For someone in the tech industry, I have a very rare moonlighting gig. After a 40 hour week, I moonlight as a dance teacher at a studio about 30 minutes outside of Seattle. I teach little munchkins how to do plies, shuffles, and cartwheels. I choreograph jazz, lyrical, and musical theater dances for the competition team. I only officially teach one evening a week, but I sub for other teachers, help at the recitals and picture-days, and cheer on our team at competitions throughout the year. Some people think I’m crazy and my friends complain that I’m never free. But after five years of teaching on the side of school or work, I can’t imagine ever giving it up. I want nothing more than to be dancing around a large room after a day of sitting at a desk. I get to laugh at my students who are five and try to tell me the most ridiculous stories. I don’t have to use my brain, my body just knows what to do. What’s even better, I get to share my love of dance with a whole new generation. Moonlighting allows you to do what you love, but not necessarily make a career out of it. Not every employer supports it, but if yours does, see if you can fit it in to your busy schedule! — J Quick shout out: Last weekend my studio competed at Rainbow Dance Competition in Seattle. One of our routines was chosen to be a part of the Video of the Year competition. Whoever gets the most likes on the video posted to their Facebook page, wins a promo video for the studio. If you would like to support us, please click here and like the video “Let’s Go Crazy!” So proud of our young dancers!
If you were not previously aware, there is a diversity problem in the tech field. In my workplace, this problem is beginning to be discussed by our leadership, but I don’t always find it constructive. At an organization meeting, the VP of my org said that they were looking at our diversity metrics and decided they need to focus their efforts on improving the diversity of their interview pool. I wanted to stand up and yell “That’s great and all– but how are you going to keep the diversity that is already here?” Next time I won’t be a coward. What they need to understand is that this problem has two parts:
1. Attracting diversity
2. Preserving diversity
We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t finding its way into tech. We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t staying. What may be more interesting is learning why diversity stays in tech. Especially when we look at one of the top groups in tech to leave: Mothers.
I read an article today, “The women who ‘make it’ in tech”, which discusses research surrounding women with families and why they are still in the tech field. What they found sheds light onto why female mothers stay in the tech field.
16% indicated they have a spouse or partner in a similar or more lucrative career
84% indicated they are the breadwinner in their family
30% of breadwinners indicated that they have a stay-at-home spouse or partner
When these women talk about their careers, it isn’t with pride. The breadwinning mothers “talk about their earning power with obligation.” Just looking at this research you could say that one of the largest contributing factor to mothers staying in tech is they need to support their family. The job itself isn’t enough to keep mothers who do not need the additional income to stay.
The article also mentions some institutionalized problems. How many times have I heard in design reviews that it needs to be “so simple your mother can use it.” Not only is this condescending and sexist but it is “illustrative of how inhospitable industry’s work climate can be to motherhood.” As a woman two years into her career in tech (without a family of my own), it makes me wonder how long my career in tech will last. It doesn’t look like the odds are ever in my favor.
Do you remember “The One Where Rachel Smokes”? It is the episode of Friends where Rachel starts a new job at Ralph Lauren and all the important decisions are made on smoke breaks. Rachel tries to pick up the habit to feel included and the group insists she doesn’t join, saying they didn’t want to drag her down with them.
As a woman in the tech field, this can happen to you a lot. I even joined a Fantasy Football League to feel included (I won the league, by the way)! However, sometimes I have to remember to reflect on my own actions and see if they are fueling inclusion.
Only planning outings to bars? Some people aren’t 21 or they don’t care to drink!
Lots of active events coming up? Many people have reasons they can’t participate in sports.
Every morning do you get coffee with the same coworker? Ask someone new to join you!
You can’t make everyone happy but you can make them feel included! – J