My Life as a Woman in the Tech Industry
Since it is International Women’s Day today I thought I should use the chance to talk about my experiences as a woman in the tech industry. I will try to give you some insights into my day to day work as a software engineer.
How I Got into Tech
My fascination with technology started early on—as long as I can remember, I was always interested in technical processes; starting, of course, with Legos back in the days when I was about 4 years old. But what really brought me into tech were numbers. I felt joy when dealing with them, rearranging, combine, add, subtract, multiply and divide them—they just made sense to me. And once you are hooked by numbers, you never want to let go ever again. Sure, you can rearrange and combine words as well, but they are never as logical and universally understandable as numbers are. At least in my mind that is.
As I grew older, I was wondering about the direction I should take to figure out what it was that I wanted to do, or in what field I wanted to work in. So, I thought I should try a school that emphasizes the interests I have, that is why I decided to go to HTBLA Kaindorf which has a focus on technical studies. Software engineering was the subject area I was always most interested in, so I enrolled in this particular field. Since then I gained a lot of experience in software development and engineering; during my time at school I started working part-time as a software developer, as you know, the demand for developers was just exploding a few years back; a trend that still continues.
Graduating from HTBLA Kaindorf wasn’t the end of my education though. I started studying Software Design at FH Joanneum in Kapfenberg to learn even more about software development, object-oriented programming, programming servers and create software for user interfaces. And surely my mentioned love for numbers never faded, so I also enrolled for Mathematics at the University of Graz. You might imagine that I was one of the few women studying this, but the reality is that we had a 25% female share. I bet it isn’t the same everywhere, but at least at my University that is the case.
In September of last year, I joined the development team at Intact GmbH in Lebring to help them on their mission to make the world a better place with their software Ecert.
How Is Life Like as a Female Developer?
A typical day at the office starts at around 8 o’clock in the morning; first things first—I need a big jug of water to take on my daily tasks. Like everyone else who is sitting in an office all across the world, I start with checking my emails and figure out which ones I should answer right away. Since software tools are languages that keep evolving it is essential to keep learning new technologies and techniques to stay up to date. There is always a new and better way to do something in software development. We also have so-called „Hackathons“ several times a year at my company where the entire development team gets together and explores new technologies—that also is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. Then the real work starts. At around 9:30 a.m. we get our daily briefing and prioritize the tasks for the day. Usually—and I am sure most devs are in the same position—it is pretty though to handle since there is mostly too much to do in the time we have. Still, we get it done…in most cases at least! In case you were wondering, we also get to eat enough, don’t worry about that! Luckily, we have a lot of good restaurants nearby and can go to another one every day. Depending on the workload, I usually go home at about 5 p.m.; so do my male colleagues—I guess the only real difference is I use the ladies‘ room.
In my experience I never really felt being treated any different than my male colleagues. Maybe I was just lucky in that regard, but I guess that there has been a shift in recent years towards more equality. Here at Intact we have a very well-balanced male to female ratio—I guess it is close to fifty-fifty. Another thing that surely contributes to this is that the team is still very young. Most of the employees here are around 30 years old and people of this age have a different mindset than the “older generation”. When I get criticized it is simply because I made an error; I don’t feel like I get treated differently because of that second X chromosome.
But I am also aware of the fact that women are treated differently in other parts of the world. In one of my previous jobs I had to travel the world to meet with clients. One of my trips brought me to China and there I experienced a slightly different way of dealing with women. After a very busy week we were invited to dinner by our Chinese business partner. He made a toast and thanked our delegation, spoke directly to my colleagues and thanked them for their dedication and the many hours of overtime they had done to finish the project in time. When he came to me, I only heard a „On your beauty!“ from him before he took a sip out of his glass. I just brushed it off as a cultural difference between our countries and that that it wasn’t meant in a degrading way, but I believe something like this barely ever happens in Austria. At least I am not aware of it.
Fortunately, I never experienced sexual harassment at any of my workplaces, the only thing that does come to my attention is the existing gender pay gap. Don’t get me wrong, I feel appreciated and treated fairly where I am right now, but I have also experienced it differently in previous jobs. Male colleagues did tend to earn more than their female counterparts for doing the same work. But I guess it is not as extreme in the tech sector as it is in other economic sectors where the gap sometimes is way beyond 20 percent. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have really helped bring issues of gender discrimination and harassment to the forefront. I hope it will help women all over the world to live a more appreciated life and get treated more fairly in everyday life as well as their working lives starting today!