How Women in Tech Can Dodge Discrimination and Find Joy


“Women are often told in a hiring process, or after starting a new job, that while management believes they could deliver at a higher level, they will be hired in at a lower level so they can prove themselves. When this occurs, it is important to have the discussion to highlight your qualifications against the job expectations, and why you believe you should be placed at the level you are capable of delivering. The conversation may not end with the desired result, but you will know you have stood up for yourself, and at that point you can make the next decision. I can tell you from personal experience it was scary for me to state my case. Afterwards, I was proud of myself and confident that the next time it will be just a little bit easier.”

~ Erin Gallagher, Software Engineer

That, friends, is discrimination. Imagine a qualified man being told he would have to “prove himself” before he got the pay or title for which he was applying? Issues such as these are what inspired IT industry veterans Debra Christmas and Kelley Irwin to write their book, Please Stay: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive.

Women make up half the workforce as a whole, and yet a mere 25 percent in the tech industry.

And while some strides have been made to help level the playing field for women in tech – due to diversity and inclusion efforts, and pressure on corporations to have a balanced workforce and overcome the stereotypes, not a lot has changed when it comes to subtle forms of discrimination. Because, while all of the above initiatives look great on a corporate press release, many workplace mandates don’t trickle down from the C-Suite to the rank and file.

Discrimination often happens quietly, making it difficult to identify in the workforce. People are very careful not to show their true colours. We are dismissed, we are harassed, and we are marginalized – in a nutshell, we are considered to be less than our male counterparts. We must look at how we can change these behaviours, as we won’t likely change beliefs.

What is Workplace Discrimination?

Women in the tech industry are discriminated against in myriad ways, some which we’ve already discussed at a micro-level in this series. We are often considered inferior because of the antiquated belief some hold that girls aren’t good in math. We face discrimination because we bear children. Are passed over for promotions due to maternity leave, or worse – we don’t get the job at all because we are of childbearing age.

We are socialized as young girls to be caregivers, to put others’ needs in front of our own, to back down from confrontation, to collaborate, to be nice all the time – gender attributes that manifest themselves in the modern-day workforce.

In fact, women pursue more post-secondary education than men, are more likely to start a business than men, and yet are still struggling to take our rightful place in the corporate world without fighting for equity and equality.

Words matter and are very powerful weapons. Henceforth, let’s refine how we think about and portray people – especially women:

  • Courageous instead of audacious.
  • Enthusiastic instead of emotional.
  • Assertive instead of pushy.
  • Frank and outspoken instead of bitchy.

As Debra and Kelley (and the whole tech tribe) discuss in the book, we also need to show young women how to stand up for themselves without feeling guilty or sorry, and support women who are our peers. Most importantly, we need to believe that supporting and coaching other women will not be a detriment to ourselves.

There is so much joy to be had through a career in the technology field. Let’s start spreading it around.

The Joy of Being Women in Tech 

“I never thought a career in tech could allow me to be so creative. My passion for technology is driven by the thrill of finding creative solutions. Follow what brings you passion and the joy comes naturally.” Lexi Flynn, Customer Engineer

Women in tech can, and do, find great joy. The rush of the work, pride in the innovation, and bliss in moments of success are not reserved for men in technology. Women can invent. Women can problem solve. Women can design. Women can create strategies. And yes, women can code.

Women can experience the sheer wonder of the outcomes they create in technology careers. If you’re considering a career in the IT industry, think about what you want to do, what you want to accomplish, be known for, or learn, and you will no doubt find a technology job or function aligned to it.

Most importantly, as women in tech we have a responsibility to share that experience – that joy – with young women and girls at the school age level. Let them know how exciting technology jobs are. Talk about the work we do, not just the company or titles. Technology jobs allow you to make a difference for people and communities. Bring that job to LIFE!

Telling your story of a career in tech can helps others see themselves in your shoes. We unequivocally believe women are capable and qualified as equal contributors in the technology field. Let’s stand up for every woman who needs us until she is ready and able to stand for herself. Let’s stand up and dispel those incorrect beliefs together! Let’s stand up and take our place.

There is more than one seat at all the tables.

Bonus: A Double Dose of Tips from the Tribe

Learn to Spot – and Stand up Against – Discrimination

  • Validate if the actions are discrimination or if they are simply an area that requires education.
  • Stand up for yourself. Ask for what you believe you deserve.
  • The intention of the person may not be negative, so there could be an opportunity to educate.
  • Don’t go it alone. Find people to talk to, and people who will help you with an action plan.
  • Help yourself think clearly. You may need to take a moment to breathe, to think, and to plan what you want to say.

The Joy of Being Women in Tech

  • Make a conscious choice to find moments of joy in what you do every day.
  • If you can’t find any joy, make a plan to change what you are doing understanding that this could take time.
  • Take stock to understand the ‘why’. What parts of your job provide the joy, and what parts are creating a negative challenge? Try to maximize the best parts.
  • Take time to reflect and appreciate the aspects of your job that are providing joy and a sense of purpose.
  • Be the catalyst. Even for areas that are not exciting (this could be filling out a long monthly report), find ways to celebrate. This could be as simple as timing yourself to become more efficient at getting it done.