Originally published on CloudOps’ blog.
International Women’s Day is held on March 8th around the world to celebrate the courage, achievements, and struggles of all women. It has reminded me to reflect on and share my experiences as a woman, especially as a woman in tech.
My name is Chanpreet Kaur, and I am a Cloud Solutions Specialist in the Consulting and Professional Services team at CloudOps. I have a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication, a Master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, and I started my career on the infrastructure side of IT. I have since gained experience in different roles but have always worked in very male-dominated fields.
Discrimination against women is not nearly as prevalent as it used to be, but it can still happen with devastating effects. My experience overcoming harassment has shown me that much.
I’ve been at CloudOps for just over a year; before that, I worked at a very large corporation where I was the only woman on the team. My manager and coworkers all respected my skill set, except for this one person who insisted on belittling me from the start. He made it very clear he thought I didn’t deserve this job and was only hired because of my gender.
Unfortunately, this man was a Linux expert, and I often had no choice but to ask him for help if I got stuck. Without fail, he would laugh at me for not knowing the answer. Did you do the informants you were supposed to? Have you not learned anything? Why are you still asking questions? Have you gotten technical work yet?
Since the beginning of my time at CloudOps, me being a woman has never come up in the context of my work. If I need help, nobody makes me feel I need help because I’m a woman. Gender should be a non-issue in the workplace, where the focus should be on skills and competence.
Because of my previous experiences, one of the first questions I asked when interviewing for my current role at CloudOps was whether there were any women on the team. Will, the CTO, mentioned that we don’t get too many female applicants.
It is true that more men than women find themselves gravitating towards technical roles, and this is especially true on the infrastructure side. There are some women in software development, but far fewer in infrastructure as it was traditionally far more mechanical and heavy-duty. As Infrastructure-as-Code becomes more popular, I expect more women will enter the field.
There are many reasons why there are not too many women in tech. Firstly, fewer women enter the field in the first place. This is especially true in developing countries, where girls often don’t have equal access to education. When education is available, STEM subjects aren’t always offered. By the time I began studying engineering at university, only about 10 to 15% of the students in my program were girls.
Next, bringing women into tech is a challenge, but keeping them can be even harder. Women often leave their STEM careers after a few years, especially if they have kids. Childcare usually falls on the mother, and many may feel their work is too much pressure at this point. Some women may not be sufficiently supported by family, and husbands don’t help out in all communities.
Women are raised to be nice, and when we can see the intention is positive, we try to accommodate it. Most of the time, people don’t realize that what they are doing can be diminishing and don’t mean ill intent. When you see something out of the ordinary, speak up . It took me over a year to do so, and I received support from my manager and team when I did. The straightforward act of bringing it up can be enough to shift perception — and to enhance your own development.
What can be done? First and foremost, men should be aware. They should be accepting and welcoming of women as teammates. Management needs to support and encourage women from all countries and races to apply for jobs in their organizations. I’m happy that CloudOps is doing a great job at that.
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