Along with our community manager and marketing assistant, I attended the 2015 Philly Women in Tech Summit in April. The event included exciting keynote speakers such as Kelly Hoey and Renee Chenault-Fattah. A fantastic networking opportunity, the event featured several planned tracks. More importantly, I noticed some organic themes that came up in discussion. Here are four key things I learned at the Philly Women in Tech Summit.
A Reminder I Needed: Yes, Blogging is a Real Job
I've been paid to write blog posts and articles before. I made a living off of it for years! However, it's hard to get past the whole stereotype of blogging (or working at home) being 'fake' when it comes to an actual career path. Connecting with other women who blog and listening to noted speakers affirmed the value of blogging as well as the blogger herself. I'm pretty sensitive about the whole 'working at home' thing, even when I'm working on the SEMrush blog after hours at home.
Many people just don't take it seriously, and on top of that, doing anything 'at home' as a woman just opens the door to reinforcing negative (untrue, unfair) stereotypes of moms and other women who work at home. It's really hard to succeed if you let yourself get held back by the silly fears of perception, but women are often hyper-aware of these stereotypes. Connecting with each other in a professional setting helps us reaffirm our value in a positive way.
Defying Expectations Comes With the Job
Along with the aforementioned negative stereotypes, being a woman in tech isn't easy. You have to deal with all the other challenges professional women face. However, since innovation is an expectation in this industry, so is the expectation that you will defy any limits placed on you. This is a real strength of working in tech!
You can sidestep some of the outdated corporate mentality by becoming an entrepreneur or finding employment with a dynamic startup or forward-thinking company that appreciates innovation.
Change What You Don't Like
When progress isn't happening fast enough in our industry, it's easy to gripe and commiserate with others. When I attend events and conventions and look at the experts on the panel (diverse or not), I tend to think 'they're the experts and I'm in the audience.' However, enacting change was a positive theme throughout the summit. This point felt especially personal to me, having recently participated in my first panel at a comic book convention, still wondering if I really had any place there. Months later, another convention ran an all-male panel about women in comics and I realized I should probably make an effort to participate in fan community events more aggressively in the future.
My takeaways from the summit were:
- If you have authority and expertise, use it in a positive way to bring change.
- Ask yourself: would a man second-guess whether he's qualified to participate on a panel after being asked?
'Women in Tech' Includes a Wide Range of Roles
When our community manager first asked me if I was interested in heading to the Philly Women in Tech Summit, I immediately accepted – and then wondered if I really belonged at a conference for women in technology. I've been blogging since the days of LiveJournal and learned my WordPress basics by writing about what I love. My perception of a woman in tech fell in line with other aspects of STEM – someone working with hardware, elaborate code or equations.
However, as several of the speakers noted, 'women in tech' covers most employed in the industry, including those of us who manage digital content and communities. I came to my current role from a digital publishing background. Thinking about tech in broader terms not only helps me find my own place in the community, but also helps me think about the wide variety of content we can serve to the tech industry here on the SEMrush Blog.