The secret thoughts of a woman in tech-ep2: being a minority in tech

Previously on The secret thoughts of a woman in tech… 

Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s been asked in tech events who’s she with.

Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s got a tap on the shoulder for being a woman in tech and doing your job.

Raise your hand if you belong to an underrepresented group in tech (basically if you’re not a white man. Mean, I know but I never said I’m nice) who felt uncomfortable because all eyes were on you.

Raise your hand if like me you hate the “good on you” accompanied by an approval smile.

Unless you are my boss or on a conference committe, I doubt I need your approval (if you are neither my boss or on a conference committe to which I submitted a talk but you think I may need your approval in the near future, please let me know and I’ll apologise for my arrogant tone. The rest of you, stopping rolling your eyes at me as if you never practiced the art of arse kissing).

I usually get the “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/> on two occasions:

  • When I’m having a casual chat with a stranger in a coffee shop or airport and they ask “so what do you do for a living?”

Me: I’m a software engineer

Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>

  • When I’m in a conference and someone asks about my partner/husband/boyfriend/any male I belong to

Me: actually I’m here by myself like a big girl. I’m one of the speakers.

Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>

Then I get the smile, that smile that says “I approve of this, you little Muslim brown immigrant woman” (technically I’m white skinned but politically I’m brown from a shithole country).

Now most of the time these smiles mean well, they don’t really say all that stuff mentioned above  but I’m not perfect, I’m a human with my own biases. If anything it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not seeking anyone’s approval.

It’s really tiring to be the one to answer all the damn questions all the damn time. Why do cover your hair? So you don’t drink alcohol? At all? All the time? Are you vegetarian? How are things back in your country? Is it safe now? Do you have cars there or do you still use camels?

As much as I’m happy and proud to talk about my country and my religion, it’s simply tiring at times.

By acting overly nice in an attempt to make me feel welcome, you’re actually confirming that I don’t naturally belong there, I’m not normal enough and you have to do the extra effort. This doesn’t just apply to people from minority ethnicities, Non-binary/bisexual/homosexual people also get the special treatment.

Would you ever tell a man “oh!! Good on you”. No, you won’t.

If a man tells you they are a speaker or coder, you’d simply ask them about the details of their talk or job and you guys start nerding out together.

No one ever asks men how they balance between their work and life. No one ever asks men how they can excel in their careers yet be good fathers.

Here’s a simple thing to consider; that applies to all of us, even you minority in tech: before spelling the words, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone asks you the same question and would you still ask the question if the person in front of you is a white man (white men, I really have nothing against you. You just happen to be the majority and let’s face it you are the trouble makers).

Now because I only aim to please, here are the answers you’ve all been waiting for:

Why do I cover my hair? So I’m never having a bad hair day.

Am I vegetarian? No. I actually love meat but only eat halal meat which makes me pescatarian/vegetarian most of the time. I’m happy with that as I’m trying to have a balanced diet.

Do I NOT drink alcohol at all?<scream face emoji/> Do you really want to see me drunk? Do you think that’s a good idea? Exactly.

Do we really use camels in Africa? Absolutely. Also as an Arab African, you should know that my dad is the king of Africa and an oil baron.

Stay Curious

As we waved goodbye to 2017 and somehow are still welcoming 2018, this is the time of the year for me to look back on my year and have few retrospectives on a professional and individual levels but also what happens in the world in general.

It’s been an interesting year and what I want to talk about here is what’s been happening in Tech.   

We’ve heard about some shocking stories unfortunately about sexism, homophobia etc. Most of these stories had impact on women but luckily not all stories were dark and sad.

There were also some amazing initiatives to support women and keep them in tech.

One of the initiatives that I really like is EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign.

The reason why I like Pretty Curious is that the initiative is for teenage girls to inspire them imagine a future where they make an impact through STEM.

It’s widely known that there are fewer women than men in STEM fields. A good way to tackle the problem is to start early and try to engage girls in STEM from an early age and that’s exactly what Pretty Curious tries to achieve.

Pretty Curious aims to get girls interested in STEM and reach out to undiscovered STEM talent.

 

It provides hands-on experiences and digital content that can be found on the website.

The activities provided by the programme aim to change the perception of STEM subjects and give young girls a taste of what it might be like to work in STEM careers in a fun and smart way.

 

Future Me allow the girls to create a personalised Avatar to see themselves in their future dream career whether this dream career is to be a robotic engineer, software engineer or architect.

They also can take a quiz to help them decide what STEM career suits them best. How cool is this!

There is also a virtual reality 360 video where you can see inspiring women in their everyday job. You can also read about those role models under the “Be Inspired” section which is another point that the campaign nailed. Young girls need role models, they need to see that what they dream about is possible and there are already women who have achieved it.

 

Pretty Curious doesn’t just offer activities for young girls but also for parents too. The parents quiz  provides guidance for parents to help them identify their children strength and potential.

 

The Pretty Curious Studio is one of my favourite things about the campaign simply because it allows the girls to have hands on and build a droid. Not any droid but a Star Wars Droid.

On top of all of that,The campaign also has some exciting partnerships like partnering with Edinburgh International Science Festival and Disney. All I’m saying about that is “Last Jedi”, I’m not going to say anymore, go check it out !

 

As you can tell, I’m really excited about Pretty Curious , I believe it could have an enormous impact encouraging more girls into STEM. I hope we see more of these awesome initiatives.

Well done EDF Energy. I can’t wait to start building Droids with the girls here in Bristol.

 

The secret thoughts of a woman in tech: episode zero

Since it’s new year, new me, new resolutions BS, I thought why not starting a new series on the blog. You know, something to give meaning to my existence. Not that watching Netflix isn’t enough.

This is going to stop by the end of January probably because resolutions (wink! Wink!) .

Anyway, here is the idea: in these series entitled “the secret thoughts of a woman in tech”, I’ll be sharing some of my everyday challenges, insecurities and thoughts!! I can already bet that my fellow women in tech have the same thoughts.

Now, to be clear, this is not going to change the world or be revolutionary. Sorry if I’m already disappointing you but if you know me, you know that I can’t really do serious. This is going to be silly, light, sassy, sarcastic and basically me.

If you do not know me, the photo below pretty much sums me up:

IMG_20171221_113945
Just for the record, there’s no such thing as cocaine tree. That’s a coca tree. 

Who knows, maybe in 10 years time when a famous presenter invites me to their show and asks me how my career as a comedian started, I’ll say ” I had this thing on my blog” .

Let the shenanigans begin!

The Power Pose

8Th of March marks the International Women’s Day, may we never need just one day to celebrate women’s achievements, recognise their rights or highlight their struggles.

Some people make the joke of how women get one day but men have the rest of the year for them. It’s not funny! It’s not funny because we are in 2016 and we are still reminding the society of the pay gap every 8th of March.

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What I’ve learned by being a woman in software engineering

A few months ago I had the great honour to speak at one of the Bristol Girl Geek Dinners events. The topic of my talk was : Women In Software engineering: The ugly, the bad and the good.

I ended up the session with this slide and I meant every word here.

slide

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