Thank you, Nicole. I’ve had time on my hands and with some of it, I’ve invested significantly in understanding better the challenges people have; people who are different from me in ways that are important.
I have all this time, btw, because I’m not currently employed. I’ve spent most of my adult life raising children while also working in software R&D. Children are all grown, now. I’m 47, now, as well, and discovering how age, like gender and the color of our skin, puts up barriers to contributing to this industry. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s even realistic to keep trying.
My work was not shared with very many women. The companies I have been with were both big name Silicon Valley brands and I can accurately state I never so much as saw a black woman in any capacity in any of them. So, I’ve been working through balancing my current experience of ageism with that of my white privilege.
I’m white, but, I could relate to your story. I was the first person in my family to attend college. From an East Coast Irish immigrant working class family, I lost both my parents when I was 16 years old. I didn’t want to go to the state orphanage that would have been my fate, so I ran away, hitch hiking to California with just memories and the clothes on my back.
There was no one left in the world that I could call family, and I was very afraid when I finished travelling the 3000+ miles to get there, but, I had my dad’s dream of college and a child’s naive blindness to anything being impossible. I applied for and received scholarships and continued my education.
Coming from a working class family, I knew how to work. And, work is what I did. It’s what I always did and what I would always do, until now, when it has become more challenging than it ever has. Being a girl from a poor, uneducated family, I never fit the demographic of gender and education pedigree, but, I had the privilege of being white, I guess. Until now, I had never thought of it in this context.
The truth is, after my parents were murdered, I thought it was something short of miraculous that I went to college, at all or that I would wind up with a career that at one time paid a salary more than my mother, father and grandparents made, combined. I was the right color, I suppose.
The tech industry is an interesting animal. I’ve been enthralled with its many unique faces for so long that it will be hard to have to say goodbye. I hope I won’t have to do that, but, the barrier to re-entry may prove more than my privilege will mitigate. I expect women and men of every skin color who work in technology may also discover age as a great equalizer in a field that is already diverse-challenged.