“although this is a male-dominated industry, this is still an open space for everyone to join in. People are going to respect and listen to your ideas no matter what gender you are…”

I love data, but I also have to admit that data feels cold and impersonal at times when we talk about societal issues and our personal experiences. Don’t get me wrong. Data is straight forward and it directs us to look at situations in a macro level, but what resonates with me the most is the stories and anecdotes that people tell and experience themselves. In honor of International Women’s History month, I want to share with you some of the personal stories that mean a lot to me and how these stories greatly influenced the woman I have become and the journey in tech I have pursued.

I was hired by the OpenStack Foundation as a marketing intern during my senior year in college. I remember that the OpenStack Summit Vancouver 2018 happened during my second week at the job. At the Vancouver Summit, which is my first technical conference, I packed my schedule back-to-back with numerous technical sessions and hoped to absorb as much information as possible in my “non-technical” world.

When I was rushing from one Summit session to the next, I passed by the screening of the Chasing Grace Project, a documentary series about women in tech. From the pay gap, online harassment to the decision to leave or stay in tech and the role of male allies, Jennifer Cloer, the executive producer and director of the Chasing Grace Project, explores both the economic and emotional toll the pay gap has on women in tech and their desire to stay in tech in one of her 22-minute episodes. My plan was to only stop by to have a glimpse and take a short five-minute break before rushing to my next Summit session. Little did I know that this short “tech session” in the Vancouver Summit inspired me to dive more into the topic of women in tech and wrote my graduation thesis on the practices of how tech companies help to close gender disparity. Although I missed the next session that I planned to go, Jennifer’s passion heavily influenced me as a college student who wants to pursue a career in tech.

Learning should not be stopped after college graduation, neither should my drive in getting to know more successful women in the tech industry who empower others in many ways. At my last Open Infrastructure Summit Shanghai in November 2019 with the OpenStack Foundation, I was introduced by Jonathan Bryce, the Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation, to meet an Intel intern, Joy Liu, and her mentor, Ruoyu Ying, who is an Intel engineer working on OpenStack. Joy is 17 years old and is an enthusiast of computer science in her high school. She not only received the travel support to come to the Open Infrastructure Summit Shanghai but also delivered a session with her mentor on how an edge framework can help object recognition.

Although we only had a short talk before their session at the marketplace theater, I was impressed by her technical knowledge at such a young age. Her unstoppable passion in tech and open source community is contagious. I feel such an honor to be able to connect with these young aspiring women at the Summit. Even though I’m not a technical person, Joy’s enthusiasm for edge computing, AI, and computer programming inspired me to explore more areas that I’m not familiar with. It has been almost five months since I have met Joy and Ruoyu, but the strong female energy has resonated with me since then.

One of the best parts about my job is working with strong and successful women who don’t hold back their opinions and strive to be the best version of themselves in the industry. It’s difficult to imagine yourself achieving something if you haven’t seen someone else do it. I’m very grateful to be involved in this inclusive and diverse open source industry that everyone is welcomed to participate. Just like Ruoyu said “although this is a male-dominated industry, this is still an open space for everyone to join in. People are going to respect and listen to your ideas no matter what gender you are, as long as you are good in a certain field.” In this Women’s History Month, I encourage you to keep striving for macro-level change in women in tech while also making a small impact every day in addressing all forms of inequality that we witness and experience. This Women’s History Month is for you.

Let us celebrate with you!

We are collecting stories from women about their experiences in tech and highlighting their impressive community contributions. Please reach out to me if you are interested in participating in a short Q+A or would like to nominate someone to tell their stories. Please email [email protected] and we are looking forward to hearing from you and hear from fearless women you know!