Being a Woman of Color in Tech
My class started with 25 people. I was 1 of 5 women and 1 of 2 African Americans and the median age was around 23 years old. I was the only black woman in my class. I was was 1 of two black women out of 3 classes totaling around 75 students when I started. I pretty much walked in one day one and nobody looked like me. Fortunately I was prepared for this and you should be as well. Whether you are black, brown, queer or a woman… you will be the minority. Fortunately I had a great instructor who I will never forget. On the first day he said he wouldn’t tolerate any “isms” racism, sexism, agism… any of them. At that moment I knew I was going to be alright. That may not hold true for every bootcamp and or job in tech. I’ve heard a lot of different stories from different women, but I cannot stress enough that despite how others see us, what matters most is how we see ourselves. I developed a mantra that I said to myself everyday while attending bootcamp. It reminded me that I belonged there. That everything up to that point in my life resulted in me being there because it’s where I was supposed to be. There’s this thing in tech, called imposter syndrome. Actually it’s not just in tech, but so prevalent in tech that it’s a topic that was covered in my bootcamp. Because of all the knowledge in the industry and the different levels of experience you will absolutely have times where you feel that you don’t belong where you are. This is completely normal. You should never let yourself forget this. It’s a battle you never win, but as long as you keep going you’ll never lose it either and that’s best case scenario. You are representing not just yourself in tech, but all women of color. It’s a responsibility that not all people have to carry but consider the pioneers that came before us. How they presented themselves and the things they represented and said are still with us. So when I go into these predominately white male spaces I have to remember that I am paving the way for someone like you and other women of color who will follow. There is an ideology in the world that exists that says that women of color are not smart. This stereotype is amplified in these settings. It can be frustrating at times but I believe we are not the cause of this problem and therefore us trying to prove that we are smart is not the solution. We simply are smart. Just like I don’t need to prove that I can read or write. I simply can. And shame on them for being surprised when they learn that I can do both better than them. There really doesn’t need to be much emphasis put on this because we go through the world and experience these things on a daily basis. I only bring this up to point out that it is no different in this space. That being said, we are a hot commodity right now because companies are looking to diversify and the talent pool is extremely small. Any woman of color in tech right now who has experience provided via a 4 year degree or bootcamp hardly has to look for a job. Recruiters call me every single day. Not because I am an anomaly, but because I am one in few. One last thing I want to say on this topic, do your research to know what you deserve to get paid. Yes, this industry pays really well, but you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are getting paid half of what your coworkers are making all because the amount you were offered was much better than any of your previous jobs. I find that people in development talk more openly about what they make because there isn’t a stigma like there is in most jobs of leaving for a higher paying job. It is very common to only be at a software company for 1-3 years before moving on to a better job offer. It sounds crazy but it’s true. Staying in one job too long doesn’t look good. I love this because I get bored easily, and after a year or two at any job I’m ready to move on to something else.
“YESTERDAY I WAS CLEVER, SO I CHANGED THE WORLD. TODAY I AM WISE, SO I AM CHANGING MYSELF.”