Reflecting on International Women’s Day: Thoughts from a Woman in Technology
Reflecting on last week’s International Women’s Day, I found it inspiring to see the many individuals and organizations pledging support for gender equality. It was an inspiring day not only for women and girls, but for everyone, as we each play a role in the mission of equality.
But I also have my own story, which has an impact on my feelings about this day. Today, being a woman in technology is not as uncommon as it once was. But our role in technology has been an uphill climb that is now finally making groundbreaking strides towards equal representation in the field.
Initial awareness: A minority in the field of technology
This day reminds me of how significant it was to have been the only woman in my graduating class with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It is an overwhelming feeling to realize that I was a part of the movement to grow, inspire, and support those around me and the generations to come. And that was just a few short years ago (2015).
Today, nearly everyone has some interaction with technology and media, and with the growing popularity of those fields, more class offerings are available. Once I decided on my major in college, I soon realized l was one of very few females in my classes; however, several of my professors were female, and I looked up to them.
As a freshman in college, going in without declaring a major was something my liberal arts school encouraged. It was beneficial to be able to enroll in a variety of courses early on in my education, and for me, a few of those courses happened to be around technology and digital media. These were classes that I did not shy away from (and I would encourage others to try them if you get the opportunity).
Throughout my education, I by no means felt any bias or discrimination in my course of study. The program itself was not large, but for a liberal arts school that allowed for exploration of various courses of study, I was surprised how outnumbered I was. However, acknowledging this gap, I made it a my goal to be a force in closing it and do what I could to support leveling the playing field.
My first job out of college: A career with a company that supports equal opportunity
After college, I was fortunate enough to get a job with a company that shares my philosophy. AKA Enterprise Solutions—a Microsoft Dynamics Gold Partner specializing in software consulting—is an equal opportunity employer made up of 34% women, a significant difference from the current national percentage of 26%, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Here are some other key statistics:
- Of the 34% women in the company, nearly 20% are in leadership positions
- Of the 9 different teams making up our organization, 5 have a female leader
- Of our 13 employees (including both CEOs) who have been with AKA for over 20 years, nearly half are women
Such statistics are inspiring as a female professional in technology who acknowledges the effort and dedication that many establishments have made to equalizing the gender playing field. Working for an employer that has core values and roots in diversity is rewarding in itself, and the growth opportunities and mentorship programs that AKA offers and fully supports truly display their sense of equality and dedication to their employees and their careers.
Within AKA, I am in an assistant lead role where I and a co-leader are assigned a group of coworkers to increase collaboration and review internal training and organizational items. In addition, I am in a coaching position where I assist my assigned colleagues in defining their career goals and continually meet to measure their progress against those goals.
Another offering at AKA is their mentorship program of new employees. Whether you are a new hire fresh out of college or have 15 years of experience under your belt, you are assigned a designated “new-hire buddy” to help guide you through your onboarding and transition to a member of our team.
An opportunity to pay it forward
To contribute to this movement, I am dedicated to assisting and mentoring those who stand beside me as well as those who will come after me to promote the diverse and equal work environments that so many organizations strive for. The goal is to continue to pave the way for growth and spread awareness and support until a better balance is achieved, and we have revolutionized the face of technology.
Across the technology world, you can find many companies taking part in the initiative of supporting gender equality. Microsoft published a blog just recently on Why Female Role Models Matter, and this week, their Chief Diversity Officer stated, “To increase hiring, retention, representation, and the development of women in the workplace, companies must be intentional and accountable for being aware of the diversity within the diversity.”
This statement speaks to a previous definition of intersectionality some 30 years ago of how “these overlapping identities and conditions impact the way we experience life’s challenges and opportunities and the privileges we have, the biases we face.” While at Microsoft, women make up just 28% of employees, they are in the process of refining their stance on allyship by recognizing the opportunity to show up for one another and thus become allies.
We’re not there…yet
In comparison, the overall workforce is much more balanced; female representation is at 46.8 % according to Statistica.com. Our goal should be to continue to make strides towards that number in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and raise awareness regarding the shortage of mentors and role models, as well as gender biases and lack of growth opportunities found throughout the technology workplace today.
Today, STEM is not a first career choice for women. While there have been throughout history many successful women in technology, it has not propelled the growth that many would have hoped for. The retention rate for women in technology is very high, and we need to lift one another up to minimize turnover and continue our forward momentum.
In turn, if you’ve never participated or read about the ongoing initiative of gender equality, and for me, specifically in the area of technology, I invite you to participate and encourage support of events such as International Women’s Day. Mark your calendars for 2021, and in the meantime, consider becoming a mentor to encourage growth and opportunities for all. It might just be a great time to find out what your organization or university does to recognize these ongoing initiatives and get involved.
I truly enjoy being a part of the AKA team. If it sounds like the kind of place you’d like to embark on a career with, check out our open opportunities and put in your application. If you don’t see a position that fits you, send your resume, anyway. We’re always looking for great people.