What happens is very subtle.
"You are not as important in this conversation.”
“You are not as promotable.”
“You are not technically as capable.”
“Let me explain this to you."
It's death by 1,000 papercuts, and all those little slices add up. You hit a wall at some point.
If this sounds relatable, then you might be a woman in tech.
Did you know that women are twice as likely than men to leave the tech industry? This isn’t a statistic we can or should be proud of. We want to address it.
Developer Advocate Extraordinaire Emily Freeman (also a former student of ours) sat down with us recently. Continue reading for her perspective on:
The top 2 hardest things about being a woman in tech
Her experience at code school
Advice for other women interested in tech
The Top 2 Hardest Things About Being a Woman in Tech
The Subtle Sexism
There’s overt sexism — like being slapped in the ass — and then there’s subtle sexism. It’s all over the tech world, and it’s my current theory on why women leave the industry.
Our ideas and opinions aren’t valid. There’s not a community to support our needs. We feel isolated.
It’s funny because there are so many quirky things that can help build community.
At Turing, for example, it’s the microwave…
…. during lunch.
Everyone uses the microwave, and while I was a student it was my job to flip the switch when the fuse blew out. For me, that one simple act was such a representation of the community here.
Finding these communities are rare, but it’s this sort of inclusion that helps cut through the sexism.
Being a Mom
I was still breastfeeding when I first started at Turing. I emailed one of the directors and said, "I think I'm probably the first student to have this issue, but I will need to pump. Is there anywhere private that I can go?"
It turns out the one private space was an electrical closet. I won’t say it was appealing to start with, but Jeff brought in a chair, some tables, and lights. We made it special in its own little way.
I know a small company in Denver, and they're a great company, but they don't have a dedicated lactation room. They're small enough that they're not legally required to do so, but they had an employee leave over it.
If we can make an electrical closet a lactation room, you can figure it out too. Clearly that’s not ideal, but in that moment it makes a huge difference to women.
Breastfeeding or not, moms struggle when working in tech for other reasons. You feel the need to constantly be at home when you have really small kids, but learning to code is demanding. It's more socially acceptable for dads than for moms to step away for seven months to go to school.
Being a Woman At Code School
Can I say that code school changed my life? Because it did.
Many women that come here have switched careers. That's an incredibly brave thing to do.
You're going from a paid career to a completely new trajectory. There are a lot of moments that students deal with: "Is this the right fit? I'm spending money, but I'm not being paid for 7 months. Is this wrong, am I going to go somewhere?"
Fighting through those doubts speak to the bravery of the person.
Before Turing I worked in PR. I continually struggled to find work. I always had to prove how talented I was. I also built my own freelance business. (And I’m really proud of that!) But I fought for every job. I fought for every new client.
Then I came here, where I learned a set of skills that made me indispensable to so many companies. Everything just totally flipped for me.
I like to joke that developers have job gatherings, not job hunts. It's very nice to be in the tech industry right now.
Code school changed my life, but it was the community at Turing that really played a formative role in that. It’s not just classroom instruction. It’s not just technical learning.
Turing practices community-based learning...considerably more than any other code school. Many of the students learn from mentors and other people in the community. There’s a lot of emotionally mentoring, too! We are always giving each other “it’s-going-to-be-okay talks.”
What differentiates women in the Turing community is their sheer grit.
Learning to code is not easy. It's brutal.
Anytime I've had a challenge in tech, I can go to these women in the Turing community and ask, "Am I being too sensitive, is this something I should be speaking up about?" It’s incredibly valuable.
Advice For Women Interested in Tech
We need a community and a support system to thrive. This is really important.
For women, it can be a crisis when you have a kid. I had a personal crisis when I had a kid. It’s incredibly emotional because your hormones are insane.
After birth we're expected to leave our babies at 12 weeks. A baby that is 12 weeks old is so small, and the urge to be home is so powerful at that point. You’ll do whatever you have to do to stay home, even if that means no paid maternity leave. You try to make it work.
Side note: If I were to run a company, I would definitely make sure to provide paid maternity and paternity leave at this critical moment. Google upped their maternity leave from 3 months to 5 months and made it paid. They saw a 50% increase in women that came back to work.
Just do it. Push through. It's scary and hard, but you'll figure it out. I've felt the most powerful I've ever felt after going through Turing.
Bottom line: A tech degree is similar to being a parent. There's no manual. It's going to be tough, but it’s achievable.