Gender equality continues to be a major issue in the technology industry. Recently Nearshore Americas published an article examining the issue of gender in the nearshore services market, and found that there continue to be problems. One of the most concerning findings of the article, was the prevalence of stereotypes about women working in technology.
To help counter some of these stereotypes and provide more insight into what it’s actually like working for a technology company like Belatrix, all this week I will be publishing a series of conversations with women working at Belatrix, in different roles.
I hope these profiles and conversations provide a bit more color to what life is like working at a technology company, and perhaps even inspire some young women to take up a tech career. First up, is Silvana Gaia.
Introducing Silvana Gaia, Senior Technical Consultant
Silvana Gaia was the 9th developer to join Belatrix when we first started the company. During her time at Belatrix she has worked in numerous different positions, gaining new skills and insights as she supports the company in different areas – ranging from being a developer, quality assistant, project lead, account manager, technical consultant to production director. In 2008 she decided to leave Belatrix and work as a freelance software developer and systems analyst, and afterwards also gained more experience at a mobile software development company.
Now, since returning to Belatrix several years ago, together with her husband, Pablo Lecea, she is responsible for running and building up Belatrix’s Silicon Valley operations.
Alex: Silvana, many thanks for sharing your thoughts here. First up, why did you decide to study software engineering?
Silvana: I was a good student in elementary school, and also interested in STEM subjects. Very early on in my life I knew I wanted to be a mother and a professional, and I was concerned about achieving both goals. In the nineties, as the Internet was emerging, remote working became the subject of popular attention. I realized this was my opportunity to achieve both goals, so I decided to study software engineering. Although to be honest, at that time I didn’t know exactly what the career entails, it sounded really cool to me.
What is a typical day for you like?
I usually wake up around 7am and have breakfast with my family. I take my kids to school and get set for the day. Some days I go to our Silicon Valley’s office and have calls with colleagues in Argentina, Peru or Colombia about new business opportunities. I also have great nerd conversations with my husband while we share an Argentinean “mate”. Some other days I have meetings with prospective and current customers in the bay area.
I work part time at the office so I have to be very productive. I pick my kids up from school and I do things with them in the afternoon.
What do you love most about your job? Is there anything you dislike?
This answer will be long! I really enjoy my work.
First, I love to study. This work enables me to stay on top of the latest technology trends and sometimes write about them. I really like being able to speak English and improve my communication skills.
Also, I have a great degree of control and freedom within my job. I work part-time on a flexible schedule, both in and out-of-office. It makes me proud and grateful that I have been able to achieve that level of trust and I work hard to maintain it. Furthermore, I have the opportunity to travel and meet diverse people. It is always changing, evolving and the challenge keeps me engaged and excited.
I dislike the amount of effort I invest in fitting work and life activities within my calendar. Sometimes it is exhausting.
What is it like working in a male-dominated industry? Have you faced any particular challenges?
I was lucky to grow up in a family that didn’t instil gender-specific constraints and biases.
Back in the early days at university, I realized that the percentage of enrollment of women in the software engineering was around 20%. Later on, although the proportion in my class increased, the embedded stereotype was that women should be an analyst and men should be coders. I was part of a group of women that were really good at coding, and people looked at us with astonishment. Sometimes I needed to work harder to demonstrate my skills and overcome prejudices.
Although nowadays I don’t code, my programming skills set the basis background of my current position.
Do you think Belatrix or the tech industry could do more to encourage more women in the tech industry? Do you have any advice to aspiring female developers?
It’s refreshing to find companies like Belatrix that are seriously committed to give equal opportunities to men and women, but there is a lot of work to be done, and not only in the tech industry.
One of the key factors of woman empowerment in the economy is the improvement of access to good quality public care services. This is an aspect that is left for families to deal with. You could take a look to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which suggests that care work should be counted as part of country’s GDP, as it is essential for households and economies to function, but it is also less valued.
In the meantime, initiatives like this one, to show womens’ profiles in technology helps to change expectations on how a computer programmer, or a person working in technology, should be like. Tech people include not only nerd men working in the dark, but also moms breastfeeding their babies and coding with just one hand, developing great products. I also recommend looking to use existing technology to achieve a better work-life balance.
One recommendation I have for young women choosing careers, is to simply give technological careers a chance. Look to inspirational people who find ways to use technology to change the world for the better – people like Komal Ahmad, who created an app which has helped feed hundreds of thousands of homeless people, while also preventing food wastage.
I would also suggest to not underestimate their potential. As the author and activist, Alice Walker, said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Many thanks Silvana for sharing your thoughts!
Belatrix is currently hiring. Find out about our career opportunities here.