Hello 👋🏻 It’s my turn to hitch myself to this bandwagon and share my story as a woman working in technology! I’m the People and Culture Manager here at Tiny so diversity and inclusion is a topic near, dear, and important to me. Oddly, considering how often I can be found discussing this topic (whether I’ve been asked my opinion or not), I had a surprisingly hard time putting digital pen to paper. Honestly, I think the struggle I had writing this piece is my story, so I decided to pivot and dig into that a bit more.
Being exposed, but as what?
My experience in trying to write this, has reminded me of a core fact that I'd almost forgotten- –it’s so much easier to talk about these issues when you’re not the one putting yourself on the line. I spent a lot of time going back and forth about how personal I wanted to be and how much of my own truth I wanted to share, and something about that to-and-fro really resonated with me as the quintessential experience of being a woman in the workplace.
How much is too much? How little is too little? Am I going to come off like a crusader? Is it a cop-out if I don’t tell my stories?
So in the midst of all this to-and-fro I had some great conversations with the awesome women I have in my life. “What do you think I should do?” I asked them. Interestingly, they all seemed as unsure as me. It seems a common experience in my female friend’s work lives is trying to balance being a good feminist, while simultaneously not appearing pushy or overbearing. What a line to walk!
The turning point
It all came to a head when I was hanging out with my mum (who I respect a great deal as both a woman and a worker) and we were bouncing ideas back and forth. At this point, I was still leaning more towards the ‘go hard or go home’ mindset. We spent a while avoiding the big question, but eventually, as mothers do... she cut straight to the point. “Is it going to be a risk to your career if you attach that to your name?”
The sad truth of it is that I couldn’t say “No”.
I’ve spent my personal life being someone who fights loudly and passionately for the causes I believe in (just ask anyone who’s run into me at a bar). That’s always been an innate part of who I am as a person. But I guess professionally, I learned to be more reserved. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some great companies in my time, and like almost everyone, I’ve also worked for a few less than great companies. Those experiences taught me that it was safer to be more amicable, less outspoken, and un-opinionated.
Being loud can send you home
It’s a scary thing to put yourself on the line and champion change. Because when you take the risk, and get shut down, it can be incredibly demoralising. I think like a lot of women, I’ve been conditioned by my negative experiences to be the quiet crusader.
However, reflecting on that choice, it’s now something that makes me feel pretty guilty.
To my mother’s point, when you start being the louder voice and taking a stand on controversial issues, you genuinely do run a risk that it may tank your career. I’d like to think that I’d never want to work for a company who would consider my stance on these sort of things as a negative – but it’s still a risk. And I understand why many of us don’t take it.
I honestly wish I was brave enough to pen a scathing expose about the discrimination and sexual harassment I’ve run into in the workplace, but I’m not there yet.
Ally or activist?
Over the past few months I’ve thought a lot about the idea of being an activist or an ally. I know we’ve got a huge amount of allies out there –certainly I’m surrounded by them at Tiny. But do we, as women, have enough activists amongst us? Sadly, I don’t know how we get more, without asking people to put themselves on the line. And considering I’m currently not doing that, it feels hugely hypocritical of me to expect someone else to step up!
However, it’s something I’m going to work on. Although I know it’s not something that will change overnight, because reinforced habits and ingrained fears are always the hardest to kick.
Speaking together has power
I’m fortunate that I work for a company like Tiny, where we've collectively been given a platform to address these issues. This is my first step towards fearlessly speaking my truth and I’m fortunate to be joined by my colleagues in this series.
As a society, I really hope that we start listening more – instead of vilifying people for standing up for themselves. And if that doesn’t happen fast enough... I hope I’m brave enough by then, to openly stand as an activist for that change.
So, some of you may think this piece is a cop out. But for many others, I’m sure it more likely feels like a fundamentally female experience to be scared to raise your voice, in fear of the backlash you may face.