Dear fellows in tech,
We need to talk about unrepresented groups and a new way of thinking. Let me invite you to come with me a little way on my journey from behind the curtains into the public appearance and why representation matters.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a (wo)man changes her/his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards her/him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Gandhi
It’s time to bring out the light under the bushel.
As a mom of five children without higher education or recognized vocational training, I didn’t fit into the regular recruitment requirements. Despite extensive autodidactic training, there were no matching job offers where I could work from home or nearby my hometown. This led me to some unfortunate job experiences. The gap between expectations on both sides was often too big to continue contracts. This experience resulted in frustration and uncertainty.
But this never stopped me to move forward.
If there is no matching job for me in this world, I need to create it by myself.
Over 25 years, I was working for several employers besides my responsibility of managing a big family. One of my hobbies was doing creative stuff with my computer. The access to the world wide web has opened a new universe to me. Building websites for my own, later for friends until I got asked to do it for a small business why I was forced to register a small business by myself as a side-hustle. After now 13 years doing it that way, I decided this spring to start a full-time business as a trainer and consultant for WordPress.
Making a living from services around an Open-Source system like WordPress means also to give something back. One of my job experiences brought me into the ecosystem as an active contributor. I found my passion while translating WordPress, releasing WordPress with German language packs, managing the content on the German project site and many more. But I also learned about diversity and acceptance. The WordPress community is open to all kind of human expressions. But in public appearance, there are mostly men representing what they are doing. Most decisions are made by men. It’s not their fault – in most cases.
The world isn’t monochrome but its human to follow the usual paths. For decades, young girls have been tricked into behaving bravely and obediently. Contributing and working in STEM seems unreachable for many women.
Despite these findings, or precisely because of them, I use my experiences to encourage other women to unequivocally present and defend their abilities and interests. Over several years, I encourage women to speak up and find their unique voice. However, this usually happened in small discussion groups or in one-to-one situations.
You may ask me, why I didn’t make it more public. Unfortunately, I myself fell into the trap of Imposter Syndrome again. The question, “Who cares what I have to say?” is running around in my head like a ping-pong ball more often than I would like to have it.
In 2018, I finally took the chance to share my personal story how working with WordPress literally saved my life at four different WordCamps in Europe. About how I dealt with chronic illness, divorce, the death of beloved ones, about the ups and downs of having a job and losing a job. My talks were honest and very personal. After each talk, I got phenomenal feedback and admiration for my courage to share such touching stories. It was an eyeopener for me.
For 2019 I’ve committed myself to raise the awareness for more diversity and inclusiveness in Open Source communities and tech companies. Many thanks to Andreas for the opportunity, to share my learnings and future steps here as an inspiration to think about what you can do for a more inclusive world.
What are you waiting for? As Gandhi said, you need to be the change, you want to see. If you want to have more diversity in your surroundings, you need to be your own role model.