In honor of International Women’s Day, Harness hosted a panel discussion of five women in tech who have carved a path for themselves as professionals, leaders, parents, volunteers, and more.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was “#EmbraceEquity,” a theme that resonates with many women – particularly those in the technology field. As Harness celebrated International Women’s Day – and Women’s History Month in the United States – we created a platform for women to share their experiences and give advice to other women looking to gain equity in their field.
Moderated by Rehmat Kharal, Global VP of GTM Enablement at Harness, our panelists included:
Kharal kicked off the session by asking the women about their most proud achievements. The panelists shared stories of personal and professional growth. In addition to carving a path in their careers, they also emphasized the importance of balancing work and their personal lives.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved personally and professionally,” Tatiana Salazar shared. “I chose to be in technology when I was very young, and it was labeled as a ‘man’s career.’ But I’ve pushed through from high school to today while balancing my enjoyment of things unrelated to my work. The one thing that I’m really proud of is that it’s not only for me, but it’s also how I encourage this for my team, and we have fun working together.”
Next, the panelists shared how they entered the industry, with some taking a more conventional path of receiving education in their field while others began their careers with something entirely different in mind. Gale Fagan began her education in physics – hoping to be a “footnote in a physics journal” – but found herself “distracted” by computers. What began as a side project taking care of a server evolved into a lifelong interest in technology, demonstrating that perseverance and taking risks pay off when you find your passion. The panelists expressed pride in where their careers have landed – but the journey wasn’t always easy.
The discussion turned toward how the women faced challenges related to being in a male-dominated industry. Erin Trinka noted that the everyday challenges at work can feel unique when you’re the only woman in the room, and staying true to your values is critical. Fanija Vasquez shared that the only way to build confidence is simply to practice it whenever the opportunity arises.
“You can either take a backseat and be comfortable or take an active role…and step up to the opportunity,” Vasquez said. “Opportunities are not always given, but they’re presented, and you have to go after them and take them. And it’s not always comfortable…but over time, that uncomfortable feeling becomes resiliency, and you’re more confident to take on the next challenge.”
Rajeswari Koppala emphasized the significant impact that mentorship has had on her growth and how important it is when finding your footing in an industry to have people in your corner.
“For me, I have had a couple of mentors,” Koppala said. “You see how people act toward the work that you are doing – and how you need to reiterate the same thing over and over because you are a woman, you come from a certain background, you have a different accent…you need a person to back you up and see the value in what you’re doing. Mentorship is really important for women to go forward.”
As the panelists recalled facing challenges in their careers, celebrating wins – big or small – was important. Sometimes, they opted to take some time for themselves, while others focused on a project that brought them joy. However they chose to celebrate their achievements, one message was clear: it’s important to take time for yourself and stay true to who you are.
When asked how she celebrates, Fagan shared that while material goods are a great motivator, taking time for herself to “build another cool thing” was the most rewarding. “My husband offered to buy a bag for me if I hit a certain milestone – but I realized I’d rather make replicas of old computers!” Fagan said. “I’d rather take time and just ‘be,’ which at a certain point, becomes a rare luxury.”
Trinka similarly opted for celebrating her individuality as a reward for reaching a goal. “I probably don’t celebrate enough,” she admitted. “But for the bigger achievements, I have a glass of wine, a nice dinner, maybe a new purse…or I may dye my hair a different color.”
According to a recent survey from Zippia, although women comprise 47% of employed adults in the United States, as of 2022 they only make up 28% of the workforce in computing and mathematics roles. In addition:
With so few women represented in the industry, women often face an uphill battle to gain recognition. While more women are entering computing and mathematics roles, receiving equity and parity – both in terms of representation and compensation – is yet to be realized. In an article for Forbes, Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operating Officer of Space Foundation, describes the root of many challenges for women in technology.
"Traditional societal roles suggest men are often the change-makers,” Shelli wrote. “Not only is this inaccurate, but it isn’t fair to either gender. In the technology industry, as well as other spheres, such thinking can cause men to look at gender more in terms of quotas than what a female job candidate has to offer and what upward mobility could look like. This type of thinking also undersells women’s abilities to advocate for themselves and their interests.”
These are just a few highlights from the panel, so be sure to watch the on-demand recording for the full insights.
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