Women In Tech: Hang In There And Continue To Dream Big

Didem Un Ates
5 min readFeb 26, 2021

My latest piece on the impact of the #Pandemic on #WomeninTech. While the article focuses on professional aspects, it’s also worth noting that women faced %10–100 increase in domestic violence on the home front, depending on where they live. Extraordinary times to empathize and support one another.

Women In Tech: Hang In There And Continue To Dream Big (forbes.com)

First, I would like to start with a huge thank you. If you are a woman or minority in tech, thank you for your interest, your contribution and your hard work to be in this fantastic sector. We need you. And we need you more than ever due to the impact of the pandemic.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be working in data and AI, one of the most exciting hyper-growth areas in technology. I sincerely hope the following takeaways from my journey will help those on similar paths get to their dream jobs or places in tech more smoothly and more rapidly:

• Dream big.

• Take bold steps toward your dream.

• Embrace obstacles or adversities as springboards for your dream.

I come from a middle-income Turkish family of engineers, mathematicians and entrepreneurs, so my passion for technology is probably genetic. However, there was domestic violence in my family, so as much as I loved my parents, I knew I could not stay in that environment. So when I was in high school, I came up with a dream: To study electrical engineering in the U.S. and be independent, both personally and financially.

I loved my dream to enter the tech world, but I had two obstacles: One was money; my family’s total income was a fraction of the annual cost of studying in the U.S. The other one was that I was sure my parents, especially my father, would not allow me to leave Istanbul and go to the U.S. at 17.

So, what did I do? I applied secretly. I got accepted to the University of Pennsylvania and earned a scholarship. I was choosing dormitories by the time I finally told my parents about my plans for studying EE in the U.S., and at that point, they could not say no.

As such, my first dream had come true! Off I went to Philadelphia to study electrical engineering and strategic management at UPenn. My time at UPenn was challenging but also incredibly rewarding. It was also my first experience as a “woman in technology.” I was one of five girls in a class of 180! That ratio pretty much continued throughout my career.

I started my career in technology at Gemini Consulting (now Capgemini) in Cambridge, Massachusettes. I loved my job so much, but I worked so hard I burned myself out at the end of my first year. It also coincided with my parents’ divorce, so I decided to return to Turkey to help my mother settle in her new life and to recharge myself. Within four months of my return to Istanbul, I had four near-death experiences: two terrorist bomb attacks and two major earthquakes. These experiences made me determined to make the most of my life, which meant turning anything negative (obstacles, crises, challenges) upside down so that it became an advantage, a fantastic opportunity, a springboard for my growth.

I associate this mindset with the lotus flower. If you have seen one, you will agree that it is one of the most gorgeous flowers, yet it grows in the muddiest, smelliest, most disgusting waters. It radiates beauty despite its ugly surroundings. I nurtured many lotus flowers on my path in tech. In each of these incidents, the transition was painful. I did not want to give up a great job or an excellent team. However, in each one, I ended up in a much better place by thinking about converting the situation into an opportunity, an advantage to serve my path.

I can guarantee you that you are either having or will have similar experiences on your path. When — not if — they happen, remember the lotus flower, and make the most of those so-called obstacles.

Currently, we are going through a lotus period as a society. According to many analysts, post-Covid-19 tech development and adoption accelerated rapidly. Yet diversity in tech, especially gender diversity, took a big hit.

According to TrustRadius’ second annual Women in Tech Report (via Forbes), “Women in tech are 1.6x more likely than men to be laid-off or furloughed [and] 8% of female respondents had lost their jobs, as opposed to 5% of male respondents. This was consistent with results of a much larger survey of the general U.S. population conducted by Langer Research, which found that 37% of women vs. 28% of men across industries have been laid-off due to coronavirus.”

The report goes on to note that women typically take on more of the burden when it comes to caring for children by claiming that “72% of women vs. 53% of men surveyed said they are currently struggling with child care. Nearly 60% of the female tech workers responded that they had seen their familial responsibilities increase as a result of Covid-19.”

Yet we need more diversity than ever to ensure this acceleration of tech development and adoption occurs successfully and inclusively. We need you.

So please think very carefully about your dreams, your paths and your mindset to get there.

Here are a few tips that may help you on your path:

• Believe in yourself — break your own mental glass ceilings.

• Be your own advocate and build your brand.

• Build your tribe (mentor and mentee; create fans).

• Volunteer (prepare for your next step).

• Challenge the status quo.

• Remember the lotus.

Mariana Costa Checa, an inspiring social impact entrepreneur from Peru, I had met at the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston in 2018, had made a statement that stayed with me:

“If women knew how much they could change the world with technology, there would be so many more women in tech.”

I could not agree more. Let’s use technology as our magic tool to change the world for the better, and let’s empower other women and minorities to do the same.

#Diversity #Inclusion #STEM #WomeninTech #COVID-19



Didem Un Ates

@Schneider Electric #Data #AI #XR #ResponsibleAI #Diversity #Inclusion # Sustainability Formerly @Microsoft @Upenn @CBS Views are my own