Do you have distinct memories of your youth? A vacation, a graduation, or perhaps just a cute dog? I vividly remember the different versions of myself that helped shape the person I am today. I remember the 7-year-old me who wanted to save the world as a cardiologist, not realizing my only claim to fame would be heart diseases. The teenage me that wanted to be everything from a journalist, to a writer, to an aerial hoop instructor. At 21, I uprooted my life by stepping into a new country to pursue a Gender Degree with far less experience than anyone else in my class. Little did I know that today, the 24 year old me would be a Masters Graduate in Gender, Media and Culture, whose day job is a Data Analyst at Amazon UK.
So how exactly did that happen? I’ve always wanted to have a major impact in the world I live in, maybe leave it slightly better than when I entered it. Discovering the “how to” has been a journey. My path hasn’t been a linear one. It was a path charted through experience, exposure, self doubt, and reflecting and introspecting at every point.
As young women, we need to learn to take our own decisions, irrespective of societal pressure, gender norms or familial expectations. I studied everything. From sciences in high school, to Mass communication in my undergraduate degree. I was trying to find something that drove me, something that made an impact. Then I found a course called Language and Gender at UC Berkeley and my life changed. I don’t know where I’d be if not for that one decision. The 3 years after that course, I studied about every aspect of Gender Representation possible. My Masters at LSE enveloped me into a world of gender issues and discrimination that I was slightly aware of, but never knew the extent of. Then I graduated and entered the real world where utopia is an unknown commodity.
Nothing, and i mean NOTHING prepares you for a cut throat, gendered job market. A market where you’re evaluated on the experience you can’t have and not the skills that you do have. Let me tell you a fun fact, I did over 600 job applications before I landed my first proper job.
I consider myself to be lucky to be working where I work. What surprised me most about my team at Amazon is that it’s mostly made up of women. Women creating software, women handling finance and women empowering women. And the men? Having heard so much about toxic masculine behaviour at the workplace, I had a preconceived notion about how the men at work would be. The reality of it all was entirely different. The men in my team are allies, they’re empathetic, one of them even loves Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”.
I’m not denying that tech is gendered, all I’m saying is, if you’re a woman alone in a boardroom full of men, maybe you’re not outnumbered, but one of a kind. You bring a fresh perspective, a holistic diverse world view to the table. Speak up more, let your voice be heard and at some point it will resonate. Do not let your own imposter syndrome get you. I’m sure mine did at some point. If I ever feel conscious of being the giggly girl amongst my male colleagues, it is always my own mean girl voice in my head giving into my insecurities. One morning I deliberated for an hour before showing up to my virtual Halloween meeting as “Quarantine Queen” (the costume was me with pearls, sunglasses, a robe and a bottle of wine). And was that self-doubt an effect of a male dominated environment making me feel unworthy of working in the industry? No. Not directly, anyway! It was just me over thinking as a result of a long history of gender imbalance in the tech domain and questioning my position there. It was my imposter syndrome talking.
So what are my two cents as a woman in tech, I’m not a fan of the label “women in tech” for one. I know I can’t wait for the day we can drop the ‘women in…’ badge and just be seen for our accomplishments. I want to be respected for success in my profession, before the mention of my gender. I can’t wait for the day when instead of calling women out, we call them in.
As young women, don’t be intimidated by math and science. Ask questions. Sometimes the problem is the teacher, not the subject. You may need to explore other sources of learning. You can study anything you want and get any job that you want. There exists no barrier in getting the job you want just because you studied what you like. (I know someone who studied philosophy and works in a Bank) .Educate yourself as much as you can. You’re never overdressed or overeducated. Read. I cannot emphasise the importance of being well read. It helps you be worldly and wise. (cliché, but true).
And lastly, at some point in your life, it’s okay not knowing. We’ve been conditioned to always know our path, be clear, plan your future, have a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan but the future is uncertain, more so now than ever. Someone will always be more successful, achieving more milestones than you, be richer, far more attractive but they’ll never be you. I’ve realised how happy you are at any given point has nothing to do with any of these parameters. My support system makes me happy, a walk in the park makes me happy. My favourite books make me happy, dogs make me happy.
Virginia Woolf once said, “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think”
This piece was written by Aashna Bhatia. She is a Data Analyst at Amazon UK. Masters in Gender, Media and Culture from The London School of Economics and Political Science.
Instagram: @aashnabhatia14Linkedin : https://www.linkedin.com/in/aashna-bhatia-69b66777/