowledge, and seek out opportunities to gain experience and build your portfolio. This will help you stand out and demonstrate your abilities to potential employers.

Network and seek out mentors: Building relationships with others in the tech industry can be valuable for learning about job opportunities, getting advice, and finding support. Consider joining professional organizations or networking groups specifically for women or people of color in tech, or seek out mentors who can provide guidance and support.

Be proactive in advocating for yourself: Don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself when it comes to things like salary, promotions, and career development. Seek out resources and support to help you negotiate and advocate for yourself effectively.

Seek out inclusive and supportive workplaces: Look for companies that value diversity and inclusion and have a track record of supporting women and people of color in their careers. Consider researching companies and asking about their diversity and inclusion efforts during the job application process.

Take care of yourself: It's important to prioritize your well-being and to take care of yourself, both personally and professionally. This might include setting boundaries, seeking support from friends and colleagues, and finding ways to manage stress and stay healthy.

It can be challenging to navigate a potentially toxic work environment, but by focusing on your skills, building relationships, and advocating for yourself, you can position yourself for success and thrive in the tech industry.
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