In almost every hackathon, tech MeetUp, or demo day that I’ve attended, I found myself being the only woman. And it was intimidating, very intimidating actually, at first. The more I learned and the more I attended these types of events, the less I cared. I realized that I could shrink away or I could put the situation to my advantage. I saw that when people wanted to begin learning a hobby, they did not know where and how to start. This is how Squid came to be. Squid solves this issue by offering a community of people that motivate and inspire each other to discover their talents.
As a young entrepreneur, I notice that people tend to be naturally dismissive when you tell them an idea or a plan. Now add a significant amount of gender-bias in your chosen field, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for discouragement. But you keep at it. You’ll get underestimated or put to the test far more than men, but all this does it let you prove how determined and intelligent you are. It all comes down to persistence, confidence, and passion.
As a tech entrepreneur, I am overlooked because I am not from a tech background. I am teaching myself how to code, how to design, and most importantly, how not to care if people laugh at my idealism and goals. Like author Grayson Marshall said, “If people are not laughing at your dreams, you’re not dreaming big enough.”
From my personal experience in funding Squid app, I’ve encountered a lot of people that didn’t even give me or Squid a second thought. But my persistence has led me to people like Steven Luis, Director of Technology at FIU and New Frontier Nomads’ CEO Andrej Kostresevic. People saw the dreamer in me, and knew I was a person that was willing to do whatever it took to make my ideas happen. As I learned more, I saw my idea come to life and met people who were as passionate about their ideas as I am. My persistence led me to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Squid, and although it wasn’t successful, I will be continuing the push.
One of the things that took me off guard the most was that I only had male mentors. They were all amazing and helped me a great deal, but it was a disappointing reminder of the inequality of the world I was in. But being unable to find assistance from a woman tech entrepreneur didn’t stop me. If I couldn’t find that person, I would have to become that person, and if a person closed their door, I would already be knocking on the next one.
How do we as a society motivate young girls to enter careers in engineering and math, when there is a clear lack of women in leadership positions in these communities? We can continue to encourage reforms like teaching young girls how to code and persuading schools to adopt programing in their curriculum, but how can we expect girls to pursue these careers when they realize that companies just aren’t hiring women in technology?
In March of 2013, CNN began gathering data related to labor statistics. The search came to an abrupt end when they discovered the Silicon Valley giants only had to report the information to the Department of Labor Statistics. The government keeps this info private and the companies themselves are not talking, so how are we going to know the truth about the number of women actually in technology jobs?
Vivek Wadhwa, of the Wall Street Journal, wrote, “This problem can be fixed, but we need to start by acknowledging that the fault is with the employer rather than with women. Employers usually have good intentions and do not deliberately discriminate against women and minorities, but there is a hidden bias needs to be understood and overcome.”
A number of issues that could be immediately addressed pertain to the hiring process. Companies could avoid posting job descriptions that have any bias favoring men; employers could mandate that at least one woman be interviewed for every position available, and there should be a female presence in the interview and screening process of potential workers.
Young women in this field are going against all odds to see our ideas become a reality, but we need to start receiving the support we need from the community, too.