One thing about being a woman in tech: you get accustomed to being the only woman in the room. In a good company, this isn’t a big deal. In a good company, the men in the room include you in the discussion and hear what you say the first time you say it. Sadly, it’s taken me a while to find a few good companies, and I’m happy to have landed at Indix.
Before I found Indix and my previous startup, however, I had some experiences that were all too typical of a woman in tech. For instance:
In my 3.5 months at Indix, I’ve noticed that my colleagues hear what I say the first time I say it, and I’m rarely ignored as the only woman in the room. Even better, I’m rarely the only woman in the room; a full third of our Seattle office is female.
That’s not to say that life is perfect. A few weeks ago, I hesitated to take a much-needed bio break from a meeting. I was the only woman in a room full of men, and I was hesitant to let them continue the meeting—even for five minutes—without me. I waited until another woman joined the meeting to take that bio break.
I think that my decades as a woman in tech have shaped this kind of behavior. I hesitated to leave the room because I unconsciously felt that my thoughts would be disregarded if I weren’t in the room to stress them. I hesitated to leave because I didn’t want us to make decisions without a more diverse point of view. But mostly, I hesitated to leave out of habit.
When you’re the only woman in the room, you’re no longer just the individual. You become the Representative of Womankind. You suddenly feel the responsibility to Lean In and be included. Even if you don’t have an opinion about the matter being discussed, you feel immense pressure to insert your Woman’s Point of View.
Maybe not every woman in tech feels these pressures, but I sure do. And it’s an entirely internal pressure. Before that meeting I was afraid to leave, my VP and I had synced on what we needed from a marketing point of view, and I objectively know he would have had my back during a bio break. My opinions would have counted, and I wouldn’t have been left out of the conversation.
It should be interesting to see how working at Indix will change me. When I feel heard, will my stress level go down? If I’m representing just my views instead of feeling like I have to represent my half of the species, will I stop second-guessing myself? Will my creativity rise? Will I find it easier to become a team player? I’m looking forward to seeing my personal evolution in a supportive environment.
Or maybe I’ll just start getting up for bio breaks before they become urgent. That alone would be more than welcome.