In preparation for International Women’s Day, I sat down with our very own female tech guru, Dan Zhang, to find out how she started her career in development and the everyday challenges she has to overcome as not only a woman but a woman in tech.
How did you get into tech in the first place?
“Well, it has nothing to do with passion or ambition, it's more to do with that I’m not very good at other things… I’m bad at memorising things such as people’s names, numbers and how to spell things which has made subjects such as history or politics impossible. But, I am good at logic, reasoning and mathematics so studying computer science seemed like the most logical option for me.
“When people find out what I do they often wonder how I, as a woman, am able to cope. But from my point of view, whilst coding is complicated when you don’t know anything about this field… once you’ve started and you’ve studied the subject, it’s no more difficult for a female than it is for a male!
“There aren’t fewer women in tech because it’s too hard, I mean the first ever computer was a coder: Ada Lovelace! And in countries such as Jordan 56% of STEM graduates are females. The reason there are less female developers in the UK and where I’m from in China is because of gender stereotypes which we are exposed to from a very young age where girls are steered away from STEM in education and jobs as this is deemed as a ‘male-dominated’ subject.
“Where I went to University, in my class there were 8 females and 52 males. I was also encouraged to steer away from IT & Technology but if I hadn’t of tried I wouldn’t have ended up being a woman in tech so if you get the chance, you should take it!”
What challenges have you had to overcome since working in the industry?
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is as a woman, people will expect you to spend more time taking care of the family and the housework rather than a man doing these things. Especially once you’ve had a child. I think most people take it for granted that taking care of a child is a ‘woman’s job.’ They accept it if you spend a lot of time with family but not if you spend this time working, studying or upscaling your skills in tech; an industry which is constantly evolving and changing.
“I am very lucky. I have a very supportive husband who encourages me and my career and is happy to take care of our little one, even when I have to study or work in the evening or weekend. I’m also very lucky to work at Sagittarius; who trust me to work remotely from time to time so I can save the 3-hour commute and pick my daughter up from nursery before it closes.”
What have your highlights of working in STEM been so far?
“I think the biggest highlight for me is now that I am more experienced and taken seriously in the industry, my skills and my work are being recognised. Clients and male colleagues trust me and what I have to say, they will discuss their technical issues with me and see me as an expert in my field. This two-way respect means that we can learn from each other and grow as a team, it’s a very positive step in the right direction.”
What is your vision for the future of women in tech?
“I can say that the awareness in the industry is growing and that girls are being encouraged more and more to get involved in STEM subjects. I like to think that anything is possible for women because this way of thinking is how we unlock our potential.
“Whilst raising my little girl, she’s 2 at the moment, I am not going to tell her what girls are usually good at or what toys they like, she can develop that by herself so that she can reach her own potential. Currently, she plays with toys such as Barbie dolls and robots. I’m not going to define her future because I want her to retain all possibilities, it might take generations to see those changes, to see more women in STEM but I am very positive about what the future holds for women in this industry.”
It’s amazing how gender roles and stereotypes still exist in our everyday lives with people such as Dan facing them head on daily. At Sagittarius, we are very proud to say that 41% of our workforce are women and that we are always actively recruiting women in tech and female developers to join our global team!
This blog was originally posted via Sagittarius on 11th March 2019.