International Women’s Day 2022: Breaking the Bias

International Women’s Day is upon us — a great time for us all to reflect on how far we have come since the holiday’s first observance over one hundred years ago. Throughout this time, there have been so many milestones achieved by women all around the world. As I type this, my mind immediately shifts to U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris. The pride I have in knowing one of the highest positions in our government is held by a woman makes me feel fortunate to be alive in this historic time. But although the proverbial glass ceiling has been shattered, we’ve still got a ways to go.

The theme of this year’s IWD is “Break the Bias.” At Atrium, mitigating bias in AI and machine learning models is a major focus of our expertise, but internally we’ve also prioritized our initiatives toward overcoming our own personal biases, and becoming a more diverse and inclusive workplace. A key component of this is the recruitment, development, promotion, and overall celebration of women in technology, in addition to targeted training on recognizing bias and ways to overcome it.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day and despite their hectic schedules, I was able to chat with some of the women of Atrium. Read what they had to say on the challenges they’ve faced as women in technology, and some advice they have for women starting their careers within the tech industry and beyond.

Insight Into Key Challenges

Manjula Sharma
QA & Governance Senior Manager

As a woman in tech, I have been fortunate to have great mentors who’ve provided guidance without being biased based on gender. However, in the past, there have been some managers (both female and male) who subtly look down if I raise concern at my work-life balance. It reveals the stigma that since women are typically the primary caregivers at home, they must not be devoting sufficient time to the company. Additionally, I have had associates taking my instructions and experience lightly because of an inherent bias towards my knowledge.

Ann Cisney-Booth
Lead Analytics Consultant

Throughout my career I’ve had to justify my seat at the table or prove that I belong. This has been particularly challenging because it feeds imposter syndrome, leads to asking permission rather than just being and doing the work, and a general feeling of uneasiness when the same burden isn’t placed on others.

Jasmine Bentley
Senior Strategy Consultant

I rarely see women of color in leadership positions. This is a two-fold problem. First, without representative leadership, it’s difficult to see a space for career advancement. If there isn’t a woman of color in leadership currently, how can I expect to grow with the company from my current position? Second, without a woman of color in leadership there is a deep lack of diversity. We won’t be able to fully embrace inclusion without adequate representation at all levels.

Akshika Jain
Senior Salesforce Consultant

Thankfully, I have not personally encountered any such challenge yet. However, I have observed women in other cases facing challenges regaining trust and upward mobility upon reentering the tech world after a career gap.

I’m also fortunate at this point in my career to have Atrium’s close network of women that helps to provide a platform to share individual experiences, learn, and encourage.

Linda Russell
Lead Strategy Consultant

My challenge has been finding my voice as a woman in the IT field. When I first started out, there were very few women in the industry. I found that the way conversation would flow, or certain statements made, would lead me to develop a thicker skin and to not take things personally, but remain quiet. To be honest I still have to work on this at times!

Jiordan Castle
Brand Strategist

It can be difficult to know how to strike the balance between being assertive and clear and being perceived as domineering or “pushy.” Men generally don’t deal with the same backlash in this industry. It’s sometimes rewarded.

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of incredible mentors, people managers, and teammates, but I’ve also historically found myself spending a considerable amount of time pushing back or guarding against some unconscious (and sometimes conscious!) bias. That has the potential to distract from the work, from career growth, and comfort in leadership settings. I say this as someone who’s spent most of my career in tech in roles that are not typically viewed as being technical.

As the younger workforce naturally becomes a bit more diverse in terms of gender and forces more accessible ways of working, I have renewed hope for where this industry is going.

Real Advice from Our Team

Manjula Sharma
QA & Governance Senior Manager

Do not hesitate to speak and call out a bias if you encounter one. It is often unintentional, and calling attention to it helps the person understand the mistake.

Ann Cisney-Booth
Lead Analytics Consultant

My first piece of advice is to become comfortable with change. Working in tech means you have some affinity to a lifelong pursuit of learning if you want to stay relevant. Secondly, your path to a tech career may not be linear. As someone who has worked at non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, and at a large school district, I did not see my path leading to a career in tech. There are many parallels from one industry to the next if you are willing to take a risk in trying something new and making that connection.

Jasmine Bentley
Senior Strategy Consultant

Apply for the job! Sometimes people talk themselves out of positions by thinking they are not qualified. Use daily affirmations to remind yourself that you matter, you belong, and you have a voice. Use that voice to ensure you are included. You can’t be counted if you are not even heard. Find a mentor. Partner with someone more senior at your organization, be open to feedback, and give yourself grace. Be sure to keep yourself accountable for your own progress. Take advantage of free resources like Trailhead and ERGs.

Akshika Jain
Senior Salesforce Consultant

Raise your voice and provide suggestions in every aspect and try to spend less time fearing the response of others. Also, build your network with other women to share experiences or obstacles. There is strength in numbers, and knowing you’re not alone will help build more confidence.

Linda Russell
Lead Strategy Consultant

Do not be afraid to expand your knowledge. Grab opportunities that are thrown your way. Even if it’s a skill you’re not comfortable with, have confidence that you can learn and grow.

Jiordan Castle
Brand Strategist

Talk about salaries, work environments, management styles, and socialization with other women in your corner. Don’t have any? Look for LinkedIn groups, local meetups, virtual networking opportunities, and former coworkers you can connect with, learn from, and commiserate with. Apply for stretch roles! Women tend to apply for jobs they’re overqualified for. Know your worth, do the work, and communicate with your team. Practice putting your mental health and bandwidth first and you’ll be a better leader, a better mentor, a better teammate, and a better champion for change.

Break the Bias

Today, there are more than double the number of women in roles at Atrium than when I started in 2020. To further our momentum, Atrium will host a special Company Connect for our team later this month, where we’ll have a chance to learn more about the history of International Women’s Day and discuss our priorities and passions. It’s up to us all, women and men alike, to actively work toward accelerating women’s equality. Let’s all do our part to #breakthebias!

Want to join our team? We’re hiring! Learn more about careers and culture at Atrium.

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