Empowering Women in Technology

Since 2014, I’ve worked with over 1,100 women in technology seeking to break into their first software engineering role or take their career to the next level.  While working with people in career transition, especially with women in tech, I’ve observed that when we’re not happy in our career or when we’re unemployed, we humans often lack feelings of empowerment.  Imposter syndrome may creep in, that quiet voice in the background whispering that someone will find out we’re a fraud.  Even the most confident people may wonder- am I really good enough?  Are my skills relevant?  What will happen next in my career?

To combat these feelings, as a career strategist I work with people to create a plan building self-awareness of skills, values, and strengths.  Together, we put together goals and an accountability plan.  By building self-awareness in these areas, it’s much easier to effectively tell our story and helps others we speak to understand who we are, what we do, and what our goals are.  After all, if we’re not sure what our areas of expertise or our strengths are, how will we ever convince that hiring manager we’re the right one for the job?

Recently I read an article about genuine confidence, and it resonated with me- it is one of the reasons why Carol and I started Empowered Tech, a meetup to help women connect with other women in tech, to learn how to use their voice to gain power and establish their professional identity in tech, and share solutions and resources about challenges in the workplace.  The strong, smart women we’ve met at our past meetups are problem solvers, leaders in their organizations, demonstrate curiosity to build their self-awareness, and are ambitious to take their careers to the next level.  Speaking of smart, strong women, props to these writers and tech professionals who helped empower other women by sharing resources and information:

If you missed Diversity Activist Ellen Pao’s interview on Daily Show this week, she talked about the sexism she experienced in Silicon Valley that led her to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer in 2012.  This quote, in particular, is relevant to empowerment.  She describes, “...not being included in meetings, not being included in conversations, not being included in email threads...and a lot of the work was around understanding the information flow- what’s happening, where the interesting opportunities are, building these relationships…”  As women in tech, we need to build the relationships and be aware of the information to get to where the opportunities are.  Which companies are inclusive, who promotes women, who sees us and hears us?  How can we be better communicators, support each other, and achieve our goals?  

We hope you’ll join us at a future meetup.  Technology leaders, project managers, recruiters, software engineers, product managers, marketing folks, customer success managers- if you work in tech and you identify as female, you’re all welcome to come build your network of other ambitious, empowered women in the tech industry.  

You can follow Wendy on Twitter @aboutworkstuff.   To learn more about Empowered Tech, click here.

Impostor Syndrome and Women in Tech

The term Impostor Syndrome gets tossed around a lot these days.  I thought I’d share with you the origins of this concept, what it really means and how to gauge if you exhibit any Impostor Syndrome characteristics.

The Origins of IP

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IP (Impostor Phenomenon) was coined by Pauline Rose Clance, Ph. D in the late 70’s after she strangely experienced feeling like a fraud amongst her peer group in grad school, but couldn’t explain why.  She thought that she would fail exams even though she was well prepared, she felt other students around her were smarter than her and that she was passing her classes based on luck and was really just a “fraud” in school.

Later in life when she was teaching at a University, she realized that a lot of her female students had similar thoughts and feelings that she had when she was in grad school. Here she began her research on this topic and the originals of Impostor Phenomenon began.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.[2]

Psychologists hypothesis that Impostor Syndrome is most common among high achieving women.  Interestingly, many women experience it for the first time while in graduate school.  (A very intense and high stress experience.)

It’s not surprising that we see Impostor Syndrome among women at coding bootcamps since bootcamps are (in many ways) similar to graduate school.

  • The expectations are higher
  • The lessons move very quickly
  • There is a lot of work outside the classroom
  • You need deep focus & discipline to succeed
  • You get very little sleep
  • It's a highly competitive environment.

Further research also shows that IP can be even more pervasive among women of color from marginalized populations. The research regarding Impostor Syndrome has traditionally highlighted groups who are “excelling in areas that were not always readily accessible to them”.[2]

This would certainly be applicable to women in tech.  (A culture dominated my males where female credibility can be tested on a constant basis.)  We hear stories of female software engines being the only female on their team, sometimes second guessed by their bosses, and even asked if a project was in fact “their own work”.   This is a high stakes environment where women are not always expected to necessarily succeed. Knowing more about IP and how it works can be helpful in understanding your own thoughts and views regarding your own success.

Here are a few sample questions from Dr. Clance's  Impostor Phenomenon scale. 

  1. I have often succeeded on a test or task even though I was afraid that I would not do well before I undertook the task.

         (not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

       2. I can give the impression that I’m more competent than I really am.

        (not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

       3. I avoid evaluations if possible and have a dread of others evaluating me.

        (not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

*Sample questions may not be representative of the entire 20-item scale. To access FULL scale permission, please contact Dr. Clance (drpaulinerose@comcast.net).  

When Should I Introduce my Child to Code?” 

Introducing Kids to Code

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As a VP at Hackbright Academy, (the leading coding school for women) people always ask, “What is the best age to introduce my child to code?”  My answer.… “As soon as possible!”  The same goes for all the STEM sciences (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math.)   It’s never to early to introduce a child to something new. The next question they ask is always– How?

Every child is different, but why not expose them to “all things science” early on in a fun way.  There are: science museums, science based board games and video games, science based TV shows, experiments you can watch on Youtube, great tutorials by Khan academy, coding camps for kids, and the list goes on.  The earlier any child is exposed to something new, the more it opens their eyes to possibility. It makes them curious about the world.  First hand exposure is always a great tool and it provides a safe environment for children to ask questions if they are a bit shy.

The other day I passed a dad and daughter on the street.  They were crouched down on the sidewalk looking at something. (I’d say the daughter was about 7 years old.) Once I got closer, I could see that they were inspecting an acorn.  A very large and lonely acorn that seemed out of place on such a busy city street.  Where did it come from? The dad was talking about what an acorn is, what it does, the shell, how it will sprout, etc. He was also taking the time to answer all his daughter’s questions. It was a wonderful exchange and teachable moment that they were both clearly enjoying. He didn’t rush by the acorn on the sidewalk, he stopped and took notice of his daughter’s curiosity.  He used the opportunity to teach her about nature.  This type of time and patience helps ignite curiously in kids. So, introduce your child to code (or any science) when you are ready to dive in and be part of the conversation with them. If they see that you are engaged and curious then they will be too.

If you need help identifying some great resources for your child, just reach out! 

Dr. Carol

Meet the Team

 

Hello!

We're 2 women in tech who realized there's a lot of issues other women in technology face that aren't being addressed. 

What do you face as you navigate the tech landscape? 
What do you need for a successful transition for the next move in your career?  


We want to help address and remove barriers and blocks for women in tech. Our goal is to help you confidently map your next career move in tech, overcome some of the issues and constraints that hold you back, as well as prepare you for your next interview.  
A little about us…..

Wendy Saccuzzo is a career coach and technical recruiting specialist, and has worked with women in tech on career strategy and helped to build engineering teams in early stage startup companies.  She’s involved with Women Who Code as Director of Career Development and holds a Masters degree in Counseling with a focus on Career Development.   Outside of work, Wendy is wrangling her kids, gardening, cooking or hiking.  
Carol Langlois AKA "Dr Carol" has extensive research and training in working with females on self-esteem and empowerment issues. She holds degrees in Education and Psychology. She has designed her own technique to help women manage their inner critic and overcome roadblocks in tech such as imposter syndrome and the confidence gap.  Carol is also a published author and playwright. 

Here's a picture of Tennessee Valley, where we had our first hiking meet-up. More to come!