I am not a feminist. While I see the descrimination around me daily I feel somewhat disconnected from it. I grew up in a middle class home, went to a private school and had parents who never made me feel like I was any different from my male counterparts. My first understanding that I was different was at my first real job when my then boss sat me down and told me political journalism was a “boy’s club”. I remember long conversations on balconies as we puffed through boxes of cigarettes. He explained to me that if, as a male, you were a hard ass, pushed your colleagues or subordinates to overachieve and if you pursued business interests relentlessly refusing to back down you’d be labelled successful. You’d be labelled driven. You’d be labelled ambitious. As a woman? You’d be labelled a complete bitch.
It was only years later I appreciated the sad truth of the statement. We aren’t invited to partake in the cigars in a smokey lounge while our counterparts admire our tenacity. Instead we are expected to smile and flirt while balancing on our heels with fellow females glaring on disapprovingly. We are not at fault. Society has wired us to think like this and, I believe, as women we tend to resent other successful women… maybe because they chose not to follow the rules.
Yesterday was international women’s day (8 March 2015). Sky News has spent a week highlighting the growing decline in women taking up STEM subjects while Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is set to take the stand in a sexual harassment case against a major Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm (things like salary discrepancies and the like have already been presented in the trial). Just last week I used this site to publish a post highlighting the problem with trying to keep women in tech. The commentary is out there for all to read. Yet, I worry that all of this falls on deaf ears. I worry we have reached a point where the world rolls its eyes and writes the arguments off. I see comments inferring that “this happens to men as well” and a growing belief that discrimination against women in the tech space (and work space in general) is some sort of made up ideal by feminists…… Does it even matter how loud we shout?
At Mobile World Congress 2015 I had a chance to sit down with Ford’s Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering, Ken Washington. He made a comment about the need for disruption in order to encourage innovation. The thing is, I think a bit of disruption might aid in changing the gender gap we’re seeing in the corporate world.
I have decided to do my own form of disruption. I am not going to throw out my opinions on gender equality or highlight the pay gaps rife in the tech industry and all other industries. Instead I am going to change course. I want to rather celebrate the women who have influenced me in the last year. Women who, in some way, have opened my eyes to gender inequality and made me realise that those chats with my first boss were not ways to kill time between bulletins but rather his way of trying to open my eyes. His way of encouraging me to disrupt. Tech Girl will be one year old on 1 April 2015. During this short time I’ve had a chance to meet and interact with some incredible females. These are the 5 women in tech who inspire me. I encourage you to comment on this post with inspirational women as well. Let’s build something positive.
1. Samantha Perry
Samantha Perry has ample experience in the tech media space and one of two South African judges at the 2015 Global Mobile Awards. I have, in the past, butted heads with Samantha Perry on social media. Some of her views on the gender gap in the tech space seemed rather radical and “over the top” to me. I’d read the occasional tweet and think “complete nutter”. I’m pretty sure she reads some of my tweets and bashes her head against her desk regularly. But that is what inspires me about Perry. She forces me to think differently and look at the other view. She’s made me far more aware of what I’m saying and how it effects the women reading it. She makes me think.
Amina is the youngest and first female inventor in Bahrain. I had the opportunity to meet Amina at the Intel Global Challenge 2014 in San Francisco. At 19 years old and already married Amina invented ALMOND and STAMINA, both devices used in the physiotherapy field that assist in muscle injury recovery. Amina has travelled the world and been lauded for her contributions to her field. She inspires me because she comes from a region rife with gender discrimination. A place where women tend to not be allowed to work nevermind invent and disrupt their work space. Despite her background she has done far more in her 26 years than most PEOPLE I know. Her love of her craft, of healing people and her unwavering support of her family and husband are inspirational.
3. Randi Zuckerberg
Okay, technically I haven’t actually met Randi. Despite my continued spamming of her inbox I’m yet to secure an interview BUT she inspires me. She is the sister of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and worked at the social networking giant in the early days aiding it in becoming what we know it is today. Her media relations and marketing savvy are inspirational. I read her book in 2014 and was inspired. Faced with being a female in the tech space and gossip of nepotism she still forged ahead. In her book she touches on females in the tech space with encouragement and inspirational words. For any female attempting to get a start up off the ground I’d suggest spending some time perusing her writings.
4. Irene Nkgadmina
Mustek Limited is the largest assembler and distributor of personal computers and complementary ICT products in South Africa. They brag the largest assembly line in the southern hemisphere. Irene is the production manager and also a rather inspirational woman. She started as a contractor at the company in 2000 and in 2001 was hired full time to work on Mustek’s assembly line. After 3 years she moved up to testing and quality and control before taking on the role of a PC Technician. Around 2010 she was moved into the production supervision division and in 2013 was promoted to production manager at Mustek. She has spent 13 years learning and honing her skills in the tech space, showing me that anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it. You can find out more about Irene and see what exactly she does in this video that The Techie Guy shot.
Entelect is a company, not a woman, I realise this. However, I’ve had the chance to visit the Entelect offices twice in the last year and chat to the employees. I find this South African software development company rather inspirational in the way they do business and their company ethos. They’re driven to promote education in the country and run an incredible foundation to make that happen, supporting both boys and girls in their academic careers. They’re also home to some of the best female developers in the country and have had the likes of Rebecca Franks (another inspirational woman) grace their desks at some point.
Do you have a woman who inspires you? Tell us about her in the comments below.
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