By Genevieve Field, Glamour
The pay! The perks! The jaw-dropping sexism! Technology is an amazing--and amazingly challenging--field for women, but when Genevieve Field went behind the scenes to talk to women, she got the ultimate crash course in career confidence.
At some point today, did you get decorating ideas on Houzz? Tweet breaking news? Kick your boyfriend's butt at Assassin's Creed? Get inspiration from a YouTube vlogger? Then thank a woman. (Entrepreneurs and programmers Adi Tatarko, Sara Haider, Jade Raymond, and Susan Wojcicki, respectively, helped build and grow those juggernauts.)
So what's it like to be a woman inside the tech revolution? Unfortunately, too few of us know. Women make up only 26 percent of the computing workforce, and only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degree recipients today are women--a number that's dropped from a high of 37 percent in 1985. The staggering imbalance, many insiders say, perpetuates a "brogrammer" culture, where some badly behaved men ostracize, intimidate, and even harass their female colleagues. "I'll keep ranting about this until it changes," says Kara Swisher, the renowned technology journalist and co-executive editor of Re/code, a technology news site. "There are not enough women on boards, not enough women in high positions, not enough women in schools, not enough women [investors] in venture capital, not enough women being invested in.... Most men [in tech] don't want this to go on, but they are unwilling to do anything about it. These people can invent self-driving cars and can't solve one of the basic problems of humanity, which is treating everyone equally!"
But here's the good news: A growing number of women in tech aren't giving up--they're speaking out and making changes. As a group of female industry insiders from companies like Adobe, BuzzFeed, Stripe, and Mozilla recently wrote in an instantly viral online manifesto: "We feel sad and angry at the tech industry.... [But] we love working in this industry. We love collaborating with like-minded colleagues. We can't give up and leave."
Glamour asked 14 women in a varying range of technology jobs, most of them in Silicon Valley--that pocket south of San Francisco where many digital companies are headquartered--about the pros and cons of the industry. Whether you're considering a career in tech or forging a path in a very different field, the secrets they revealed can be your blueprint for approaching any career roadblock with class, grit, and creativity. Among the truths they told us:
1. There's no job shortage in the valley
INGRID AVENDAÑO, 26, software engineer: I was really good at science and math, but no one ever said, "Hey, you could be an engineer." I enrolled in my first course on a bet; now I'm here, and the opportunity is enormous. When I was looking for my first job, around 30 companies contacted me. They didn't care that I'd dropped out of college because I couldn't afford it. I went through a crazy two months doing as many interviews as I could.
SHAHEROSE CHARANIA, 33, cofounder and CEO, Women 2.0: I moved myself to the Valley with no money, no job, no plan or connections, and lots of student debt. Plus, I'm from Canada. Total outsider. It didn't matter. I had two job offers within three months.
ADRIANA GASCOIGNE, 37, founder and CEO, Girls in Tech: I easily made the jump from "old media" to Silicon Valley and landed a job for a start-up, Guba. I loved it! The culture was very flat, no hierarchy, and you could learn in real time, on the job. The only issue was that I was the only girl out of 35 employees. I remember thinking, How come more women don't know how awesome the start-up world is?
2. The pay and the perks are insane
INGRID AVENDAÑO: It's not unusual for an engineer, just starting out, to make six figures. But there's a reason why everyone gets paid a lot. You work so hard. Sometimes I'll spend 12 hours in the office. People have this mentality: I'll wait till my company goes public, then I'll really live.
ERIN LEE, 31, global product lead, Google: The perks are Willy Wonka unreal. We have haircuts on-site. Massages everywhere. I feel bad for people who've only ever worked in the Valley, because they don't realize what the real world is like.
DONA SARKAR, 34, engineering manager, Microsoft: I grew up poor. Really poor. My goal when I was a kid was to be able to walk into a store and buy something without looking at the price tag. Working in tech has given me much more than that: I can retire in my forties if I want to. I travel six times a year and have a beautiful apartment. But the best part is what I can do for my family. For my mom's sixtieth birthday, I'm taking her to London, business class, and we're staying in the nicest hotel in the city. This is something she never, ever dreamed of being able to do.
3. When it comes to dating, "The odds are good...but the goods are odd"
ERIN LEE: There are plenty of men to date, but even though they're some of the most brilliant people you'll ever meet, and often some of the kindest, they tend to be socially awkward and immature. They don't have to feed themselves or do their own laundry--companies offer those services--and work environments foster this Neverland atmosphere with arcades, foosball, and Ping-Pong tables in every building. The Valley basically offers you the chance to extend your college experience into your adult years, so it's not uncommon to see 28-year-old men dating 22-year-olds. If you're a bit older and past that, with grown-up needs and opinions, you're too much. They don't want a partner; they want someone to tell them how great their ideas are.
SARA HAIDER, 28, lead Android engineer, Secret: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd" is probably an accurate statement about finding a boyfriend in the Valley. For me, it's been challenging to find someone who can respect the fact that I have my own career going on and that I might be more successful than he is. But I'm dating a guy right now who seems to appreciate that.
ELISSA SHEVINSKY, 35, cofounder and CEO, Glimpse: We women programmers aren't necessarily easy to date either. Men I've dated have said, "Let's go to a Shakespeare festival or to Monterey for the weekend," and I'd be like, "No! Let's stay home and code!"
GEORGIA GONDER, 25, a publicist who specializes in tech: To generalize, there are two kinds of guys in Silicon Valley. You have your regular programmers, who might be more likely to settle down--or be taken advantage of by the wrong girl for their money. And then there are the brogrammers. They spend their days making things look better and work better, and they approach how they spend a Sunday afternoon with the same attitude. They get a bad rap but can be tons of fun. I'm dating one, and we drove up to Tomales Bay, in Northern California, to an oyster farm. He totally optimized the experience--brought garlic, parsley, white wine, Parmesan, and lemons to bake the oysters on-site. It was the best day.
4. The sexism is real...
VALERIE AURORA, 36, cofounder, the Ada Initiative, which promotes equality in tech: This industry is filled with incredible opportunity, but most people are surprised to find how unsafe it is for women. Though our tools are new and shiny, many of the people here are just as sexist as the ad execs on Mad Men.
MEGGAN BLAKE, 28, product designer, Pandora: One of my first jobs in tech was at this small Web development shop. Aside from a few great guys, the environment was straight out of one of those PSAs on sexual harassment. If I disagreed about a design direction, they would ask me if I was on my period. They would print out pictures of me from Facebook and write obscene stuff on them, then put them on our office fridge. I was so inexperienced that I put up with it for too long.
KYLE ANNE, 26, software engineer: You hear about harassment all the time, but I never thought it would happen to me. Two years ago I went to a gaming conference, and at an afterparty, a random guy sat down next to me, tried to start a conversation, grabbed my wrist, pulled out his d-ck, and put my hand on his crotch! A friend reported it to a security guard for me, but he said, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" I stormed out and was freaked out.
ELISSA SHEVINSKY: Last year at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, an app idea called Titstare was presented; it was this juvenile thing where guys could document themselves looking at women's breasts. Afterward, when some women were criticizing it, my male business partner tweeted that it was harmless. The fact that someone I respected so much didn't understand how something like Titstare made women feel really shook me up.
LEIGH HONEYWELL, 30, security engineer: How is such blatant discrimination still happening? It happens because people at the top let it happen. Companies with fewer than 15 employees are often exempt from some antidiscrimination laws, and even when they grow, there's often the idea that bringing in HR professionals will make the culture less "cool." And who's going to police all the conferences? Conferences are the backbone of professional networking in tech, and they're rife with sexism and harassment. And yet there is a lot of pressure against speaking out. Harassers often double down on their targeting of a woman who does.
LISA CURTIS, 26, cofounder and CEO, Kuli Kuli: I took my idea for a super-food company to a Shark Tank-style pitch event in San Francisco. The winner was supposed to get meetings with all these investors and angel groups. The crowd loved my pitch, and I ended up winning. But afterward, an industry guy came up to me and said, "Oh, of course you won--you're a total babe." And none of the investors would meet with me. I won the contest and still didn't belong.
5. ...But women are doing something about it
MEGGAN BLAKE: Now that I've found a job where I'm valued, I fight sexism I see in the industry with creativity. For example, when I saw CodeBabes, a tutorial site where women strip down the more you advance, I got together with my coworker Simon, who was equally appalled, and created a satire site, CodeDicks. We made our point and had fun doing it.
KYLE ANNE: I decided to blog about what happened to me at the gaming party, and my post broke 100,000 hits that month. I got lots of anonymous comments like "She probably asked for it and felt guilty after." But a few women reached out to me and said that what I wrote gave them courage to go public too.
ELISSA SHEVINSKY: After the Titstare incident, I seriously rethought working with my cofounder. But after he made a public apology, we agreed on three things: (1) We'd hire more women at Glimpse, because that's the solution. (2) I would be the face of our company from then on. (3) My new title would be #Ladyboss.
LISA CURTIS: I encourage female entrepreneurs to work outside the boys' network. I turned to crowdfunding for my start-up, and we raised $400,000!
ADRIANA GASCOIGNE: Never underestimate the power of networking--no matter what your career. At the start-up I used to work for, I never felt comfortable going out with the guys after work, so I skipped it. But it was at those afterwork drinks where deals were being made. So one day I threw a party especially for women at my friend's dance club. Over 200 women came, and we were just euphoric; nobody wanted to leave. That party turned into another, and another, and evolved into the global entrepreneurs network Girls in Tech.
DONA SARKAR: I look to senior women for inspiration. Having examples like Marissa Mayer [of Yahoo] in the C-suites has changed the mentality that only males can be tech leaders. Last year I went to a conference where Sheryl Sandberg asked the audience, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" She encouraged everyone to go do that. So I asked a woman VP at my company if I could talk to her about getting more involved in the business side of tech. She had a job opportunity on her team in exactly that kind of role and offered it to me. I took it, of course!
SHAHEROSE CHARANIA: I'm sure sh-t's going down in the finance world and other industries, but we're not hearing nonstop about it because it's an old-school model. In tech we've made it open--and the spotlight is forcing companies to change their practices, which is a truly great thing.
POORNIMA VIJAYASHANKER, 32, founder, Femgineer: I start my own companies so women identify with the culture and want to stay. It's thrilling to work in a field that improves human life and makes it richer. I love the pace of this industry, the challenges, and the brilliant people I get to learn from.
VALERIE AURORA: Most of the women I know in tech are here because we are wide-eyed with wonder at the things we can create by combining computers and art and people. We love it! And we want to shape the future for the better.
Genevieve Field is a Glamour contributing editor and was a cofounder of nerve.com.More from Glamour: 10 Wardrobe Essentials Every Woman Should Own Kate Middleton's Best Looks 30 Celebrity-Inspired Haircuts to Try Now 10 Things He's Thinking When You're Naked 27 Cringeworthy Fashion DON'Ts Fall's Most Wearable Fashion Trends