When I initially joined this class I had no idea what it would be like. Once I knew a bit about the class after the first couple of sessions, I intended to learn about all the different ways in which women face difficulties getting into STEM fields. Since Laura runs her class differently from a lot of other diversity classes I was excited that I would learn how different types of work environments impact the worker. These learning objectives did not change throughout the quarter and I was rewarded with learning about these ideas. It was definitely helpful in figuring out what type of company I should get an internship with to gain more experience.
When we talked about the differences between corporations, small companies, and entrepreneurship, it directly influenced the way I think about businesses that I will work at one day. It also helped create the theme in the first part of the class about workplace diversity and how there is something for everyone.
- Great job security. Unlike startups, a large corporation won’t go bankrupt overnight so you should have some warning before layoffs.
- Many management positions. With large businesses comes large bureaucracy, so more management.
- Job Benefits. Many companies offer health insurance, 401k matching and other benefits to employees.
- Mentorship. Many people have worked there awhile and would be happy to help. Many big companies have mentorship programs explicitly implemented.
- A more family-like dynamic where everyone gets their voices heard.
- You have a bigger impact on the whole organization. You are one of some as opposed to one of many.
- Less stable, not as financially secure, could collapse overnight in the case of a startup.
- High risk which could entail little to no pay for a long time, but high reward if successful.
- No work/life balance. You are married to your startup company, your company is your life, and it will be that way for a while.
- Probability of failure. You could lose it all and your business will tank; you’ll lose time and money.
I’m not an inherent risk-taker so entrepreneurship was out before we even discussed it in class. If I ever intended to proceed with a startup I would want to make sure that I have a lot of excess capital to start with to reduce the riskiness of losing it all. In the other two types of business, there is less risk. Many corporations have rules and programs in place to help new employees or interns so I will definitely want to get a feel for the working environment in a place like Microsoft, Google, or Facebook. Small companies usually expect that you are okay on your own and do not provide as much or any support for interns or new employees. As a person who doesn’t like to risk a job, money, or pride I will most likely want to work in a large company for my job.
Another topic we talked about in class that created the theme of how there is a job for everyone in technology was the different job categories. Technology can provide jobs for people from traditional disciplines like programming but also from marketers and designers. For brevity I only included the takeaways for the job categories that were interesting to me, but I left all categories to show the diversity.
|Category||Job Title||Must be able to/have:|
|Attention to detail
Elegant coding skills
Solve design challenges with designer as they arise
Break the product so you can fix it
Learn new technologies quickly
Create the actual product
|Deadline oriented mindset
Technical ability near on par with people in “Build It”
Calm in high pressure situations
Keep everything running and maintained without breaking
|Sell It||Product Manager
|Manage It||Project Manager
Add value to the conversation (facilitate)
Holistic understanding of goals
Work with lack of authority
Three of the seven categories interested me, but the other categories are just as important, because a business would not be able to operate without these functions. With technical skill, the ability to work with people outside the company, and an understanding of technology there is a place for you in a STEM job.
Another theme that came up many times in this class was stereotypes and how they affect people. Preconceived ideas can either be harmful or helpful because they directly influence someone’s opinion of themselves. Anyone can either live up and appreciate the labels they have been given or be uncomfortable with them and are inherently damaged by them. Stereotypes can influence both men and women and here are the few the class came up with:
Stereotypical Feminine Traits
|Stereotypical Masculine Traits|
The bolded traits are ones that I personally fit into. I personally do not care that I do not fall perfectly into one of these categories, but I have felt myself be pulled by stereotypes I do not naturally fall into. As a man, it is assumed that I am not quiet or shy. It makes me feel like I must always prove myself, that I am actually a manly man and not wimp. I also feel the pull of stereotypical male strength and how I should improve my body to be physically stronger. In a way this is a good thing because it motivates me to live up to a higher standard, but it is also a bad thing because I feel terrible when I do not live up to the societal norm for men.
The third theme that was in this class was a more concentrated version of the previous one, how stereotypes towards girls and women keep them out of STEM fields. This starts to happen at a very young age through the consumption of media and gendered toys given to children. Just looking at the quantity of biases in the list below shows how women are challenged for being interested in STEM and continuing to be challenged once they are in STEM. These problems come from many different aspects in a girl’s life and a bad experience might turn them away from science, technology, engineering, and math forever, particularly in K to 12 education.
- No good role models in STEM
- STEM isn’t feminine enough so other girls pressure them to drop out
- Segregation of toys by gender
- Forming incorrect ideas and not fixing them later
- TV shows
- Do you take classes because of your interests or because of your friends?
- What is attractive to other people?
- Trying to define who you are, no one likes nerds
- Good or bad teachers can help or tear people down
- How you look and dress, you don’t fit the type
- Lack of opportunities, teachers, clubs, and role models
- Pigeonholed into who you were in middle school
- Pressure to get into college therefore less likely to take risks
- Friend group influence, can either build you up or tear you down
- Girls have low math confidence it creates a feedback loop
- No way to dispel beliefs from elementary and middle school
- New starts are sometimes better because not pigeonholed, but it is hard to make friends
Entry Level Job
- Overwhelming environment
- Social interaction
- Isolation (no other women)
- Opportunity for growth
- Work/life balance choices and the competition in the workplace
- Attitude of coworkers
- Sexual harassment (due to numerical disparity)
- No seat at the table (hard to get your voice heard)
- Not taken seriously or not seen as technical
- Work/life balance choices
- Too deferential (all the men try to “help”) –> damsel in distress
- Likeable vs. assertive bitch
- Promotion to a higher position is subjective and the previous point makes this challenging.
For many girls, the way into STEM fields is closed before they even reach college. If they are still interested by then, many colleges do not have the capacity to make these classes easy to try out. Even in entry level classes an unexperienced woman will be surrounded by people who have been using applicable skills for a long time. Stereotypes are a real burden on how many women find their way into STEM fields.
Throughout the course, there were three main themes that stuck out: there is a job for everyone in STEM fields, stereotypes can be either negative and positive towards either gender, and there are many biases and barriers for women and girls interested in STEM. The first theme will be helpful to me because I will have to eventually choose somewhere to work. It will be a useful reference for information gathering because I can use the list traits to ask questions of the person hiring me. Since I also hope to be a manager someday I hope this information will be helpful for me to identify any of my own biases against women. Knowing biases is the first step in the process of stopping them from influencing important decisions about other people. Male and female stereotypes and not fitting into the mold helps me understand different types of people and myself.
One day I would like to be a developer on software that I use every day, the Windows operating system. This means that I want to work at Microsoft. As a computer engineering major, I will be able to improve it and that is meaningful to me. A few years ago I heard of the terror that was Microsoft’s employee review process and how it was unfair and overly competitive. This made me afraid to work there because it sounded really stressful. I appreciate all the work Kathleen Hogan, Satya Nadella, and their team has done at improving the company culture. They no longer have the unfair review process and the internal project teams are no longer fighting over resources. This makes my drive for the job much higher than before those changes were implemented.
During my time at University, I plan to do several things to improve my chances of getting this job. I will take multiple internships, one at a large company such as Microsoft or Google and one internship at a smaller company. This will allow me to understand the workplace environment and the difference in companies will teach me how to work in different situations. I also plan to take an array of classes outside the usual computer science/computer engineering track. I have already taken interesting classes like Introduction to Law, and I am taking Introduction to Business over the summer. This broadens my perspective and allows me to understand other people when I am working with them. I want to continue doing hackathon projects by creating computer engineering projects that showcase my abilities. Through my clubs and class experiences these hackathon projects will only improve my capacity to get a job.