WIT: Women in Tech Leadership is Good for Business – How to Achieve It


Rena Nigam, President – Global Solutions & Services, Incedo via InformationWeek

Four steps toward enabling the advance of women into tech leadership roles start with acknowledging today’s disparity.

It’s no secret that gender disparity is an issue in the technology industry. The field has become a gateway to high-paying jobs and an opportunity to make a change in the software-driven future. However, a higher number of men than women are staying on.

This gap exists due to many factors: families at home, working hours at the office, “geek workplace” culture and, sometimes unconscious, gender bias. The participation of women in their workplaces is not only a social issue, but a business issue that affects women, companies, and entire economies.

It’s easy to feel the industry has turned a corner with many of its gender equality initiatives. However, disparity still exists. Consider the number of women who enter the IT industry, compared to the number of women who make it to the top, the C-suite. At entry levels, the percentage of women entering the tech workforce is close to 30%. This number drastically shrinks when it comes to leadership roles. On a personal note, I often find myself as the only woman at the executive table. Women hold just 5% of CEO jobs, according to the S&P 500 list, and 56% of women leave their jobs at the peak of their career, which is double the quitting rate of men, per the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s report.

A recent Reuters study also stated that 30% of tech executives had no women in leadership positions. Without women role models and sponsors, the drop-out rates from entry and middle layers will not improve.

Most executives agree that gender diversity in the workforce is not just a moral imperative. It’s also good for business. Research has shown that organizations with a higher percentage of women in leadership roles are likely to outperform the average. There are a few reasons for this. For one, multiple studies show that women are better at assessing risks than men, and making decisions accordingly. This is incredibly important given the unpredictable global business environment. Second, it’s been shown that diversity of thought brought about by mixed gender leadership teams make for stronger decision making.

What can be done?
Real change must start from the top. It’s vital for senior leaders – both men and women – to maintain a clear stand on gender equality. At an enterprise level, establishing policies and procedures to ensure equality and diversity play a huge role. Here are some steps we can take to address gender disparity and encourage more women into leadership roles:

Acknowledge the problem. Women don’t experience obvious forms of sexism as much as they did a decade ago. Instead, they face an easily masked undercurrent of bigotry – it comes in more subtle forms today. First, recognize these issues in the organization. It’s also critical to understand that women and men come to work with different needs and expectations. At Incedo, we’re trying to address this with a women’s network we launched this year, I-Step Up. The objective is to enable and empower women to succeed. It brings together women from varied professional backgrounds to share their personal and professional experiences, challenges, and winning moments. It also provides a forum for women to share their needs so Incedo can better meet them.

Make conscious choices. Many new policies are being introduced to facilitate a  supportive environment for women and retain them as they move into leadership roles, such as flexible working hours, maternity benefits, and work-at-home options. However, it shouldn’t end with the company handbook. Organizations must ensure these policies get embedded into their cultures as well. It’s normal to see raised eyebrows when a woman leaves her desk early. That’s a flaw in the organization, not an individual employee. It can be easily solved with conversations by management and sensitizing your employees to gender issues.

Create opportunities for growth. Opportunities become fewer as women grow within an organization. Technology organizations often address their gender ratio gaps in leadership by first hiring women leaders in support functions – human resources, marketing, legal, and quality. While such initiatives are important, true change will not happen until women leaders are in line functions such as engineering, sales and client services. It is only then that the vicious cycle of “hiring in your own image” can be broken and more opportunities for growth can be created for women.

Measure. At every level in the enterprise, examine the gender ratio and the percentage of women you’ve hired and retained. This will provide a better indication of your organization’s status, and help you analyze where growth is being obstructed, as well as discover areas where work needs to be done to make the workplace more female-friendly.

The need for talent is only increasing as more industries become technology-driven. Enterprises cannot meet the rising demands of our digital economy if we don’t unlock the potential of our female talent. It’s time to take another look at gender issues in the enterprise, and create more opportunities for growth.

Rena Nigam is President for Global Services and Solutions for Incedo and on the company’s board. She is responsible for Incedo’s strategy in emerging technology areas. She also manages the East Coast and overall Financial Services businesses. Before joining Incedo, Rena co-founded a firm called aSpark, and prior to that, she was part of the executive team of Mphasis where she managed their global banking and capital markets unit. She is a computer engineering graduate from the University of Bombay with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta.

What improvements would you like to see the Tech Industry make to entice moe women to work for them? Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

App of the Week – Things 3

Things 3 task manager launches with beautiful new design and all-new features

By Zac Hall of 9to5Mac

Cultured Code is launching all new versions of its Things task management software for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac. Things 3 includes a beautiful new design with charming interactions across each version and powerful new features for organizing tasks and scheduling assignments.

Cultured Code highlights several tent pole changes in the new version including a totally redesigned interface and new interactions across each version, a new Today and This Evening feature for planning your day, support for headings and checklists on entries, time-based reminders for the first time, and both slim-mode and multiple window support on the Mac.

There’s even what Cultured Code calls the Magic Plus Button which lets you intuitively insert created tasks inline with your existing task lists in a very realistic way. Cultured Code also highlights desktop class list editing from iOS with the ability to manipulate and sort text entries as if they were physical objects. Check out the video at the bottom to see it all in action.

If you’re new to Things, this is the basic workflow:

1. Collect Your Thoughts Get things off your mind quickly with Things’ action extension – it lets you create to-dos from other apps. Or just talk to Siri on any device! “Remind me to…”

2. Get Organized Create a project for each of your goals, then add the steps to reach them. For clarity, add structure with headings. Then group your projects by areas of responsibility, such as “Family”, “Work”, or “Health”. Review these regularly to stay on top of things.

3. Plan Your Time See your calendar events alongside your to-dos and plan your time effectively. Create repeating to-dos for things you do every few days, weeks, or months – Things will remind you on the right day.

4. Make the Most of Your Day Every morning, grab a coffee and prepare your list for “Today”: review previously planned to-dos and make quick decisions on what to tackle. Pick some more steps from your projects and then get going. The Today list is the only place you’ll need to look for the rest of the day.

5. Customize Your Workflow Use tags to categorize your to-dos or add context. For example, tag places like “Office” or “Home”, or tag all your “Errands”, or everything you’re working on with “Kate”. You can easily find everything you’ve tagged via filtering or search.

Things 3 is the first paid update to the task manager since Things 2 launched in 2012 and carries the same price of $49.99 for Mac (free trial at culturedcode.com/things), $19.99 for iPad, and $9.99 for iPhone + Apple Watch for all customers. To mark the launch and help existing customers upgrade for less, Cultured Code is discounting Things 3 for each platform by 20% through May 25.

If you’re looking for a powerful task manager with fine-tuned design, Things 3 is an easy recommendation. As a Things 2 customer for years, I’ve used the platform as a Reminders and Notes upgrade (and Reminders integration works with Siri) and I love the new look, interactions, and features of Things 3.


Check out Things 3 in action below:

Download Things 3 foriPhone & Apple Watch
Download Things 3 for iPad
Download Things 3 for Mac

What is your favorite Task Management App? Let us know in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 5/26


Um…Trump University isn’t on this list.

25 Colleges that pay for themselves if you want to work in tech

Except that it didn’t work…
How Silicon Valley is trying to topple Trump — beginning with a special election in Montana

Honestly, who didn’t see this coming?
Tesla’s solar roof tiles are already sold out ‘well into 2018’

I’d just be happy if their was one to make my cat less of an a**hole.
Wearable tech latest must-have for China’s proud pet owners

Because they need all 14 or so women working in the tech field to keep working.
At tech companies, egg freezing benefits are all the rage

Why is everyone looking at Zuckerberg?
Tech companies need to stand up to the jerks in their midst

I’d be really disappointed if it didn’t.
Tech Ups The Ante In Orlando’s New Theme Park Experiences

Here’s to the crazy ones…
Walt Mossberg signs ‘out’

Kinda like watching the Hall of Presidents but with cooler tech.
Apple will live stream WWDC 2017 keynote on June 5 at 10AM PT

Tales from the Orchard – “Today at Apple” could easily backfire unless carefully managed at busier Apple Stores


By Ben Lovejoy of 9to5Mac

Among the images that Apple proudly featured in officially launching its Today at Apple initiative was one from an event I attended myself: an acoustic concert at London’s Regent Street store.

That was an accurate reflection of the event. The singer gave an excellent performance to an appreciative audience. But it didn’t provide the complete picture. The top photo, taken with my iPhone from my position close to the stage area, shows another aspect of the event: massive crowding with basically zero attempt at controlling those crowds …

You had to register to attend the concert, and places were theoretically limited to 250. But there was nothing at all to control numbers. The area wasn’t roped off in any way.

You could voluntarily check-in with staff, but it was clear that many of those who didn’t get places turned up anyway, and there were also people who were in the store when they saw from the huge screen that it was happening and decided to stay for it. There was no attempt by staff to find out who was registered and who wasn’t – and no system in place to make this a practical proposition.

We were fortunate to get there early enough to get places close to the front, but there would have been many more registered people who arrived before the start and would have been left standing just inside the front doors.

There was also a woman who told staff she was unable to stand for an hour, and while a couple of members of staff said they would try to find her a seat, the crowds meant this was basically an impossible task at which they failed. Not great for a company which says accessibility is a core value.

The crowds additionally meant that it would have been a nightmare to either try out any of Apple’s products or make a purchase. The display tables were packed with people watching the show, and staff wanting to sell anything had to fight their way through the throng to fetch products.

Granted, this was a special event designed to highlight the initiative. The vast majority of the events are the same workshops that have been offered for many years, and even with extra publicity aren’t going to attract those kind of crowds. But if Apple intends to make special events a regular feature, it has to manage the space a lot better than it did at the weekend.

I wrote before that I’m all in favor of Apple highlighting one of its best-kept secrets. Workshops are a great way to learn how to get more from Apple hardware and software, and also a place to get inspired about creative projects. I also support the notion of Apple Stores becoming places you go to try products, and to get informed about them, while most sales are made online.

But Apple also needs to remember that the primary function of a retail store is to allow customers to see the products, experience them and – yes – buy them. Almost every Apple Store I’ve visited has already been unpleasantly crowded. Adding special events into the mix requires it to develop proper processes to handle the crowds. Otherwise all that is achieved is that a lot of would-be customers get driven out of the stores.

Here are some other Quotes from some other reviewers:

“After the flat response to watches and watchbands, Angela must have spent a lot of time “hanging out” at Starbucks. You know, because buying an overpriced computer is exactly like buying an overpriced beverage. It is all too clear that Apple is after the same shallow, privileged, label-focused clientele.”

“Isn’t it amazing what a brilliant multimillionaire overpaid broad can come up with to spur more sales when she has no clue what the majority of computer users actually do?”

“Sounds like a near-cliche, nothing like a zinger to jab at the competition which itself would generate love and hate articles debating its use. It generates no emotion at all, the key to good PR no matter what part of the company it comes from.
That name comes straight from tradition and from the Balmeric-style establishment.
I truly am disappointed by its lack of creativity.”

I’m a Woman in Tech, and This Is What I Want in a Company


By Leigha Mitchell of the Observer.com

As a female developer these are some things I want in a company before I decide to join, and once I’m a part of the team.

I want to see other women

The first thing most people do before interviewing or even applying for a job is look at the company careers page. If it’s plastered with pictures of white guys in flannel with beards, that’s a red flag. If the exec team is all white men who look like they could be my father that’s another one. When you’re a small team and those are the cards you’re dealt, it’s harder to get around that. But you can always put a statement on this page explaining the fact you want to diversify your team and why. Another trick I’ve seen is having a clearly female silhouette saying “This could be you!”

Once I’ve made it past the careers page, I want to see them in person. It’s always important to have women in the interview process, but especially when the candidate is also a woman. This makes me feel more comfortable with asking certain questions, and offers an opportunity to ask things only another woman in tech could answer. Even if there aren’t currently women on the team I’d be joining (red flag) bring someone from another team in for a culture interview.

I don’t give a shit about your “amazing culture”

Everyone has great culture and you’re all best friends, I get it. This is so common in startup land that it’s meaningless. I’ve worked at these places, and I promise you what is an amazing culture for one person can be horrible for another. I want you to prove it. I want to meet members from every team, I want to chat with them and get to know what they’re like. It’s important for me to know that these are people I’m going to work well and grow with, and that they want to do those things with me.

“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” —Obi Wan Kenobi

I don’t care that you have a ping-pong table, or a keg, or free snacks. I care that the CEO leaves on time to pick up her kids during the week, that the holidays are for spending time with your family, and that when the guy in marketing got engaged to his boyfriend everyone went out for lunch to celebrate. Those are the things I want to see, and the team I want to be a part of.

Tell me how you’re going to help me grow

The moment I get stagnant, I get bored and I move on. That is a huge factor in why I became a developer in the first place. There’s always something new to learn, or practice, or build. This means growth and projection are extremely important to me and I’ve learned the hard way to make sure that is clear from the beginning.

I, like a lot of other women, am very passive when it comes to asking for raises or promotions. Having an outline of expectations for each level of developer helps with this. Now I have a guideline and I know exactly what I need to do to meet those expectations. It also helps reduce the opportunity for discrimination. Everyone knows what is expected for each level, and for each salary. You either meet the requirements, or you keep working at things until you do.

I should forget that I’m a minority, but be supported when I remember
It should never be painfully obvious that I’m the only woman in the room. In an ideal world I won’t be, but sometimes that is still the case. We are adults and everyone should be treated with respect and equally, but that is a whole other conversation. It’s great to have a CEO or a few advocates in the company who support diversity, but if it’s not a part of every employee’s mentality it won’t happen.

If I bring something to the attention of a manager or member of the exec team, like concerns about lack of diversity or the treatment of women in tech, it should be taken seriously. If it’s within the company their help is crucial, but if it is a more broad concern I want to know that I have their support. If I tell them I want more women to get into tech I want them to say “So what are you going to do about it?” and know that they will push and support me.

Help me fight my imposter syndrome

Everyone knows about Imposter Syndrome these days and it’s something I suffer from. Especially as a woman in tech, and extra especially as a more junior developer. I’m incredibly hard on myself so it helps to have a team that will have my back in the fight. I don’t mean that I want to be told how awesome I am, I want real advice. I want to know that my mentors started out where I did, I need to be told to step back and look at the big picture and not the day to day.

“The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.” —Yoda

That being said, it is also beneficial to be on a team that will tell other people how awesome you are. A lot of people don’t like to brag or bring attention to their accomplishments, that’s why you need to do it for them. Seeing others be supportive of their team mates and brag about other’s accomplishments is a powerful thing. That is an environment you can’t fake, and everyone deserves to be a part of.

App of the Week – Lose it!



by Tanya Menoni of Lifewire

The Good

Huge food database
Includes restaurant items

The Bad

Time consuming to use regularly

Counting calories can be an effective way to shed pounds, but keeping track of every last bite is a chore. The Lose It! app (Free, with in-app purchases) is an excellent tool for recording your food intake and exercise. The best part? Unlike the Weight Watchers app, Lose It! is not associated with any particular diet, so it’s useful no matter what approach to eating you prefer.

An Extensive Food Database

Numerous studies have shown that dieters who keep a daily food log lose more weight than those who don’t. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic, most people underestimate how much they eat on a daily basis. A food log, in which you track everything you eat throughout the day, helps keep you accountable. That’s the idea behind the Lose It! app, which is one of the most popular weight loss apps in the App Store.

When you first log in to the app, you’ll be asked to enter your personal details, including starting weight, goal weight, gender, and height. You can also specify how much weight you’d like to lose each week, which will affect the calorie totals suggested by the app. You also create an account using an email address. The setup process takes a few seconds, and then the Lose It! app will display your daily calorie budget. The home screen includes a bar graph showing how many calories you have left to eat throughout the day, minus any exercise you record.

Adding foods to your log is super easy. Searching by keyword is the easiest way to get started. I was impressed with just how comprehensive the food database is.

A search for “bacon,” for example, brings up regular bacon, turkey bacon, vegetarian bacon, bacon fat, bacon drippings, and a whole lot more. The app included every food I could think of, but if it’s lacking something you can add the food manually (and it will be saved so you can choose it again later). I also love that it includes so many restaurant foods, which is helpful for checking calorie counts even when you’re dining out.

Don’t Forget to Exercise!

It’s also easy to add in your exercise totals for the day. The Lose It! app includes everything from curling to canoeing, so your calorie burn will be calculated automatically for a variety of exercises. Once you add an exercise, the app combines your calorie burn and exercise totals so you know exactly where you stand for the day.

The app also includes some other nifty features. With your free LoseIt.com account, you can add friends, back up your data online, and view weight-loss reports. There’s also a spot where you can record your daily weight so you can see your progress on a graph.

The Bottom Line

Lose It! is one of the best calorie-tracking apps I’ve tried. It is rather time consuming to log your food every day, but it gets faster once you add some foods to your favorites and get the hang of the interface.

Speaking of the interface, it is very well done. The app is intuitive, and the daily calorie budget helps you quickly make decisions on the food you eat. If weight loss is your New Year’s resolution, the Lose It! app should be one of your first downloads.

Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.

What You’ll Need

The Lose It app works with both iOS and Android devices.

Download for iOS
Download for Android

What is your favorite Weight Loss App? Leave it in the comments below!

How to: post Google Photo’s awesome animations to Instagram.


By Raymond Wong of Mashable

If you use Google Photos, you know the service is so much more than just the best way to store and back up all your photos and videos into the cloud.
Share Quote

Using advanced machine learning, Google Photos can intelligently identify people, places, and things — and it’s all easily searchable. One of the cooler things in Google Photos is the Assistant (not to be confused with Google’s other Assistant on Android and Google Home).

In the Google Photos app on iOS and Android, the Assistant is a card-based panel that does three things:

1 Shows you the status of your backup.
2 Automatically creates “movies” based on related video clips.
3 Creates “animations” using batches of bursted photos. (You can also create your own animations by manually selecting between 2-50 photos, but the end result is the same — you still get a GIF file.)

I’m constantly amazed by how great the automatically generated animations are, and it sure beats using a separate app like Burstio to convert your burst photos into a video or a GIF.

There’s just one little thing: While you can download and share the animated GIFs online to Twitter, Giphy or wherever using a computer, sharing GIFs natively to Instagram is still impossible without first converting the file into a video.
Here’s how to do that quickly and easily:

For iOS

On iOS, you’ll need to use another app like GifLab (free) to convert the GIF into a video. To find your animations, type “animations” into the Photos search bar in the iOS or Android app. Then, select your animation. (These are animations you’ve saved. Animations that Google Photos created but you didn’t save within 30 days of their creation will not appear and are lost forever, so save them when they’re created.)

Tap the “•••” located in the upper right corner and then tap “Download” to save the GIF. Then, open up GifLab and do the following:
Step 1: Open GifLab and select “GIF to Instagram.”
Step 2: Select your GIF and adjust the playback speed.
Step 3: Tap “Save and share on Instagram.”

For Android

On Android, things are even easier and you can share GIFs directly from Google Photos to Instagram, as the app automatically converts the GIF into a video, no extra app required.

Select your Google Photos animation GIF as outlined above and then tap the share icon in the lower left. Select Instagram as the app (obviously, have it installed and logged in) to share the GIF. Once the GIF’s been auto converted into a video, you’ll be taken Instagram where you can select a filter and add a caption.

Do you use Google’s Photos? Tell us what you think of it in the comments below!

2 tricks to make iOS Control Center less annoying


by Patrick Holland of Business Insider

If you get annoyed by Control Center popping up on your iPhone, here are two easy things you can do.

Apple released Control Center in 2013 as part of iOS 7. It gives iPhone and iPad users quick access to settings for airplane mode, wifi, bluetooth, screen brightness among other things. But sometimes errant swipes inside apps and games can launch Control Center accidentally — which can be annoying. If you leave your iPhone lying around pretty much anyone including kids can access Control Center from your lock screen — which can be even more annoying.

But these annoyances are easily remedied with some quick adjustments. Go to Settings > Control Center. There you have two options: “Access on Lock Screen” and “Access Within Apps”.

If you like accessing Control Center from your lock screen, leave “Access on Lock Screen” turned on. But if you want to prevent someone from accessing it from your iPhone/iPad’s lock screen turn this off.
For example, turning off lock screen access will prevent kids from knowingly or unknowingly turning on the orientation lock or putting your iPhone/iPad into airplane mode or setting a random alarm.

If you hate having Control Center accidentally pop up while playing a video game or using an apps, you can turn off “Access Within Apps”. The upside to this is that you won’t see that black arrow poking up from the bottom of the screen. The downside is that this setting applies to all apps meaning that you’ll only have access to Control Center from your home screen or lock screen (unless you disabled it).

Now it’s your tuen. Share your favorite tips or tricks about the Control Center in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: An Open Letter To Tim Cook From A Now Former Apple Genius


By Jamie Young of AppAdvice

What is it about your Apple products that you love so much? Is it that they’re pretty? Dependable? Because they last longer? Because they just work? Because you know you can take your precious devices into a nearby store whenever something’s wrong and get advice? One concerned Apple employee wrote an open letter to Tim Cook explaining how he felt the retail store employees were focusing more on selling rather than the customers. Apple is known for the strong customer service values it instills in its retail store employees. The values that Steve Jobs himself instilled in the company — perfection in everything. But has that all gone to the wayside? I’ll let his letter speak for itself:

DEAR MR. TIM COOK: Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Chad Ramey and I’ve served this company for the last four years as a Genius at the Apple Arrowhead retail location in Glendale, Arizona (R247). First of all, I would like to extend my thanks for allowing me the opportunity to work for such a unique company. It was truly one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life when I had to walk out of that store for the last time; no one likes to abandon their passion, and helping Apple’s customers was not only something that I loved to do, but also something that I gave my entire heart and soul doing. It will be difficult to find another company that can elicit such a strong passion and devotion. With that being said, I find my freedom from Apple to be a double-edged sword. I’ve watched as Apple retail has shifted from something truly spectacular and wonderful to big-box retail that is no better than a Best Buy or a Walmart. You see, there has been a shift in the focus of these stores. What was once a truly enriching place to work has become a place that leeches and drains everything from their employees. Apple retail no longer values its people and when I say people, I am referring to both your customers and your retail employees serving you on the front-lines. After all, they are your most important resource, your soul, or at least that was once true. Due to the overwhelming number of appointments per employee and the continued push to open more and more active queues, most interactions are now completely transactional, rather than transformational. We are lucky if we have time to ask the customer their name, nevertheless truly get to dig deeply into their lives and their issues, and further repair their relationships with both Apple and the Apple brand. As employees, we are forced to worry more about pushing business leads and reaching numbers, rather than truly focus on the customer’s problems. Everything I was led to believe in CORE training four years ago has become nullified; Apple is no longer about enriching lives, it is about enriching pocketbooks. You may see that my former store, R247, remains to be amongst the top performing stores in NPS, and yet the Family Room NPP continues to plummet. The people we have in that store are amongst the most talented and most devoted in the company. They give everything they have to keep the focus on their customers despite the increasing hurdles that the company keeps throwing at them. They are, however, quickly being burnt out. Apple is treating its retail workforce like they are disposable, and in doing so, Apple is throwing away some of its brightest and most amazing talents. I asked our family room manager point blank if Apple wants its retail employees to be career and he said no. The continuing loss of talented and caring people is fueled by the feeling that they are neither important nor truly cared for. The idea of thinking of employees as people instead of numbers was what used to set Apple apart. This is what has made Apple change. I know this letter may never reach your eyes, but I would feel as if I’d abandoned my team if I never even tried to make a change. If you truly care about the future of Apple retail, Mr. Cook, you’ll return to the foundations on which it was originally based. Create an environment where employees feel wanted and needed. Go back to the days when sales and support were geared toward the customers and not the bottom-line. If you don’t, you’ll continue to burn through some of the greatest and most talented resources in your workforce. Apple is supposed to be a leader within the industry. You set the standards. You can make changes and others will follow. Use that position to better the world of retail, not sink to the depths of those around you. Make the change that will affect so many lives. Sincerely, Chad Ramey

Yes, Apple products are more expensive. We pay for quality, design, and — I don’t know about you, but — the customer service experience. At least, the rich customer experience we used to get. Have you noticed any changes in the service you receive at Apple retail stores? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

WIT: It’s Tough Being a Woman in Tech. CoderGirl’s Mentors Hope to Change Just That.


By Allison Babka

The culture is what kills, many women in tech say. And a startling experience is the knife.

“I don’t even know who he was, but he was stopping by to talk to one of the guys I knew really well in the next cubicle,” Katie Mathews remembers with a grimace. “I was grabbing some cashews from my friend’s desk, and he was like, ‘Oh, you like John’s nuts?’ and kept saying it. And the guy who was my friend and sitting right there just did not do a thing.”

Mathews, then a software engineer at a large St. Louis aerospace corporation, was stunned by the visitor’s innuendo-laden “joke,” she says. For a newer employee at her first post-college job, the innuendo was a jarring wake-up call as to what it would be like working in an office, in a company and in an industry that predominantly employs men.
But she was just as shocked at her friend’s silence.

“I didn’t react. I should’ve said something,” Mathews reflects. “But he was aware of that and he didn’t say anything. He didn’t stand up for me or say, ‘Hey that’s not cool.’ He just apologized that it happened to me afterwards.”
Mathews’ experience isn’t an isolated case, and, sadly, it’s not the worst. Dealing with everything from gender-biased hiring practices to sexual assault to skepticism about their abilities, women in male-dominated workplaces often have to fight for both their livelihoods and their lives. But in tech-focused disciplines like engineering and programming, the problem has become especially pronounced.

According to figures released in March 2017 by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women made up only 26 percent of the computing workforce in 2016. Even worse, women who were not white held only ten percent of those jobs in the same year, with black women at three percent, Asian women at five percent and Hispanic women at two percent.

With figures like those, women are easily outnumbered by men when building an app or coding a company’s sales systems. And when those men — who usually are heterosexual and white — occupy most of both the leadership and worker-bee positions, the culture often becomes hostile to women, inadvertently or not.

Pool tables, basketball hoops, Nerf guns and video games are among the office comforts you’ll find in startups in Silicon Valley and, yes, St. Louis. Meanwhile, restrooms often are missing basics like tampons or even soap. Clients assume that women are office managers instead of lead programmers. A pregnancy announcement becomes a minefield, with possibilities like no family leave policy, loss of investors or a perception that pregnant employees don’t work hard enough all looming on the horizon.

And, as the news has shown us recently, the “bro” atmosphere can go well beyond office gadgets and basic inequality.

In 2015, engineer Kelly Ellis alleged through a tweetstorm and in subsequent news stories that executives at Google, her previous employer, had behaved inappropriately and cultivated a “boy’s club” culture. She said that her reports to HR were dismissed.

And earlier this year, Susan Fowler, an engineer who had worked at ride-sharing behemoth Uber, leveled multiple allegations of sexual harassment against her former company, disclosing that male employees regularly sent her lewd messages and requests for sex. She also said that her supervisors retaliated against her with bad performance reviews after she had repeatedly told human resources about the incidents. Since Fowler made her allegations public, additional women have come forward with their own stories about Uber.

If women are only going to be distrusted, marginalized and harassed like this, why would they even want to go into the tech industry in the first place?


Uh, they don’t.

A National Center for Women & Information Technology study shows that only 23 percent of the high school students who took the AP Computer Science test in 2016 were women. It’s the same story at the college level where, in 2015, 16 percent of the computer science bachelor’s degree recipients at major research universities were women; in contrast, that figure was 37 percent in 1985.

Can the trend be reversed? Could an influx of kick-ass professional women change the unbalanced, often-toxic coder culture? And if so, how will those women find their way into tech leadership positions or even to the industry at all, since younger women are showing their aversion?

One of the answers may lie with programs like CoderGirl, an initiative from the St. Louis nonprofit LaunchCode that’s determined to address the gender gap in tech and create a pipeline of talented female programmers. Through CoderGirl’s year-long program, participants of all ages, backgrounds and income levels learn essential coding skills while working on projects in a non-toxic, collaborative, woman-friendly environment. Women who successfully complete CoderGirl training may apply for LaunchCode apprenticeships with local big-name companies or explore other opportunities for full-time work in programming.

“It gives women the opportunity to just jump in right away, rather than having to work through that uncomfortableness,” CoderGirl director Crystal Martin says of the program’s inclusive female-friendly space. “It’s enough to get women to take that first step, get them in the door and to a place where they can thrive.”

The initiative seems to be working so far; since 2014, more than 600 CoderGirls have completed the program. (Worth noting: 58 percent of the 165 women in the current cycle are women of color.) At least 56 women who have completed the CoderGirl program have since moved into tech employment. A recent reimagining of the program from a casual meetup format to a more formal class structure portends continued growth and job placements.

And mentors are a huge part of CoderGirl’s success. Six previous CoderGirl participants have returned to the program as mentors on a consistent basis, with a few others dropping by to help when their schedules allow. As professional women with expertise in specific programming languages and skills, CoderGirl’s mentors work one-on-one with participants to not only teach, but also to directly empower.

“It’s not just about getting women jobs in tech; it’s also about building a network and a workforce of women who can support each other in whatever situations they’re in,” says Martin. “On a larger scale, programs like CoderGirl can have an impact.”

Mathews, who now serves as a CoderGirl mentor, says that she often discusses with her mentees the gender- and identity-based hardships that await in some tech environments. She notes that CoderGirl’s speaker series brings in female industry leaders and provides a framework for mentors to have honest discussions with learners in a comfortable environment.

“I don’t think we explicitly make a point to talk about it, but because you come there after your work day, you bring those experiences and debrief with people. I’m very open and vulnerable about my experiences,” Mathews says. “I think everyone in the space is learning from everyone’s experiences on that.

“I think it’s the multiplier effect: The more it’s all talked about, the more women you meet, the more you support women. It should just blossom,” continues Mathews. “Thinking of those male-dominated cultures, the only way to take them down is infiltrate; if you keep bringing women along with you, eventually something will have to change.”

When she was a young girl in India, Ashwina Dodhyani had her mind set on becoming a fashion designer. Her family — who viewed doctors, lawyers and engineers among the only truly worthy occupations, she says — had other plans.

“My brother pushed me to take computer science as a major in college because I was really good at math and had good analytical skills,” Dodhyani says. “You know, it was hard, if I’m being honest. But it was four years and then I thought, no I don’t hate this; this is what I want to do for my career.”

Today, Dodhyani is a business systems analyst for a technology integrator in St. Louis, as well as a mentor with the CoderGirl program. She recalls that she later took her brother’s advice again, applying to graduate schools and ultimately moving to the U.S. to continues her computer science studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“I think that was when I got really interested in computer science, because it was more practical. My undergrad wasn’t like that; it was a lot of theory and I definitely did not enjoy that as much,” Dodhyani says.

But Dodhyani is an outlier; many other women are pushed away from tech interests even before they realize it’s happening. No matter if it’s kids making fun of geeky pursuits or adults steering women toward careers that are perceived as more “feminine,” there’s a notion that something is “wrong” with a young woman with interest or aptitude in programming or mathematics.

One CoderGirl mentor — who asked not to be identified out of fear that her employer would retaliate — says that girls often cannot fathom pursuing an occupation in computer science.

“Whether it’s young girls or women, there’s a lot of fear. They feel like they can’t do it or they don’t have the right aptitude for it,” says the mentor, who is an analyst for a large technology company in St. Louis. “I think they see it as,
‘Oh, boys play with computers, boys play with electronics, so they’re made for that and we’re not made for that.'”

Even after growing up in an encouraging environment and securing a professional coding job while in college, young women still deal with outside skepticism about their interests and capabilities. CoderGirl mentor Jenny Brown says that her “Hogwarts for hackers” boarding school in Illinois nurtured her talents for working on software and servers and fully prepared her for college courses to become a software engineer. Unfortunately, not everybody saw that.

“I encountered a hardcore engineering program that was strongly biased against women. And it was typical that I would sit in a lecture with 300 men and one other woman,” says Brown, who now is a software engineer at a data-driven agricultural company in St. Louis.

Brown remembers asking a male teaching assistant to clarify some class requirements. The aide became defensive, she says, responding with, “If you have to ask questions, maybe this isn’t the right place for you.”

“It wasn’t until later that I had realized he had written the assignment. But when I was seventeen and all I needed was clarification so I could go keep working, that was very discouraging,” Brown says. “At the same time, I was already a professional software engineer working a part-time job outside of school. He had no idea that I’d already been programming for over fifteen years.”

Men doubting women’s abilities doesn’t stop at graduation, the CoderGirl mentors say.

Brown says that with each new tech job, men have assumed that she knew less than she actually did, so she was forced to prove herself again and again, unlike her male counterparts making the same job leap.

“They challenged my decisions, questioned my reasoning for things, made me explain myself more, gave me smaller projects to start with instead of trusting me with the big stuff,” she says. “They were generally just less trustful; I don’t think they even realized it. I think it was so automatic, so unconscious, that they just assumed they were accurately judging me.”

Meanwhile, the anonymous CoderGirl mentor says that she’s faced contradictory assumptions and demands.

“When I first started out in my career, I got feedback saying I’m not assertive enough. At the time, it was probably my first year or second year of working. When I would go to meetings, I didn’t think that I had enough yet to contribute, so I would just try to soak everything in and learn as much as I could,” the mentor says. “But when I got more knowledge and I was more confident, I got that I ‘talk too much.'”

“This is something that I heard through a third person: ‘She’s too passionate.’ I was like ‘Make up your mind, do you want me to be assertive or not?'” the analyst continues. “I just don’t let it bother me. If I know I’m doing the right thing, then I’m going to keep doing it. If people don’t like it, so be it.”


Being a woman in a man’s world can be like walking through a minefield. Even something as seemingly simple as choosing clothing for work can become an ordeal. Mathews, who identifies as a queer woman, realized that she began dressing in a more traditionally masculine way partly to deter other people’s thoughts about her body. “I know I definitely felt more equipped to handle anything when I dressed masculine,” Mathews says.

Because Mathews was then a front-end developer at a large aerospace corporation, the attention was frequent and overt, and she grew weary of her male colleagues’ attention.

“I think at that time, I still had a concept of ‘If you dress in a certain way, you’re asking for male attention,’ which is not an ok way to think. But it’s a reality that women deal with. You’re on this balance of ‘I want to be taken seriously but I want to feel confident,'” Mathews says. “And the boys’ club culture definitely existed there. No one realized it was a gender bias thing.”

The anonymous CoderGirl mentor says that she also has experienced perplexing and sexist comments about her looks.

“I had a male coworker tell me one time, ‘Hey, you can see your grey hair, you should really color it.’ I do feel like they pay attention to those things, especially when it’s women,” she says. “The funny thing was, they had grey hair! Why are you telling me?”

And it’s not just seemingly petty matters like clothes and hair. Women in tech simply don’t make as much money as men do or have the same opportunities to advance, something shown in numerous studies.

A study from online compensation information company PayScale shows that men not only dominate all levels of computer-driven companies, but they also make more money by a hefty margin. According to Payscale, there’s a 22 percent difference between what male and female executives in the industry make, with men taking home a median of $174,600 and women collecting $135,500. At the individual contributor level, the pay gap is at about 19 percent, with men making $70,900 and women making just $57,600.

Things are just as bad outside of the tech sector, however, with glass ceilings everywhere. In its study, PayScale says that salary levels off for women at $49,000 when they’re 35 to 40 years old; meanwhile, men level off at $75,000 at age 50 to 55.

In Missouri, things look even worse. According to “The Status of Women in Missouri,” a report prepared in 2016 by the Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri, women here earned $35,759 on average for full-time work in 2015, compared with an average of $49,897 for men. The report also found that black and Hispanic women made only 66.7 percent of what their white male counterparts made in 2015.

The anonymous CoderGirl mentor says that she has missed out on salary increases thanks to company reorganizations and bad processes. Despite being placed into a management role during one shakeup, she says that she wasn’t part of leadership conversations and had a hard time explaining certain high-level decisions to her team. With prodding from upper levels, she offered feedback about the new processes and was told “You should earn your money.”

That’s when things became interesting.

“I had a one-on-one conversation with my manager and asked, ‘What money are they talking about, because I didn’t get a pay raise when I got this promotion.’ My manager was completely shocked and was like, ‘Oh my god, did we not give you a raise?'” the mentor remembers. “I don’t talk about that with other people, so I don’t know if it happened to me because I’m a woman and everybody else was a man, but that was pretty shocking.”

Sexual harassment is a huge reason why women don’t feel welcome in tech, as well as in many other industries. According to a survey titled “The Elephant in the Valley,” women in tech say harassment is one of the biggest things they deal with, with 90 percent of female responders saying that they’ve witnessed sexist behavior at industry events and 65 percent reporting that they’ve received unwanted sexual advances from a superior. Sixty percent of women who reported sexual harassment to their company were dissatisfied with the resolution.

CoderGirl mentor Mathews didn’t report the “John’s nuts” incident to human resources and says that she now regrets it, not knowing if her harasser bothered other women. She kept seeing him around the office, though.

“I was creeped out seeing that guy in the hallways anytime after that, to the point I thought he was following me to my car. I sprinted out of the building or hid in a bathroom where you can see around the corner,” she remembers. “I kept thinking about it after it happened because that stuff doesn’t leave you exactly; you have a body response to it. And part of it was me being in this culture with guys, not wanting to appear weak or like I couldn’t handle that. But at the time being 23 and out of college, something this direct at me in a professional setting had never happened before.”

He wasn’t the only man who made her apprehensive, Mathews says.

“As I would walk through hallways, older men would wink at me, which is just uncomfortable,” she says. “And we had these trailers out back, so it was always in the manufacturing, isolated part. I would go into these trailers highly scared and hoping no one followed me because they were isolated within themselves. That freaked me out anytime that happened.”

But sometimes it’s not even the big stuff that gets to you, the mentors say. Brown says that her former male colleagues often named servers after male-centered films like Top Gun, so she reminded them about how alienating that was to women who needed to work on those servers.

And Mathews remembers when coworkers gendered the office salsa bar, joking that they should label hot ones for men and mild ones for women. “I was like, why? Why would you say that? Do you think that something spicy improves your strength?” Mathews wonders.

Still, good workplaces do exist. That’s true even in tech. For Brown, she had to change jobs to find one — but she says it’s made all the difference.

“I wanted a place that was supportive and welcoming to women,” Brown says. At her new company, she says, “I found women in leadership in various levels, especially in middle to higher leadership. I found women scientists who were being celebrated for their scientific work and their data science work. I found cross-training between teams and a real, true support for work-life balance. So all the pieces were there.”

Mathews also had to change jobs to find her happy place. Realizing that she was never going to feel appreciated at the aerospace company, Mathews desperately needed a break from the suffocating “brogrammer” environment and craved something engaging and meaningful. She chose to empower student athletes by coaching women’s basketball at her alma mater DePauw University and teaching mathematics at a nearby women’s prison.

“Going to a prison to teach math seems like a weird experience, but I have never found more motivated students in my life,” Mathews remembers.

With her enthusiasm and direction refreshed after two years, Mathews returned to the programming world in St. Louis, eventually landing her current dream job as a developer at a local innovation agency. Five months in, Mathews can’t imagine being anywhere else.

“I’m going to give props to the head of the company: He really cares about his employees, and he wants to have fun at work and work hard,” Mathews says. “He’s super protective, wants everyone to feel safe and wants everyone to be able to enjoy each other at work and maintain this culture of inclusion. He’s created a great environment.”

Brown says that having women and supportive allies throughout all levels of the company means that they can influence the culture, removing the barriers that female employees must traditionally surmount.

“It is a tremendous difference in a professional opportunity to have a place that is supportive,” Brown says. “Women can get comfortable talking technology because they’re in a supportive environment that inherently trusts them. They don’t have to prove themselves, they just have to show up and learn. So they get a chance to build an identity for themselves as technologists that’s not challenged by all of this cultural bias.”

Dodhyani began mentoring through CoderGirl with a goal to help put more women into the tech workforce and encourage new coders to seek out leadership opportunities. She had learned about the program through a friend and immediately connected with its mission.

“I reached out to Crystal [Martin], and when I got there, I became really excited because I saw all these women trying to learn how to code,” Dodhyani says. “I want them to feel empowered, really. I don’t think this has an end, meaning you can’t stop learning; just because you finish the CoderGirl program or just because you’ve got another job where you’re programming, it’s not going to end there.”

As for Brown, she says she’s encouraged by her mentees’ determination, openness and curiosity.

“I remind them that nobody knows everything; just keep learning and gaining skills,” Brown says. “Practice talking about tech, using the vocabulary fluently, and get good at explaining your ideas, so that you feel like you belong. We do some whiteboard coding exercises ahead of interviews, and we practice describing code and code ideas during informal code reviews and goal planning. Many women come out of their shell during this process, and it’s a joy to see them light up with ideas, questions and confidence.”

Mathews, who previously went through CoderGirl’s parent program LaunchCode before later returning as a CoderGirl mentor, agrees. She says she works hard to help her learners feel secure in the skills that they gain in their inclusive, women-only space before heading out to apprenticeships and full-time employment.

“I think there’s a shared struggle among women all over the spectrum, but seeing each other struggle is empowering,” says Mathews. “Having visibility of the people running the program who are on the queer spectrum or Crystal being a bad-ass woman of color leading the whole thing, I think she really advocates for the diverse space that it is. It’s amazing.”

Ultimately, that shared struggle is what draws the mentors to CoderGirl. Having walked their own difficult paths through the tech industry, they can’t help but want to make it a bit easier for the new army of women who code.

“This is meaningful because I spent so long alone as a child and even into my early career days as the only woman doing it,” says Brown of programming. “When I would try to talk with people and friends about it, they didn’t understand; there was just no connection.

“So this was a chance to bring in more women in a field that desperately needs them and give folks the opportunity to succeed. It feels good to be able to help them in a way that I wish I could have had and to know how much of a difference it really makes in their lives.”

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: