Today is International Women’s Day. On this day, people all around the globe come together to “commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women”. At IC, we wanted to take a moment to talk about being a woman in tech. What follows is a conversation between myself and one of my colleagues who is a woman in tech, Frankie.
Frankie is our UI/UX and Web Designer—an expert on all things design, her eagle eye and talent can develop intuitive software interfaces as well as eye-catching graphics across our marketing channels. Frankie’s background is not a “conventional” one, and that’s what makes her such a key asset at IC. Having started out in the construction world, Frankie was all too familiar with lack of female representation and learning to use her own voice.
I sat down earlier this week to chat a bit with Frankie about what International Women’s Day means to her, comparing and contrasting being a woman in the tech and in construction worlds, and how she learned to find her voice at work. She has kindly let me share our convo in this blog to highlight her experiences, in hope that it can help others wanting to launch their careers in the tech world and give valuable insight on this important day.
“There was, like, one woman for every 50-60 men,” she told me when I asked her what it was like being a woman working in the construction field, “It was very, very male dominated”. I asked her what that meant regarding finding a voice and how that impacted her day-to-day work. After a few moments of thought, she replied that “If I made a mistake on the job, since I was often the only woman on site, it was as if I represented all women in construction. That’s a lot of pressure”.
I asked her if this insurmountable, and very unfair, pressure could be felt in the tech world—which she has been in for almost two years now. “No,” her reply direct and truthful (key traits Frankie possesses), and she continued: “On the product team alone, we had Renata, Celina, and Camila, so there was female representation here. It made it easier to speak up, there wasn’t this burden of ‘I’m representing all of womankind’. I also knew other people had my back.”
Asking her to elaborate on that last point, about knowing people at your workplace had your back, our conversation shifted towards management. “There was a lot of patronizing tones [in construction]”, Frankie explained, “I would constantly get asked ‘here sweety let me carry that for you. Do you need help with that?’ and I was thinking ‘I can deadlift way more than you’. When I would go to into clients’ homes, tools in hand, and would be asked ‘where’s the guy who is going to be doing the repair?’”
When comparing her experience to her current position, we discussed our managers (Frankie and I share a manager). “Female management has helped me find my voice.” She continued, “with a female manager, we’re allowed to talk about more than just our strengths. With a male manager, it almost felt like if we talked about weaknesses, it was giving them reasons to let you go. And the biggest difference is with my female manager, she says ‘let’s support you on those weaknesses’”. Female advocation was also a key difference between female management and male management. “Female managers have always been a better advocate for me, advocating for pay and for position,” Frankie explained.
With all that said, Frankie makes it clear that the tech world is far from perfect for women in the workforce. And, importantly, not everyone has the same experience with female management and having a voice that we have at IC.
I asked Frankie what helped her find her voice as a woman in tech. She again mentioned the representation of women in the product space at IC, and her manager—but also highlighted the importance of larger groups within the community. Frankie cited Girl Gang, a Vancouver-based community for women in tech. And while she did mention that such groups exist for women in the construction industry as well—they were more focused on either A) getting people into the industry or B) providing support to executives within the industry.
“What’s great about tech is that there are people who will help and support you from the application process all the way to the exec level.” She related this to her schooling and made the point that “teachers can teach you the theory, but people who are actively working in the industry are the people who can help you launch your career.”
“For women, coming to work means being three things: an actor, a performer, and top of the class.” I asked her to elaborate on that last point, and she explained “to get any recognition you have to outperform [male counterparts] and often for less pay.” She informed me that this was especially true in the world of construction, but wasn’t totally absent from the tech world. “People were surprised I was a woman when I was interviewing for high tech positions,” (she summed that up to her gender-neutral name). “They were surprised I knew how to code and UX and was a female because, although there are a lot of women who are graphic designers, the UX Designer and Developer space is still relatively male dominant”. So no, the tech world is far from perfect. And on this day, it’s important to both celebrate how far woman have come and all their accomplishments—yet understand that there is still so much more to do.
At IC, our entire product line-up revolves around providing communicators with best practices and the best tools to build a thriving workplace culture. We cannot do that without being especially attuned to giving employees a voice. Many of our blog posts, resources, and software features are centered on giving employees of all genders, identities, and backgrounds a voice and a chance to add to the corporate identity.
Check out some other resources for inclusive communications below: