One word…draining. Seriously. I’ve been in this profession for 20 years now and a student for at least 8 years before – so I’ve been around the block. I am the best in my field. I’ve got an amazing portfolio to back me up and am recognised as an industry leader but still find myself needing to raise my hand to speak and raise my voice to be heard at meetings or at project reviews in rooms full of men. This is to say nothing of needing to repeatedly justify my professional decisions to my male counterparts of similar age or younger, time and again.
I pride myself on always going the extra mile for clients, ensuring my deliverables exceed client expectations and by virtue of the fact that I am often either blatantly or subconsciously penalized for being a woman, generally strive harder to provide an outstanding result. So when the men on my team fail to deliver and try to shift blame in my direction, this naturally adds insult to injury. There have been moments where after listening to this sort of cowardly rhetoric, I’ve been forced to stop and ponder incredulously,
“Did you actually take a moment to think about what you just said?!”
The old me would get emotional about this sort of behaviour, but the new improved (middle aged) and experienced me, keeps my chin up, and I hit back with facts. Surprisingly or (perhaps unsurprisingly?), it’s been my experience with the men I’ve worked with that they will simply dismiss the facts when they are relayed and hold fast to their (often unwarranted) opinions.
You might be forgiven at this stage, for thinking I am a vehement feminist on an anti-men campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not anti-men at all, I love working with men, but men who are intelligent, respectful and value me as their equals, which most actually are, but yet I consistently come into contact with this odd minority whose bad behaviour gets to me.
Why do we allow that? Why is it easier to compartmentalize certain aspects of our lives while others affect us so deeply?
While running my business, I am also a mom to two amazing children who, coming up to this time of year need me a bit more than usual as its mid-term exams and as a mom, I want to ensure they are ok and on the right path with their studies. If that means rearranging work hours to help them, then picking up my work between the hours of 9-1am and then getting up at 5am to revise with them, I do it (amongst everything else I have to do).
Nobody said this would be an easy road and I don’t expect sympathy or a medal but I do, at the very least, expect mutual respect from industry peers. I know the female standing in the world is getting better and we are slowly beginning to see the incorporation of women into different fields, especially (at last!) in the tech sector, but after twenty years in the industry and especially over the last 5 years when I am now in upper management, one does not still expect to be having to stand up for your right to be heard as a professional and given the same consideration and equal deference as is granted to other men in the industry.
But…what do I do, give up? Cry, whine (wine)?!
Not at all. For me, there is a shining light: I have a 9 year old daughter who is fearless and who believes she can be anything and that everyone is equal. I love this child so much and I want the world to be that place for her. The only way she will ever accept the world to be that way is to see her mom doing well, and her mom’s friends and female peers doing well. I bought her a book called “Good night stories for Rebel Girls”. It highlights stories of women throughout history doing extraordinary things and she loved it. She loved it so much that she started posting on Instagram after reading each story at bedtime. She was discovered by the authors and invited to partake in a global campaign to raise funds for the second book (which broke all fundraising records in 2 hours). This child needs me and my female friends to continue and to persevere. We women who are trying to integrate both our world of work and world at home need to continue be the role models for our children and show them that we are strong, tough, believe in our abilities and won’t take guff from anyone.
Even though my one word opening for describing what it’s really like being a woman in tech (and a mother) was ‘draining’– the truth is this is the only field I am still CHOOSING to be in and I love it. If I was not getting paid to be in it, I would probably (still) bore my friends and family to tears about the world of tech I am so passionate about. In spite of all who may find my work ethic and dedication intimidating, I’m pleased to say, I am not going anywhere ☺
About Useful & Beautiful
Useful & Beautiful is a fast growing mobile solutions consultancy, with a specialist focus on mobile technology and product development. Service offerings encompass mobile strategy, design and development with the aim of supporting business goals with the unique qualities that mobile has to offer. Built on 15 years of experience in the mobile and digital space, Useful & Beautiful is passionate about leveraging the latest mobile technology solutions to map out intuitive and seamless user experiences that drive sustainable business value and results. For more info, visit www.usefulandbeautiful.co.za
About Lynette Hundermark – managing director of Useful & Beautiful
With over 17 years of experience in the tech, digital marketing and mobile solutions space, Hundermark co-founded specialist mobile solutions consultancy Useful & Beautiful. With a passion for developing mobile products that are aligned to business goals, Hundermark’s appetite for keeping abreast of the latest industry trends is fast establishing her as an expert tech commentator and opinion leader in Africa . She is also regarded as one of the top 30 most influential women in SA digital marketing.
Former apps business director and head of product strategy at Prezence Digital, Hundermark developed some of the most successful mobile web and apps solutions in the country.
Earlier in her career she served as an enterprise programmer analyst for 8 years the UK. Hundermark’s experience spans the retail, financial and entertainment sectors, where she has developed the initial mobile solutions for the likes of SterKinekor, bidorbuy, Hollard, Old Mutual and General Electric, to name a few. She speaks regularly at a variety of local tech and mobile conferences and is frequently quoted in South African and African media.