Mothers Have A Place In The Tech Industry
Upon finding out that Hashnode is taking the initiative in inviting women to share their stories for the #ChooseToChallenge campaign, I was ecstatic.
Truth be told, I was leery about sharing a picture of myself as I often don't take selfies. But I decided to be brave and let others know of my stance when it comes to the challenge, in honor of International Women's Day.
Why I'm sharing my thoughts
As a mother, I've seen so many biases surrounded motherhood and its place in the tech industry.
When we think of mothers, we see them as those who would dutifully care for their young ones and never think twice about their career. Essentially, society deems mothers as those who gave up on their ambitions and not care about their own wellbeing because they're stuck raising children until they reach a certain age.
Then, there are the other half of folks in society who feel that it's selfish for mothers to pursue a career in the tech industry because they're deemed as those who are not fit to be mothers and only care about their jobs.
The stigma is real and unfortunately, many mothers (like myself) are being told that pursuing a career in the tech industry is impossible because we can't do both jobs. I remember last year after I was let go from my previous job, I participated in interviews where they questioned as to whether or not I'll be able to give it my all, despite having a child in the picture. Many times, I've been rejected because they saw me as someone who can't commit to the tech industry because of being a mother. Sometimes, they use the excuse as not being a great "cultural fit" or "lacking the skills" when they sent the rejection letters.
I'm fortunate to be part of a company that cares about the well-being of parents and encouraging them to take the time off in helping out their families. I'm here as proof that I can balance both my job as a senior support engineer and a mother caring for a kid on a daily basis.
It's always a juggling act, but not a day goes by where I know that I'm making a difference in both my personal and professional lives. No matter what I do, I always bring my A-game on both ends because I was taught that it takes courage, persistence, and tremendous willpower to get stuff done. I can do bug testing and still help my kid with his homework. I can troubleshoot technical issues with merchants and still have time to listen to my kid about his favorite video game.
Is it easy? Nope. But what makes the experience rewarding is knowing that I'm being challenged every day which helps me learn and grow.
Other mothers have experienced this as well
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. During my 1:1 with my coworker Katrina who is also a mother, she shared her perspective with me on what it was like to transition from being a nurse to a support engineer in the tech industry:
I think it was a combination of the fact that not only was I a woman, but I was also a mom, came from a non-tech job (Registered Nurse), and my personality is generally pretty positive and light-hearted. I think people didn’t take me seriously or didn’t have many expectations for me when I came in and were often “surprised” when I was able to tackle more complex questions or have the KPI numbers that I did because they expected that I would just be struggling and take a long time to ramp up.
It didn’t come off as straightforward like people telling me that they didn’t think I was capable of what I was doing but in their response to when I did and when I succeeded. It would side jokes or genuine surprise, or questioning my answers to questions and asking for a second opinion “just to double-check”. It happened with coworkers but also the people I was helping (since I work in customer support). Even just my name being Katrina which is feminine.
I’ve had phone calls and emails from merchants hitting on me to wanting my contact information so we could be “friends”.
But of all these things, the biggest “challenge” for me has been feeling the need to constantly go above and beyond to prove my value, so that I could be compensated for the value I bring. There is a mentality engrained into me both from my character/identity and my cultural upbringing that I have to do 110% to receive even just 95% of the respect that other people I work with getting when they put in half the work I do. So it can be a struggle and it can be frustrating seeing that some people get away with doing less and are still getting paid more than me or recognized more etc., and the fact that this is something I even have to deal with, to begin with.
One last thing to add - because of my position as a mom too, the part of me saying I have to do 110% encompasses that I not only have to do more at work, but I have to do more at home to accommodate. There is work I have to do behind closed doors: I do my full-time job but I’m also still taking on the same responsibilities I did when I wasn’t working and I was a stay-at-home. So before work even starts I’m in the mentality of getting sh*t done, and when work ends I’m still GSD all the way up until the kids are in bed.
And it’s the expectation that I, as the mother, am taking that on even though both my husband and I are working. So if my husband stays home from work to take care of the kids one day it’ll be celebrated like some great sacrifice, but if I stay home from work to do the same it’s just me fulfilling my duty.
Mothers have a place in the tech industry. We should not shun them from wanting to be part of it. What many folks don't realize is that mothers have the ability to delegate and find creative solutions to ambiguous problems. Mothers are humans.
To all the mothers out there who want to take a chance in the tech industry - I encourage you. I embrace you. I want to see you shine above. Because you matter.