I recall the exact moment that I realized what it meant to be a “woman in tech”.
I had just started a new job, and during one of my very first leadership meeting we discussed, “what can we do to attract more women to our organization?” The question instantly threw me off. I have always considered myself a tech professional, and since I am a woman had never made me feel different or othered before. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been hired solely because of my gender.
Moments like this often bring to light the otherness experienced by many women as an obvious minority in STEM industries. In light of International Women’s Day, I would like to share my experience as a woman working in tech, and how my current organization, Intuit, is cultivating a company culture based on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Empowering female voices is the first step
A commitment to supporting women must continue beyond the recruitment stage. As I’m sure many women working in STEM can relate, we often find ourselves as the only female voice in the room. In a business environment where the loudest voices are often heard, it can be difficult for employees who aren’t visibly represented to feel empowered to speak up.
There are moments that have stayed with me. I recall a situation earlier in my career where I was explaining a project to a software engineer when I was interrupted by a male colleague. He then began speaking directly to the engineer himself, despite his lack of knowledge on the subject. This was unpleasant, unacceptable, and I believe this happened because I was a woman.
Recent internal research at Intuit found that this phenomenon creates an unspoken bond among women in the technology industry, who often feel that their voice gets lost among their male colleagues.
Amplifying female voices is a first step, but there are more ways that organizations can strive to be more inclusive. Intuit is a great example of a company taking strides to better support women in the workforce. Intuit participated in the #ShowUsYourLeave campaign, which showcases a range of leave benefits for employees. This initiative aims to eliminate the stigma many feel when requesting extended maternity leave, and can really help to break down the barriers many parents may feel when approaching their supervisor.
Companies need to ensure that all employees not only have the ability and platform to voice their opinions, but are also empowered to do so. Technology companies like to highlight their commitment to diverse candidates in their hiring practices, but there is much more work to do to drive industry change.
How Intuit is driving change
In addition to my full-time role as a Software Engineering Manager, I am also the co-chair of our local Tech Women at Intuit chapter, an internal initiative that focuses on attracting, retaining and advancing women technologists. This program provides a space for female employees to share their unique experiences and inspire each other to innovate.
I’ve also been able to participate in a mentorship program for women and under-represented minorities in tech, which has yielded positive results for both mentees and mentors, and strengthened the professional networks within the company.
Beyond in-house initiatives, Intuit is helping to drive change in our communities. Intuit partnered with Canada Learning Code, an organization that focuses on giving young Canadians the skills to build dynamic careers in technology. These types of partnerships make me feel that my company not only supports me as an individual, but is committed to driving meaningful change within the industry that will help women in the future.
The future is bright for women in tech
The benefits of a representative workplace culture extend well beyond employees themselves, as diverse companies have been found to be 45% more likely to improve their market share, and 70% more likely to capture a new market. When I first took my position at Intuit, my manager was the only other tech female on the team. Our team now includes four women and we have a goal of further increasing that ratio. Gender equality doesn’t happen overnight, but I am confident the tides are changing. I am happy to have found an organization with a community of dedicated tech professionals, who are just like me.
Tatiana Tarnovskaya is a Software Engineering Manager at Intuit Canada.