4 women in engineering discuss harassment, isolation and perseverence


Women engineers often face workplace and career challenges, as their male colleagues remain a minority in the profession: depending on how you count, women only create 13% to 25% of engineering jobs. . That disparity leads to a power imbalance, which can lead to a toxic work environment.

One of the more infamous and egregious examples is Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber. In A blog post in February 2017, he described his boss coming to him in a company chat channel on the first day of his job. he later wrote A book, “Whistleblower,” which described his time in the company in detail.

Fowler’s test sheds light on the harassment faced by women engineers in the workplace. In a profession that is male-dominated, the behavior is preceded by obvious examples, such as what happened with Fowler, the ongoing daily astral attacks.

Four female engineers talked to me about their challenges:

  • Tammy Buto, Principal Software Reliability Engineer (SRE) at Gremlin
  • Rona Chong, Software Engineer at Grove Collaborative
  • Anna Medina, Senior Anarchy Engineer at Gremlin
  • Yuri Roa, SRE Technical Program Manager, ADL Digital Labs in Bogota, Colombia

It is worth noting that Fowler was also an SRE who worked on the same team as Medina (which was part of a later one). $10 million discrimination lawsuit against Uber). It shows what a small world we are talking about. While not everyone faced that level of harassment, they each described daily challenges, some of which frustrated them. But he also showed that he had the determination to overcome all the obstacles that came his way.

feeling lonely

One of the primary issues these women faced throughout their careers is their sense of isolation due to their low representation. They say this can sometimes lead to self-doubt and a feeling that you don’t belong which can be difficult to overcome. Medina says there have been times when, intentionally or not, male engineers made them feel unwanted.

“The one part that was really hard for me was the micro-aggressions on a daily basis, and it affects your work ethic, wanting to show off, wanting to try your best. And that’s not only your own self-esteem, but that’s it.” damages your honor [in terms of] Growing up as an engineer,” Medina explained.

Roa says isolation can lead to impostor syndrome. That’s why it’s so important to have more women in these roles: to serve as mentors, role models, and peers.

“One obstacle for us relating to being the only woman in the room is that [it can lead to] Impotent Syndrome Because it is common when you are a single woman or one of the few, it can be really challenging for us. So we need to gain confidence, and in these cases, it is very important to have role models and leadership that includes women,” Roa said.

Chong agrees that it is essential to know that others have been in the same situation – and have found a way through it.

“The fact that people talk authentically about their own jobs and challenges and how they have overcome it has been really helpful for me to continue to see myself in the tech industry,” she said. . “There are points where I’ve questioned whether I should Ieave, but then because of that support around you getting people to talk to you personally and look at you as an example, I think it really helped me.” I have helped.”

Buto told about the interview for an article early in his career, when he won an award for a mobile application he wrote. When the article was published, she was shocked to learn that it was titled, “Not Just Another Pretty Face…”

“I was like, is that the title?! I was so excited to share the article with my mom, and then I wasn’t. I spent so much time writing code and apparently my face had nothing to do with it … So there are little things where people call it a paper cut or something like that, but it’s a lot less subtle aggression.”

push through

Despite all this, a common thread among these women was a strong desire to show that they have the technical skills to overcome these moments of doubt in order to thrive in their profession.

Buto said she has struggled with such misconceptions since she was a teenager but never let it stop her. “I just tried not to let it bother me, but mostly because I also have a background in skateboarding. It’s the same thing, isn’t it? You go to a skate park and people say, ‘Oh, do you Can you do a trick too?’ And I was like, ‘Look at me.’ you know I [would] stop it. … so a lot of this happens in many different kinds of places in the world and all you have to do is, I don’t know, I’m always going to go on, like I’m going to do it anyway.

Chong says she doesn’t give up on discouraging feelings, adding that talking to other women helped push her through that time.

“As much as I like to persevere and I don’t like to give up, there are actually points where I’ve considered quitting, but having visibility into other people’s experiences, knowing that you’re not the only one who experienced it. and seeing that they’ve found a better environment for themselves and they’ve finally worked through it, and to let those people know that they believe in you, that’s probably why when I [might] is otherwise,” she said.

women helping women

Chong’s experience isn’t unique, but the more diverse your team, the more people who come from underrepresented groups can support one another. Buto recruits her at one point, and she says it was a big moment for her.

“I think there’s a network effect where we get to know other women and we try to bring them in and we expand on that. So we can make a difference or we can feel the change that we see.” want, and we get to make our position more comfortable,” Chong said.

Medina says she’s inspired to help Latinx and black people get into tech, with a focus on attracting girls and young women. He . worked with a group called technolachicus, which produced a series of commercials with televisa foundation. They filmed six videos, three in English and three in Spanish, with the goal of showing young girls how to pursue a STEM career.

He said, “Each business talk about how our careers began with an audience of a girl under 18, an adult influencer and a parent – ​​every professional talk about the development of anyone under 18. are really important.” “How is it that these people can really empower someone to look at STEM and pursue a career in STEM?”

Buto says it’s about raising people. “What we’re trying to do is share our story and hope to inspire other women. It’s so important to have those role models. There’s a lot of research that shows that the most important thing is really Role models have visibility that you can relate to,” she said.

The ultimate goal? Having adequate support in the workplace enables them to focus on being the best engineers – without any hiccups.

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