More and more over the past years, we are starting to see the trend of feminism becoming more of a mainstream topic of conversation. And while it is encouraging to see these topics taking a mainstream news media over at times, the struggles that many women face every day still exist. There is still gender bias and a wage gap in our field.
We have seen celebrities join the movement and proudly proclaim to be a feminist. However, we still continue to see the number of females entering into STEM careers and college degree programs declining. Many people know that my reasons for working with this movement are deeply personal as over the years I have experienced a lot of issues with working in a male-dominated field of technology.
As I worked on determining what to do for the next Women in Technology and Women in SharePoint events, I was experiencing things in my work life that led me down the path of questioning my role in a technology consulting firm. Over the years I have loved my career, simply put I love technology and I love helping to solve problems, but now I was starting to lose the will to fight the system. That glass ceiling exists and is super hard to break through.
On one of these nights I was driving back to LAX to return home from a customer visit and a song came on the radio where the message simply resonated with me. It was just what I needed to hear at the time and it re-energized me for not just being successful in my career, but for the Women in SharePoint/Women in Technology work.
The song was by an artist named Rachel Platten, and is called "Stand By You".
Over the years I have been given many labels by coworkers and managers. I've been told I'm too emotional, aggressive, the reason for others’ anxiety, hard to work with, and that my expectations for others is simply too high. These are just a few of the labels that have been placed on me which strive to put people into categories that are demeaning and belittling.
The frustrations that come part in parcel with these labels is one of the things that holds women back from succeeding and thriving in a career in any of the STEM fields. When you are labeled as a problem in the workplace and feel that you have no way to defend yourself for fear of gaining another label, the obstacle becomes so high that you feel you need wings to get over it and sometimes it is simply easier to give up.
For me personally, hearing these labels associated with myself make me question my own personality and work ethic. What is it about me that causes these reactions and how do I change to alleviate the issues? I’ve never been the one to claim that I have no faults, because in fact I am an extremely driven person who will and has sacrificed a lot to get ahead in my career. But at what point do you have to stop and consider that the only way to be successful is for compromise to occur on both sides? If you change your entire personality to make others like you, at what point do you lose yourself and simply become the object that others want you to be?
It is important for others to know that we all face struggles. Over the past year, I have relied heavily upon my friends to support me through my struggle. While it isn’t obvious to others, some of the best of the SharePoint community have talked me through as I question and debate other career paths. Because I have seriously questioned how much longer I want to continue in a career path that is so unwelcoming to a strong-willed female.
On this particular night I simply needed to hear this song (Stand By You) and know that I am not alone, and that I am blessed to have a whole support system of wonderful people who will build me back up when I'm broken down. As the song says, they let me borrow their wings so that I can continue to fly. I needed this message at this exact time. It gave me the motivation to continue fighting on a day when it seemed easier to just walk away.
My personality might be large and my desire for perfection might be hard to meet and deal with, but together we can all work to make each other better. I truly believe these words and that by telling others about my struggles, that it can give another woman in technology the motivation to fight that one extra day.
When it becomes so deeply personal, the passion for change simply reignites and becomes even stronger. For me being in that low point and simply hearing a song come on the radio was enough to lift me up and encourage me to continue my path forward.
The song has inspired me to start a new campaign for Women in SharePoint and Women in Technology on IT Unity. The #IStandByYou campaign will officially launch at SPTechCon in Boston at the end of June 2016.
What are we looking for with the #IStandByYou campaign?
With this campaign we are going to ask each and every person (men, women and even companies as a whole) to make a pledge for something they will do over the next 365 days to support a Woman in SharePoint/Technology. This could be something as small as taking another woman or a girl interested in a career in STEM to coffee, or as large as becoming a mentor to someone for a year.
Each pledge will make a statement to provide the extra support that many need to excel. We will share stories of pledges on the web and through social media from those who allow us to and will keep a count of the number of pledges we receive.
There are any number of ways that we can get involved and make a difference in the life and career of a woman working with SharePoint/Technology.
How do I make a pledge to the #IStandByYou campaign?
If you are considering making this pledge, we will have a form that will launch soon that you can fill out. Let's make a difference in the lives of everyone both female and male.
What should I pledge?
Here are some other suggestions for pledges to get involved:
- Tell your story by writing an article/blog for IT Unity:
- How did you become involved in technology
- What motivates you to continue your career
- Describe a struggle you have had and the ways that you have overcome it
- Become a mentor to a Woman in SharePoint for three months or a year
- Create a Women in SharePoint group in your area
- Speak at an event for the first time
- Speak at your local high school on your experience with a STEM career
- Anything small or large is an option; just make a pledge
We recently launched a new Women in SharePoint website for you to find more information and get involved with us on social media.
Stay tuned for even more announcements and stories, including my personal pledge for the next 365 days and my commitment to #IStandByYou.
How will you get involved?
Jump in, make a pledge and make a difference! Let’s continue to work together to make our community and world a better place for not just us, but our children.