By Manisha Mishra '15
A third of the tech articles I come across these days are about the gender imbalance in the industry, window dressing in firms, women switching careers into tech feeling marginalized and gaffes by top execs. Although I empathize and admit that we are far from achieving perfect representation, I would like to share my experiences having been a part of the industry, as a woman and as an individual.
I know that Boothies typically need data to back a story. Some of the findings by Derek Khanna, a Yale Fellow at Information Society Project, are not only scary but show we are actually moving in the wrong direction. While women make up 57 percent of the workforce, in technology that figure is only 25 percent. In 2012, only 20 percent of the chief information officer jobs (CIOs) at Fortune 250 companies were women. From 1985 to 2010, the percentage of computer science undergraduate majors fell from 37 to 18 percent. At major research universities, the same number was 14 percent in 2010. Shockingly, only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science.
I remember thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” when I started at Cisco. At 23, I was all too excited to work in Silicon Valley and gender ratio was something that hadn’t even occurred to me while considering where I wanted to work. None of my projects ever had any other women, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Happy hours revolved around Giants, Sharks & Niners games, and I went from a champagne person to a craft beer person. We played pranks on each other, celebrated countless birthdays, did cinnamon challenges, covered for each other and somehow grew together. One of my fondest memories is when my co-workers threw me an engagement party at work with a cake, frills and “life advice” thrown in. When I left for Chicago, it felt like I was leaving my family behind.
Perception-wise, the technology industry has undergone a major shift over this last decade. Unlike the stereotypical geeky introverted kid, the industry has smart well-dressed outgoing people who also love to have fun. The work is intense and challenging, however the work environment is laid-back and casual. If I wore a dress to work, about 20 people in the office would ask me if I had an interview, because my everyday wear was more like hoodies & shorts. People usually didn’t take themselves too seriously, and like most other industries fit is a big factor when people choose where they want to work.
As a lot of you are in the middle of recruiting, I wanted to share some things I personally appreciate about the tech industry:
Non-hierarchical: You could be a new kid on the block, but if you have a great idea, people will listen to you.
Creativity & Individuality: The startup culture lends itself to great autonomy and flexibility. You have a deliverable and how you want to do it is up to you and only you.
No “face time”: You can work from home, you can walk in at 11 and leave at 5, and you are evaluated based on the quality of your product.
Money: Let’s face it, we all want to make a reasonable amount of money, travel the world and possibly have the option to retire as early as possible. Compensation is not bad in tech and if you look at the money you make on an hourly basis, it probably beats most industries.
In conclusion, every industry has its pros and cons. Choosing one should be a decision based on your preferences as an individual irrespective of your gender and where you came from.