Can we have more Sheryl Sandburg’s, please?! She nails it with her 2017 Commencement speech to Virginia Tech grads. If you haven’t seen it already, watch it here.
Or if you would rather read what she said, here is the transcript.
“We are not born with a certain amount of resilience,” Sandberg told students. “It is a muscle, and that means we can build it.”
Why is resilience especially important for women in tech? It’s simple: The majority of us have to walk into an office where we feel like outsiders in terms of gender and often ethnicity as well. Even with the most “supportive” office cultures, the numbers don’t lie. We are outnumbered. And many of us will find ourselves at companies where managers can be unsupportive, peers are oblivious, and company cultures that don’t value diversity. So, we really need resilience to survive, let alone thrive.
According to Sandburg:
“Throughout my last two decades, I have leaned heavily on communities that provide this type of “collective resilience.”
Personally, I have seen first-hand how powerful it can be for women in tech feel included and find a community. For me, it’s been incredibly important to connect with other women who may also feel like outsiders in their careers.
Finding a Community
I grew up in a small town in Texas. Girls were encouraged to play sports rather than excel in school. Throw in that I was also interested in computers and science… and I was definitely an outsider!
Fortunately, my parents helped me enroll in tech and math programs outside of school. I remember for the first time discovering that I wasn’t the only female who liked science and math thanks to Texas Women’s University (TWU) STEM summer program. Two summers later, I learned I also wasn’t the only Hispanic female who enjoyed science and math thanks to Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Academy of Minority Scholars program. These were only 2 of many programs that I attended throughout my youth. If someone ever asks how I got involved in computer science and stayed in it, I can point to all these programs.
With the friends I built throughout the years attending all these programs, I have a collective group of shared experiences that helped me and continues to help me now stay resilient. It’s important to find programs where you belong and find a strong sense of community.
Building a Community Now and for the Future
The reason I wanted to launch the Girls in Tech Chicago chapter was I felt that Chicago women in technology were missing this supportive community. We are all spread out within the city in all different types of companies. However, if we come together we can be stronger as a whole. We can introduce each other to the interesting work we are doing. We can boast about each other’s accomplishments to other colleagues inside or outside our company. We can help one another find new opportunities within the city. We can just be there for each other if we have had a particular hard day at work. We can build this community with “collective resilience.”
I think it’s also important to support organizations for future generations.
ChiTech is one amazing example of a program that is doing this. ChiTech is the city’s first technology high school targeted at a diverse population. I attended “Little Black Dress Event” a few weeks ago which was a fundraiser for the Young Women’s Leadership Society at ChiTech. These young women have experienced a supportive community of classmates and teachers for the last four years which have made it possible to excel in subjects like technology. This support can make the world of difference as they chart the course of their futures.
Finally, in researching for this post, I looked up the the details on the first STEM summer camp I attended at Texas Women University’s STEM program. To my disappointment, I found this message:
W4STEM Camp (Women for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics): June 18-23
This camp has been cancelled.
My first STEM summer camp no longer exists!
This is why we have to work hard to support each other and programs and outlets for women in tech!