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I recently attended the 2019 Fleurix Conference - the first conference hosted in Charlotte that is dedicated to women in the technology industry. The organizers describe it as “a unique conference empowering women to flourish in technology-related careers”.
It was founded by Jocelyn Keung and her brilliant team. Their goal was to support women entering the technology industry, and help them build a sustainable pipeline of talent. This will help solve one of the largest problems plaguing the tech industry, a lack of a gender diverse talent pool.
Only roughly 20% of tech jobs are taken by females. Though, statistics show that women who make it into the field tend to leave for a number of reasons.
According to the 2019 Stack Overflow Developers Survey, "Developers who are data scientists or academic researchers are about 10 times more likely to be men than women, while developers who are system admins or DevOps specialists are 25-30 times more likely to be men than women. Women have the highest representation as front-end developers, designers, data scientists, data analysts, QA or test developers, scientists, and educators.”
“Also women write their first code later than men”.
Girls from a young age are told that boys are better at math and science, this planted a seed in their minds, and caused doubt as they grew older. While this issue is improving, it is still a contributing factor to the low numbers of women seeking to join the technology field.
“The tech field is growing every year and aims to bring more women into the industry and increase the number of females in the tech community.”
The Fleurix conference was a great opportunity for the community to gather and talk about these issues, introduce female role models, provide support and drive women further into their technology jobs, as well as inspire future females to explore a role in technology.
The organizers of the Fleurix Conference invited about 50 speakers who presented on a large variety of interesting topics, as well as giving tips, advice, and sharing past experiences/knowledge.
Did you know the following statistics regarding women?
- Women are less likely to negotiate their salary
- Women undervalue their professional achievements, and are overly critical about themselves
- When judging other females, women are more critical than of men
I learned about each of these points while attending the conference, and also learned how each of them are setting back women when it came to finding their path in the tech industry. These factors and many others are causing women to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, and in some cases are causing them to leave the industry entirely, or not join in the first place.
A lot of the information from the conference gave me an opportunity to look at the issues from a different angle, and pointed out problems that I didn’t know existed. Without knowing about the problem, it is impossible to search for a solution. I felt like I was unaware of many of the issues plaguing women, even though it turns out they are affecting me as well.
Here are some of my favorite sessions from the conference:
Mentor Speed Dating
This is a session where attendees were given 5 minutes to talk to an industry professional about their future plans and any frustrations they may be experiencing. Once the 5 minutes were up we moved onto the next professional. This allowed us to talk with a wide variety of different people, all of whom have different experiences and opinions. With each new person we got a fresh look at the topic we wanted to talk about.
The second session that I want to talk about is the salary negotiation workshop. It gave a lot of useful information on how to negotiate a higher salary and how to feel like we are worth that raise or promotion. Attendees were able to practice responses to common situations, and how to feel comfortable pointing out the reasons they should receive the salary they requested. One of the best parts of the workshop was that people in the audience were actively discussing their experiences and giving each other useful tips.
Meeting and Socializing at the Event
One of the best things about the conference was that it brought us together with a lot of like minded people, who were all interested in sharing their knowledge and meeting people who have similar interests.
I encountered many women, including myself, who were looking for support and mentorship to help them transition into the technology field. I was eager and happy to share my own experience with them, and help them understand my journey into my tech career. After the conference was over I followed up with a few of the women I talked with, and learned that the conference inspired them, and pushed them to take classes and visualize their future careers!
It was great meeting all these different women who all had the same purpose. We were able to get together and talk about the issues we felt passionate about, and find solutions to those problems.
There were multiple talks happening at the same time so everybody could find something interesting and relatable to hear about.
Amazing females and males from Facebook, Captech, Passport, Red Hat, Verizon and other companies talked about confidence, presenting ourselves and our achievements, overcoming imposter syndrome, effective communication and a lot more.
Successful tech women were sharing their journeys and recipes for achieving their goals and dreams! It was great to hear those unbelievable stories that inspired the whole audience.
Finally I want to talk about my own experience transferring into the tech field, and getting my first job as a developer. During the Fleurix conference I couldn’t help but relate to a lot of the experiences that other women had.
I remember when I was first getting into development I was sharing the news, and seeking support from my friends and family. The female friends who I talked with were quite supportive, and I remember them telling me things like “Good for you”, “What an amazing move”, and “I’m excited for you!”. On the other hand, some of my male friends/acquaintances told me things like: “Why do you want to code? You’re a girl!”, “It’s not a job for a girl”, or “Are you sure that is what you want to do? Maybe you want to try web design”. I felt that they didn’t think I was smart enough to write code, and that they thought I shouldn’t even try.
“I realized that this is a common stereotype. One which pushes women into more design heavy roles, and men into programming/development roles.”
This stereotype made me doubt myself at some point, even though I knew those statements were ridiculous. Going through the classes was definitely hard and frustrating at times, but the biggest help was being able to share all my frustrations with my female classmates. Knowing that they were having the same feelings was comforting. Being able to talk with them, and giving/receiving support helped me to get through the rough times, and didn’t stop me from working towards my dream.
After school I was lucky enough to find my place at Atypic, where I am now a part of a female dominated team. It is a great feeling to know that software development IS for me, even though I am a girl.
To sum it all up, Fleurix was a breath of fresh air, something that should have happened a long time ago. It brings together like minded women who are able to band together and inspire the next generation of females interested in moving into the technology industry, but don’t know where to start. It helps them fight their anxiety that might be caused by unneeded stereotypes, and issues which still exist in the world today- and it helps to eliminate them entirely.
Females have a lot to give to the technology community and pushing them away because of unwarranted biases and stereotypes is robbing the industry of the great potential that so many women can bring.