The often-marginalized role of women in the technology industry is a perennially relevant topic for discussion. One can’t browse their twitter feed, open a tech publication, or even watch Silicon Valley without being bombarded with reminders that bring us back to the question: How do we close the gender gap? Some industry experts will firmly insist that we’re facing a pipeline issue, originating early in the educational process. They aren’t wrong, but to claim that this is the only cause of the staggering gender imbalance is an oversimplification. Others, particularly women themselves, might tell you the cause of women leaving the industry in droves is their work environment: Google ‘sexism in technology’ for a plethora of evidence supporting this theory. You might even stumble upon the ridiculous school of thought that women’s brains aren’t built to handle math or the sciences as well as men’s. It’s an ironically unscientific opinion, and you have my permission to ridicule anyone who parrots it.
Being a young woman who has spent the majority of her professional career in the world of technology, this gap looms over me on a daily basis. It has been almost two months since I became a member of Team Citrine, and I can admit that joining a group of four men with serious technical and scientific backgrounds was daunting to put it mildly. When I contemplated how I might fit in, I’m not sure whether it was my lack of a PhD, or my inability to grow a beard that weighed more heavily on me. I struggled to imagine how I could be a good “cultural-fit”, knowing full well that not possessing this cryptic quality can be the kiss of death at an early-stage company. I had the startup experience, I had the HQ, but I was lacking the Y chromosome. Particularly in the materials industry, I worried that I was joining an old boy’s club. While I wasn’t wrong about the gender imbalance, I quickly learned that my worry was misplaced.
What I found when I arrived at Citrine exceeded my expectations. The team not only welcomed my viewpoint, but seemed visibly troubled by anecdotes of sexism and unfair treatment in the workplace. Articles discussing diversity issues are frequently circulated amongst the team, and instead of dismissal, they are consistently met with thoughtful discussions — “How can we make sure that we never allow this to creep into our culture?”
When I expressed an interest in learning to code, instead of the “But why?” or “That’s not what we hired you to do” that I’ve come to expect, I received resounding approval. The team eagerly explained all the ways in which even basic scripting would make my daily tasks easier, and discussed how I could become a contributing member to our code base. I felt genuinely encouraged and uplifted, a rare sentiment since entering the startup world.
Citrine has restored my faith that I may be able to honestly encourage more women to pursue careers in science and technology. While we certainly understand that the optics of having a diverse company are important, it is not our driving motivational factor in prioritizing diversity. We recognize that building a team that is strengthened by a variety of different perspectives is the ultimate goal.
The lack of women in technology is just one of many important topics in the larger conversation about diversity in the workplace. We realize that not all are easy to talk about, and there is much improvement to be made. But I am thrilled to be working with a team that is so thoroughly committed to broaching these difficult subjects, and, to be truly welcomed by them as an equal.