Looking forward to negative feedback?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for months now, so I thought I’d finally brush it off and send it out.

I had an interesting thing happen to me a little while back that I’ve been wanting to write about. I was working on this project to add a filtering feature to an Android App I’m currently working on, and on the surface it wasn’t that big of a feature, but due to the designs of the API and database structure, there was much more to consider than just the changes I was to make. I did a little reading and decided to write a post outlining the implementation options I was aware of, the assumptions I was making and finally, my proposed v1 design. I asked for comments, corrections and feedback on anything I could improve or change, as well as any corrections to the assumptions I was making. I reviewed the post a few time and finally clicked “Publish” and I realized something absolutely beautiful. I’ve been working in tech for 15 years and for the first time I was not secretly afraid that all my assumptions would be wrong and people would think my proposal was terrible. Quite the opposite! I was actually looking forward to having holes poked in everything I wrote so I could perfect the design and learn something new in the process!

It’s refreshing to work for a company that actively fosters a culture of teamwork, mentoring, and collaboration. Automattic’s 👑 Cate wrote a post about her experiences as a woman in technology and how after the toxicity the toxicity remains:

The first shift is the actual job, for which white women make ~78c on the dollar (WoC, of course, even less). The second shift is the emotional labour to “improve diversity”. The third shift, then, is to heal and tend to ourselves. Because otherwise, we will let the bullshit that gets pushed on us in the first shift, become true.

When I pushed “publish” on my post, I felt that “third shift”. As a female developer I spent the majority of my career chronically underpaid, overworked, under appreciated, and the evilest of them all – having my expertise completely disregarded despite my role, experience, and accomplishments just because I happened to be born a female. Openly broadcasting a need for help or clarification would’ve been the very last thing I would’ve ever done in the past, and for good reason. Harvard did a study that came to a conclusion most women are all too familiar with:

As compared with men, women are not only more likely to hit the “glass ceiling” where their career advancement is stalled, but also to fall from a “glass cliff,” that is to backslide from the degree of advancement they had previously attained.

“Glass cliff”, that’s something I’ve never heard before and I’m not sure I understand what it means. A glass ceiling is when you can see how much opportunity there is for advancement, but you’ll never get there. A glass cliff? Maybe it’s a way of describing how most women in tech feel: we can see how high we’ve climbed but the bottom is still very visible and we’re not sure how sturdy our position is at any given time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked for some amazing people and I’ve thankfully had a couple truly exceptional bosses, but overall, being a woman in technology is tough. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve been chosen to take notes for a meeting or pick up lunch or clean up the office kitchen – regardless of my position. I’ve had my ideas and hard work dismissed only to magically reappear a couple months later as my bosses idea and now suddenly it’s brilliant. I’ve been talked over, interrupted, and even shut out of meetings so the boys could work together. And yes, I’ve embarrassingly been paid up to 30% less than the people I was mentoring and/or managing! But this is nothing new or surprising to women in the STEM fields.

I’ve been feeling a change in the air. Up until a few months ago I lived in Denver and in  Denver we have a very strong female presence in the Android community. I’d been very lucky to be surrounded by these brilliant and driven women who actively participate in changing the formula around women in technology. More women are giving talks and really putting themselves out there. Women are helping other women by lifting them up and getting them back into the conversation, and men who care just as much about having diversity in tech and equal pay for women are stepping up as well.

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