When you’re born, the social conditioning begins straight away. Whether they mean to or not, the people around you are influenced by the cultural norms of the society they know, and treat children accordingly. Girls are given dolls and toy kitchens to play with, and boys are given action men and train sets. This is restrictive for both genders, as this constrains a child’s natural tendency to explore and be creative.
Luckily, as a child I was given all sorts of toys to play with and probably spoilt rotten. I got dolls and power rangers, cooking sets and Lego. It was great being a kid, and there was no pressure to be particularly girly. I enjoyed TV programmes like Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon, and was relatively unaware of gender roles.
However, growing up and confronting the reality of being a teenager, it seemed that being tomboyish wasn’t considered attractive in my school. I think I subtly altered my identity to fit in with my peers, albeit relatively unsuccessfully as I was still unpopular. I was aware that women who were smart were intimidating, and subsequently abandoned my interest in learning.
It wasn’t until (somehow) going to university that I realised that I was doing myself a disservice, but by that time all the negative cultural messages had done their work. I remember that I believed I would be incapable of understanding ‘tech’, because I wasn’t a genius. Sadly, I had created a mental filter that stopped me seeing all the amazing opportunities out there for women.
Guidance and training from my very experienced and intelligent male manager at one of my first jobs introduced me to the world of digital marketing. Though my confidence was low at first, he eventually taught me how to tackle problem-solving, and think easily for myself.
Growing skilled in digital marketing eventually led me to believe that I might be able to learn how to build websites: for me, a natural next step. And so I enrolled in my first ever Code First: Girls web design course, to learn HTML and CSS. It was a complete revelation, and was the final push I needed to learn about web design after experimenting with some free online coding courses.
Probably the best thing was meeting so many other like-minded women, who were interested enough in this one subject to keep coming for weekly teaching sessions, to learn something new and perhaps overcome some challenges. Learning the importance of having a supportive professional network was a real eye-opener, and showed me my first glimpse of the tech world.
Reasons to work in tech
Women should want to work in tech because it is an incredibly collaborative industry, moves really fast and is currently desperate for more women to fill the roles available. Because it is such a new industry, it’s a chance to carve a very unique path for yourself and it is less constrained by many of the biases and prejudices of more traditional business areas (hello, remote working and flexible hours).
There are so many enthusiastic people out there – both men and women – waiting to share their expertise and experience with you, because they want you to enter this industry.
You don’t need to be a genius to work in tech, you just need to be open-minded and willing to learn quickly. Not all roles involve being a developer: you can work in product design, strategy, security… there are too many areas to list.
Make sure you go along to the next Code First: Girls ‘Hack Your Career in Tech’ event to learn fascinating insights about opportunities available in the tech world, and meet people – men and women – in the industry. Don’t waste time thinking you can’t do it.
If you liked this post and would enjoy having something similar posted on your organisation’s blog written by yours truly, you can find out more about hiring me.