As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re excited to celebrate one of our own employees who has made a big impact on the success of the company. We asked Michelle Vu, Engineering Manager at Craft, a few questions on her career path, the importance of fostering inclusive cultures and policies in the workplace for women, and more.
What was your path to becoming a software engineer, and what intrigued you about it?
I was working in marketing and fundraising at a non-profit doing graphic design and communications when tasked with overseeing the redesign of the organization’s website. I was intrigued by the process, the code, and how the developers made forms function. The problems the developers solved in web applications were exciting and much more complex than the layout of an annual report. I fell in love with the possibility of building anything I wanted with just a computer and my ideas. The itch to learn how to code grew, and it didn’t go away. So I quit. I quit my career of six years and enrolled in code school full-time. After three grueling months of code school, I barely had enough skills to pass a junior developer job interview. I couldn’t believe it when I got three job offers. For a first-generation Vietnamese woman, it felt like getting a golden ticket into a tech chocolate factory.
Do you think women bring a unique/important perspective to the profession? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. Diversity and inclusion are essential for any industry, and the tech industry is no exception. Women bring a unique and valuable perspective to the tech industry that can enhance innovation and problem-solving.
Every day, women drive cars, use bathrooms, live in houses, and use technology not designed for their needs. Women make up half of the population, and their experiences and perspectives are just as important as men’s. However, the tech industry has historically been male-dominated, and there is still a gender gap in the industry today. Encouraging more women to pursue careers in tech can bring new perspectives, ideas, and solutions to the industry’s challenges.
Moreover, a more diverse workforce can help companies better understand and meet the needs of diverse users and customers, leading to more effective and innovative products and services. Therefore, it’s crucial to create a more inclusive environment in the tech industry and provide equal opportunities for all genders to contribute to its growth and success.
What advice would you give young women entering this profession?
- Build a strong foundation: Start by developing a strong foundation in computer science and programming if you have the time. If you are switching careers or industry, take courses, attend workshops, and work on personal projects to build your skills.
- Find a mentor: Look for a mentor who can guide you and provide advice on navigating the industry. Seek out successful women and men in tech and ask for their guidance. Best of all, a great mentor is your biggest cheerleader and supporter.
- Network: Attend conferences, meetups, and events to network with other professionals in the industry. This can help you build relationships and open up new opportunities. My network helped me get interviews and even job offers.
- Be confident: Remember that you deserve to be in the industry and can make valuable contributions. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back.
- Speak up: Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your unique perspective and insights can bring new ideas and solutions to the table.
Remember, the tech industry needs more women and diversity to thrive, so don’t be afraid to take risks, and speak up.
What company inclusion strategies for women have you seen work well and not so well in the workplace?
I always found it funny when a company says, “we’re a family company,” but doesn’t provide adequate maternity leave and none of the executives are women. As a pregnant woman, I’m grateful to Craft for offering paid parental leave even if my state laws do not require it. It makes a world of difference for first-time parents like me to transition into motherhood and continue my career. Adequate benefits and inclusive policies go a long way to help retain women in the workplace. Here are some more company inclusion strategies for women that have been found to work well:
- Encouraging a diverse candidate pool: Companies that actively seek diverse candidates for job openings have been found to be more successful in increasing gender diversity in the workplace. Let’s be honest, no woman wants to be the only female on the team.
- Offering flexible work arrangements: Companies that offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can help women balance work and personal responsibilities.
- Pay equity: Ensuring that women are paid fairly compared to their male counterparts can help retain female talent and promote a more equitable workplace.
On the other hand, some inclusion strategies for women that have not worked well include:
- Gender quotas: While gender quotas can increase gender diversity in the workplace, they can also be perceived as tokenism and lead to resentment from male employees.
- Ignoring the issue: Companies that ignore the issue of gender diversity in the workplace can struggle to retain female talent and may face negative publicity and reputation damage.
- Providing inadequate support: Providing inadequate support or failing to address issues such as harassment and discrimination can make it difficult for women to succeed in the workplace.
Overall, it’s important for companies to develop comprehensive inclusion strategies that take into account the unique challenges faced by women in the workplace and provide targeted support to address these challenges.
What does progress look like to you when it comes to equitable representation and treatment for women in tech?
- Increased representation: Progress would be indicated by increased representation of women in the tech industry at all levels, including leadership positions.
- Addressing the gender pay gap: Progress would be seen by closing the gender pay gap in the tech industry, which is currently wider than in many other industries.
- Safer and more inclusive work environments: Progress would be indicated by safer and more inclusive work environments that actively address issues such as harassment and discrimination.
- Better representation of women in STEM education: Progress would be indicated by increased representation of women in STEM education, which could help increase the pool of qualified female candidates for tech roles.
Ultimately, progress in equitable representation and treatment for women in tech should involve creating an environment that encourages, supports and celebrates the contributions of women. It requires a comprehensive approach, involving not just individual companies but also wider societal changes that support gender equity in education and employment.