I did go to the mac and cheese fest in Indianapolis, to eat of course, and to reflect on the journey I took in the past year. It really hit me when someone messaged me on LinkedIn saying I’m a high profile person.
I’m like wait. What? Me? Holy moly!
I recently saw a post on Instagram that said “What’s your why?” (By the way, I see so many great posts that it drives me nuts that I can’t screenshot all of them.)
Here’s my big why.
I want to create tech startups and safe work environments for women. In school, my advisor told me I’ll be jobless. I had professors who basically called me stupid and a bunch of mean names I won’t say (I’ll keep this a PG article, I will keep the curse words and racial slurs out). It felt hostile everyday in college and I definitely felt I was not wanted around. I had organizations cut me out of leadership positions who didn’t think I knew what I was talking about.
I know there are women out there going through the same thing, getting bashed, discouraged, and being told what they can’t or shouldn’t do.
Being an entrepreneur means that you solve problems and add value to people’s lives. I recently learned that it’s great to solve problems that you’ve experienced. And trust me, I’m in tech and love it to pieces, but there’s a lack of women in it. I’m working starting on a smaller scale to change that — by hiring as many women as I can in my tech startups. This is my why.
Conventional wisdom states that STEM fields are the only fields that make a lot of money. Whenever I hear CGT or engineering person say that “communication/acting sucks,” I always say, “Slow your roll bro!” I believe it does not boil down to diplomas or degrees. You should use your talents to help people, not shove it down people throats to display how smart you are.
More on that later.
I read too many articles on the internet of horror stories of what too many women have to go through in STEM fields. All those kinds of sh*t happened to me. If I talked about all the racist labels and stereotypes I experienced, we would be here for hours (and remember what I said above, I’m keeping it PG), and you don’t want to go read through all that mess. If you want to read up on some of it, go here.
Trust me, I know what it’s like to walk in a room and not be wanted, or be in a environment so hostile that it makes you sick.
I know what it’s like to be around unsupportive peers who stay silent when they don’t support what you’re doing. Or stab you in the back because you think differently than they do.
I know the women and racism in STEM horror stories happens because I’ve experienced it first hand.
Did any of that noise stop me? No. I’m sure if they could have, they would have. But since they were trying so hard to make sure my yellow b*tt wasn’t around, I pushed back and stayed in it, by moving forward without them in my life. I took the Denzel Washington approach: “You can find it [race] wherever you like. You can’t live like that. Just do the best you can do.”
I will say that I’ve experienced less and less racism after ditching the wrong people. Though I know it will still happen from time to time, I’m ready for it.
I tweeted to Donna Orender, Sanyin Siang, and Melanie Pinola.
On November 20th, 2015, I tweeted Melanie Pinola after reading her articles (the third one is Sanyin Siang’s by the way).
We Aren't Imagining It: The Tech Industry Needs More Women
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Why There Aren't More Women in Tech, and Why It Matters, in One Graphic
Tech, and other STEM disciplines, have a notable gender and diversity disparity. This graphic explains a few reasons…
What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Taylor Swift And Other Game Changers
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No, I really didn’t run at the first sign of blood. I did not wait for people in college to accept me. Their silence isn’t going to make me into who they want me to be. With or without their support, I’m going to continue to move forward.
I was going to figure out a way to create my own opportunities and make it happen. I spoke it into existence.
Melanie, definitely staying strong, I got like minded people around me nowadays and it’s making a hell of a difference! Like I said above, the most racism I’ve experienced was in formal education (and ironically, that’s where you spend a good portion of your childhood).
As I was interviewing interns, I didn’t realize that the dream came true until a few days ago. I said wait a minute, I literally spoke this into existence a year ago, and it’s coming to life. It materialized because I believed it could happen.
2 Quick Sidenotes:
- Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I’m here to say. But I notice people in my family or peers don’t understand it (and they are like most people). Since I’m not punching in a typical time clock, they don’t see it as “work.” They think their way is the only possible way to make money (which is trading time for money instead of money for time. Google “time for money” and trading time for money quotes. So many posts come up that I don’t need to write one lol). I’m actually going to write a post about this soon, but I generally look past their lack of understanding. And the people that understand get it (and I don’t have to explain this type of stuff to them). Did you know most of my family has no earthly idea that I’m creating startups? And that I generally don’t try too “overly” hard to explain myself?
- Not every woman experiences these issues (thank goodness). There’s women that haven’t experienced discrimination at college or in the workplace (which is awesome)! What I’m saying in writing this is that there’s a unwelcoming culture that discourages women from pursuing stem fields and other male-dominated fields. It starts early when the male is picked over a female classmate or when a male interrupts a female and the behavior is allowed. Many times it’s so subtle that most people wouldn’t understand it unless you been through it. I can’t tell you the number of times that a professor said that I sucked or a project was the worst he’s ever seen. Or those dirty looks that you get when you walk down the hallways. Ironically, the same school claimed that they wanted women and diversity in STEM fields, yet embraced the culture to make women and different cultures feel unwelcomed! When I tried to tell the department head that they should lay off labeling people based on race and gender (and get to know people as a person), I was accused of having an attitude! The biggest hypocrites I’ve ever seen.
Not all men are sexist jerks, and we’re not writing this to make men feel guilty or say that they didn’t earn any of their successes. No one’s saying “let’s put women in charge just because they’re women” or “let’s give women jobs they’re not qualified for because feminism” (To grab a line from the Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Feminism is not a curse word)-Melanie Pinola
When people ask “well what do you want to do with your life?” I just smile, because I’m already doing it under the radar. And trust me, when you are doing it, you don’t have to overly brag about it, I promise.
No I won’t be able to prevent everything for the ladies that I work with, but I will work my tail off in every startup I’m involved with that women are around and holding leadership positions.
My “why” has come true.
Hello! I’m Alesha! I’m a musician, actress, entrepreneur and writer and foodie. Follow on Twitter. If you like what I’m writing, give me a heart and share! :) I like hearts. Let me know what you want me to write! Click here!