The benefits of diversity are far from a secret. Diverse companies perform better, hire better talent and are better at engaging with and retaining employees. We’re not just making this up; it’s science. When companies stop focusing on one section of society, they create better and safer products that take everyone into consideration.
Yet, somehow only a quarter of all tech jobs are held by women. Girls and young women are less likely to study STEM subjects, and over two-thirds of women don’t consider a career in tech.
Acknowledging the issues is only the first step towards solving the problem. Step two is taking action. We caught up with Sarah Morris and Cydney Johnson, two members of TechBuffalo‘s team, to talk about their roles, what inspired them and what TechBuffalo is doing to push women’s growth in tech.
CG: Tell me about you and your role at TechBuffalo?
SM: I am the Operations Lead at TechBuffalo. As an organization of three, we tend to have some natural overlap in our responsibilities, however, my main focus aside from daily operational items is focusing on our Tech Pathways Programs. We are currently partnered with various educational institutions who offer non matriculated tech training programs, all of which having funding opportunities available. Our goal is to make these opportunities visible and accessible to the community and serve as a resource for individuals looking to break into technology, employers looking to hire tech talent as well as existing technologists looking to learn new skills.
CJ: Being a startup, I wear a lot of hats, but my official title is the Marketing and Outreach Lead at TechBuffalo. I primarily handle all external communications, including our social media channels, all publications, and website management. I also have the privilege of meeting with representatives of local community organizations, industry professionals, and educational institutions. And lastly, I lead efforts for the WNY Tech Skills Initiative.
CG: What attracted you to TechBuffalo?
SM: Having grown up in Buffalo, I am very passionate about the city and being able to play a role in building up our community sounded (and is) very rewarding! There is so much opportunity in the technology field as well as the City of Buffalo and I wanted to be able to play a part in bringing visibility to that.
CG: Why do you feel it’s important to increase the number of women in tech?
SM: As a female, I think that seeing women in various tech roles helps to drive home the message that a successful career in technology is achievable. Previously, a lot of women wouldn’t entertain the thought of a possible career in technology as it is such a predominantly male field that it is difficult to imagine holding a similar position. I think that by adding more women into the field we will begin to break down this mindset and open the doors to not only increase job opportunities for women, but enhance the talent pool as well.
CJ: Representation and diversity! A lot of women I speak with talk about dealing with imposter syndrome in the workplace. They are qualified for their job and do their job well but being the only woman in the room gives them that feeling of not belonging. Having more women in the field reduces that feeling and provides more role models for others who may be interested in tech and future generations. I would also include diversity, not only for gender purposes but of thought. Having a team with similar thought processes doesn’t provide different points of view. With different methods of thinking there are more possibilities for innovative thoughts.
CG: Who or what has inspired you throughout your career?
SM: It is hard for me to pick one specific person or event that has inspired me. I have been fortunate to have had very supportive bosses/mentors throughout my career who have always encouraged me to grow and go outside of my comfort zone. I think it is important to have people in your life who believe in you and give you that little nudge to get a little uncomfortable as that is where you truly see the most growth.
CJ: I would say my parents have been my biggest inspiration. My mom is such a strong woman who is so compassionate and caring. She always encouraged me to reach my fullest potential. My dad was always so supportive and helped me find what I’m most passionate about. Whenever I take on something new, I always hear him say “If you love what you’re doing you’ll never work a day in your life.” I am forever grateful to them both.
CG: Please share any efforts that you and/or TechBuffalo are taking to push women’s growth in tech.
SM: One ongoing effort at TechBuffalo is our Women In Tech weekly blog series that is posted every Wednesday. It is really inspiring to hear stories about all of the different paths that each person has taken to get to where they are. I love this blog series because I think it helps eliminate the messaging that women can’t make it in technology or, that because you currently work in a field that isn’t tech specific, you can’t pivot your career to be more technology focused. Many of the women we have met from various organizations have come from “nontraditional” technology backgrounds and have leveraged their existing industry knowledge into a more tech-focused role within their industry.
CJ: Sure! Every Wednesday, TechBuffalo publishes a blog, Women in Tech WNY. This blog highlights women in our local community and the various technology roles they fill, traditional and non-traditional. I felt like starting this blog was important because there are so many women in our own backyard doing amazing things and sharing their stories could positively impact another woman starting her journey. It’s been personally rewarding celebrating these women and seeing these women be celebrated.
It’s been exciting seeing individuals nominate their colleagues, friends, mentors, and bosses. If you know someone who may be interested in participating, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Interested in discovering your tech career options, learning new skills in coding, data, marketing, and user experience design from the comfort of your own home? Check out TechBuffalo’s WNY Tech Skills Initiative!
If you’re ready to get started with a startup, Forge Buffalo‘s got you covered! Join the growing talent community and let Buffalo’s most dynamic startups find you, stay up to date on the newest positions with our job board and keep your finger on the pulse with Flashpoint the Forge Buffalo blog.