Being a Tech Woman

By The Road To: Articles Comments

A recent and recommended article from The New Yorker quoted a demographic report on Silicon Valley workforces, confirming what everyone already knew: "Tech is a man’s world." Tech rock stars like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer with their senior leadership positions are rare, and men make up 60 to 70 percent of employees at the participating tech companies, while the number of female computer science graduates has almost halved.

As mentioned in Writing, a previous post in The Road topic, reading about people, especially women, who have made it to the top is always a pleasure. Inspiring stories offer crucial perspective and advice.  Female representation in leadership roles, even in the high tech industry, is improving, but progress is slow and far from adequate. And while reading these stories you, like me, are probably asking yourself: what did it take those women to get that far? How much did they need adopt "masculine" behavior in order to fit in, just to then end up frequently labeled as difficult and pushy for acting this way?  And what personal price have they had to pay to pursue their dream career?

Here you can find another article with great advice from a young woman CEO start-up about the struggle to make it. It is advice, highlighting, in a nut shell, the need to let go and to accept help from your close surroundings and encouraging employment based on skills rather than gender.  My attention was especially caught by her tip to: "Fake it 'til you make it," which is exactly the point I too was debating. This statement represents the state of mind of so many women who are trying to juggle it all: work, family, relationships, as well as some free time to take care of themselves. This is exactly the state of mind we need to recognize and then fight to change.

But, personally, I find it hard to fake it! I am not condemning this strategy; it is a survival tool and, as such, I respect it. However, for me, as long as I feel I am faking it, my insecurity intensifies while my self-confidence and stamina weaken.

You see, I am not sure men think they are "faking it"; in fact, I am quite certain they don’t. They have no need to fake the right balance between work and family–especially knowing there is someone else there taking care of their family. They certainly don’t fake a "brave face" while making management decisions. They give it a name: ambiguity, uncertainty, playing it out in all directions, taking a chance, trying it all.   They aren’t ashamed to say, "I don’t know" or to assume a know-it-all face; they just see it as part of the game. If you are this kind of woman, you have my full respect and support. But please don’t "fake it," because it is only a matter of time before you wake up and start looking for yourself.

For us women, if we aren’t certain about something, if it doesn’t come from the bottom of our heart or from our core competence, if it doesn’t resonate with our beliefs, identity or values, then we are "faking it." Well, I have been there and I just couldn’t fake it any more. I had to go back to look for what really stimulates my emotions, my passions and my desire to contribute and be creative. All in order to build up my confidence to say "I don’t know," or "I am not sure " – and feel good about it, because it doesn’t come from a lack of knowledge or of professional capability but only from a place of honesty and the ability to embrace uncertainty. It is true that given the ratio of women in the male-dominated business world, women need to try harder to succeed, but it is the duty of our generation to embrace women’s instinctive thinking, and by hard work and standing up for ourselves, to be able to say, "I am not sure, I want to think about it," without the sentence implying that we are any less worthy of leading.

We live in a chaotic world with unimaginable changes and an enormous flood of information. Ambiguity is a permanent feature of our day-to-day practices and decision-making. You are either able to adopt a very straightforward way of thinking and do away with deliberation, or, like me, you need to go back to basics. And, by this, I mean learning to listen to yourself and to build your confidence not on external feedback but rather on your own strengths. This rekindled fortitude can come from the button that sparks emotion as described inThe Secret of Inspiration or from a specific motivation, such as Modeling in my case, or from an Inner Urge, just waiting to be uncovered and to shape your life. No one else will do it for you! You need to find the strength within you by believing you deserve it, and by understanding that you are part of our larger revolution created by each individual aspiration to make and drive change.

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