Women Who Tech Are Dangerous — Anna Hofmanova
A Portrait Project by John Davidson
Job Title: Senior User Experience Designer
Years in the tech industry: 7
On the promise of equal opportunity:
When I was 6 months old my parents left a communist country and brought the three of us here with only $100, a single suitcase, and hopes that I would be afforded equal opportunity throughout the rest of my life. That hope is the reason they left everything behind so I think they had no choice but believe it. So, yes, I would say I had a strong belief that I would be afforded equal opportunities and that if I worked hard, I could do anything, have anything.
On the ultimate role-model:
My mother. She’s a business owner and the toughest woman I know. She taught me so many important things early — the most impactful being it’s ok to say no and not apologize for it. She’s brutally honest, a giver (but never takes shit from anyone), and is constantly working hard to be the best at what she does. She is exactly what I believe every woman needs as a role model in their life.
On whether women were treated differently than men during her years in higher education:
No, I was fortunate enough to attend a University with a strong presence of woman leadership and an inclusive environment.
On her current role:
I work at a mid-sized tech company as a Senior User Experience Designer. I absolutely love my job because it provides me the opportunity to utilize my analytical skills alongside my creative ones.
I’ve worked with several incredibly talented women that have helped me get to where I am today. Wendy Hawkins, Sheetal Prabhu and Christine McCarey are just a few bad-ass women leaders that I’ve had the privilege of learning from.
On whether she has been overlooked for career advancement based on gender:
Yes, absolutely. I stayed in a position almost twice as long as a male coworker with the same experience level before being considered for advancement. I ended up leaving that position and eventually went back to it when they offered me equality.
On being a victim of sexual harassment, and the importance of the #metoo movement:
Yes [I’ve experienced sexual harassment from someone overseeing me in a managerial position]. I am thrilled that the #MeToo movement is happening — that women, including myself, feel more confident in pushing back when confronted with inappropriate behavior. I’ve never been quiet about pushing back, but the movement has helped me push back even louder — reaching more people.
On hearing stories of discrimination from more senior women:
Those stories still feel contemporary. I think the manifestation of the issues are different today, but certainly not an improvement.
On ‘The Boys Club’ — still going strong:
I’ve been working in an industry and a field that is male-dominated and riddled with gender inequality for seven years now and nothing has changed in that time. Perhaps we are talking about the issue a little more now, but from my immediate vantage point, I still see very few women in the seats at the table. It’s a boys club and women don’t last long in it. The lack of diversity in decision making perpetuates the problem.
Not so much — on whether significant change is taking place in work culture and opportunities for women:
No, I don’t feel optimistic about significant change happening. I think a lot of people are talking about change but not implementing it. I believe there is more resistance to implementation now due to the political climate. It’s almost like we are on the verge of the moment, but something is holding us back.
Thank you for your service — on the support of male peers:
I would say that it’s a supportive atmosphere for the most part, but very few men are willing to fight for you. Sure they want you to succeed, but not at the expense of their own comfort.
On how women can contribute to lasting change:
I think the change starts with a woman’s attitude. It’s important for women to speak up. Ask hard questions. Call people out on their bullshit. Stop saying “sorry” and start saying “don’t interrupt me”. Help out other women and be supportive to everyone.
*Quotes may have received minor editing for purposes of length and clarity only.
Women Who Tech Are Dangerous: A Portrait Project (author’s note)
Encouraged by the rising tide of women making their voices heard on the subject of gender bias in the tech and corporate world, I’ve embarked on a portrait project that seeks to feature women with a stake in the issue, and hopefully, provide a platform for them to share their experiences and express their views.
About the project’s title:
The first suggestion of this project came to me via a book on my wife’s bookshelf — Women Who Read Are Dangerous, by Stefan Bollmann. It’s a collection of paintings from throughout the centuries, each focused on a woman reading a book — the very act of which has, at various points in history, been considered ‘subversive.’
Are women who tech dangerous? To those in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, who seek to perpetrate the hegemony that unquestionably exists in the upper echelons of tech at present, perhaps. One woman I asked referred to the project’s title as being, for her, about ‘the notion that I’m not supposed to be here because I’m a woman — but I am [here]…we are [here], and we’re not leaving.’ Still another women described the idea that women in tech are dangerous as being, ‘in this context, almost patronizing.’ Clearly there are a range of views and experiences to be expressed.
My goal is to put faces to some of these women, to compile a portrait of women at all career levels, to elevate their voices and contribute to the dialogue.
No further portrait sessions will be scheduled until the project website is completed and launched. Thank you to all those who’ve expressed interest in taking part. For further information, you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.