One summer, many years ago when I was in the peak of my college youth I was at a dive bar in Missoula, MT. It was my turn to get the drinks so I was patiently waiting at the bar by myself. While waiting an older woman with a leathered face settled in next to me. She struck up a conversation with me likely about the weather and other small talk. I remember engaging in the conversation and while I don’t remember the details of what we talked about I vividly remember her telling me how sad she was because when she was “my age” she had fought a good fight for women’s rights and freedoms and women “my age” don’t appreciate that. I remember the tone of her voice and the genuine look of sadness in her eyes. I have no idea what I said to her in response but I remember thinking that she was singing her song to the wrong girl.
You see, my own mother is a physician, now close to retiring age, but when she began her journey she was one of two women in her medical school. While my mother wasn’t radically into politics or anything like that she did have the notion to believe that she was just as smart as any man who was applying to medical school. And she of course was right. Her lessons were mainly centered on believing in oneself no matter what others say. I remember sometime in my childhood my mother organized a conference called, “Choices & Conflict.” It was a conference for women and it was aimed to help women in the business world relate and discuss the role of having a professional career and a family. Unless you’ve been under a rock you probably have heard of COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg’s book called Lean In. It’s a wonderful book and it deals with some of the same issues that my mother based her conference around: guilt, balance, career, advancement, family, gender issues etc.
In my own life I’ve chosen an industry that is dominated by men: the tech industry. Being in an industry dominated by men didn’t seem that big of an issue, especially when I was younger and without kids, but as my career advanced the issues became more apparent. I’m not going to dive into those issues today, chances are, you’ve heard them all before. What I do want to talk about today is why I’m so interested in focusing on getting more women into the tech industry right now in my life and I can sum it up in one word: daughters. I have daughters. And Mom, if you’re reading this, I get it now. The last thing you want is for your kids to be subjected to the trials and hardships you’ve faced. You put on conferences and gather as women in business so you can relate, brainstorm but ultimately what you want to do is advance together. Advance is what I hope will open more doors for my daughters, just like my mom did for me.
There are two causes I have chosen to focus on in the future. One is increasing the number of girls who are exposed to software development and two is creating a support for women entrepreneurs (regardless of age, or stage of the game they’re in). I’ll be writing more about this in the future and offering more details about what I’m doing specifically but I wanted to write the premise of why I’m doing this before I write anything else. If you’re interested in joining me. Please let me know. You can find me on Twitter and Google+.
For all you women who have paved the way for the rest of us, to that woman in the bar back in Montana, and most importantly to my mom: I am grateful. Very much.