Being a Tech Girl at GSoft
I’m a tech girl. It means that I’m a rare specimen of a woman that is working and interested in technology. More specifically, here in Quebec (and in many other countries), women represent only 20% of the workforce in information and communication technology (ICT). At school, I was the only girl in my information technology (IT) classes most of the time. When I got my first full-time job, and even before that when I was an intern, I was the only girl on the dev team.
I began my journey at GSoft in early 2016. I’d just given birth to my second child, who was 6 months old at the time. In order to seize the opportunity, I finished my maternity leave earlier than I had planned. I was nursing, and even pumping in the bathrooms at lunch, which should not be surprising, but it is a reality often hidden. I could return to work progressively, as GSoft had accepted that I begin part-time. I was warmly welcomed, and two friends even built me a castle, because I do Live Action Role Play (LARPing).
GSoft wants to take care of its employees, and invests in many perks. A company with a great culture listens to its employees. In my opinion, this is what makes GSoft stand out among other companies, and it helps facilitate women in the workplace. The first perk I want to talk about is being able to take the vacations that you need, which for parents with young children is a blessing, as they often get sick. Especially on the first year of daycare. If you have kids, you know what I mean 😉 Then comes the possibility of working from home. It makes things so much simpler. From medical appointments to terrible weather conditions — yes we have a lot of snow in the winter — being able to avoid the horrible transit time is great for productivity! And how about not having to prepare a lunch every day by having paid lunches for three days a week? My favorite is to serve myself granola with yogurt for breakfast every morning. All this helps relieve some of the heavy stress and mental load around coordinating everything at home.
When I arrived at GSoft, I was surprised to find another girl on the dev team! Emilie was hired two months before I was. Having another girl in the team felt rather weird of us, since we were both used to being the only girl on the team. Maybe it was even a little weirder for her, since she was there before me, but we quickly got along and we are now very good friends.
At GSoft we refer to the women as GGirls. I was about the 30th GGirl back in 2016. As the end of 2018 is approaching, we are 70. For the International Women’s Day this year, we had fun making a video showing the evolution of GGirls at GSoft, from the first GGirl hired (we love you Nat ❤!), to the last GGirl hired. Hiring tech people is already a challenge. Considering the current situation, it’s not hard to see why hiring women in tech is difficult… But times are changing, and more and more young girls are interested in ICT and complete their studies in that field. So how can we make things easier for women to pursue a career in tech?
About Organizational Culture
The culture at GSoft is a special one and it is the main reason why I chose to work there. GSoft is aiming at adding more humanity in the workplace and wants to be a leader in the future of work. Culture is really important in an organization, and it’s essential to making sure every individual feels good and safe at work. When we hear what happens in other organizations, like what happened at Riot Games, we feel very lucky that the “Bro Culture” is at a much lower level here at GSoft. I have never personally felt attacked because of my gender, even though sexist jokes, which are biased by stereotypes and habits, are thrown around from time to time.
About Career Opportunities
Going back to my journey at GSoft, my first mission as a QA analyst was to help the developers become better testers. So they had someone they never worked with, talking about abstract concepts like risk analysis and exploratory testing techniques, and couldn’t see the benefits of these techniques directly. The guys being competitive, I organized exploratory testing and testing mindset games, but that still wasn’t enough. I tried to integrate with the dev teams, with little success, so I felt a bit isolated. Then my supervisor and I saw a new opportunity for me as a release manager, and we created that position based on the business’s current needs.
What I experienced is the traditional way of creating new opportunities. A new role is created, nobody knows about it, and some individuals are favored because of their contacts network, or by being at the right place at the right time. In this study, they highlighted that women are often disadvantaged when it comes to career opportunities. Now at GSoft we do things a bit differently. When there is a new opportunity, the job is displayed internally so everyone can know about it and apply for it. By being transparent with the hiring process, it is easier for women (and men!) to develop their careers and have an equal chance to seize opportunities.
About Support From Other Women
It is also important for women to support each other. Slack is our main tool of communication at GSoft and we have a private channel for the GGirls. The channel is somewhat of a mystery for the guys working at GSoft, even though they have tried to infiltrate it many times! Personally, I think they are afraid that we are talking about them behind their backs. 😉 No but, more seriously, they feel like they are being left out. However this channel is very important to us because it helps the women at work connect with each other and give or receive support when needed. What usually happens in that channel is related to the reality of our hormonal fluctuations and their side effects, physical training activities, events for swapping clothes, discussions on the realities of women at GSoft and around the world.
About Feeling Safe
It is also important that everyone feels safe and has room to actually be themselves. When the #metoo movement came to the public, it sparked an initiative in our office called safe space. GSoft formed a group of people to reflect on the issue and investigate whether there existed harassment in the office and if so under what form. Following that initiative, all employees recently went through a two and a half hour training session regarding the safe space initiative. Discussions were led in small groups, of about ten people, to bring awareness on how certain behaviors could cause discomfort to other people. Most people I talked to afterwards seem to believe that what was discussed was obvious, and maybe it was, but I’m just happy that we have raised the level of awareness about how things can be perceived and that we’re now talking about it openly.
About Having Role Models
When we have a person we can relate to and take as an example, it’s easier to evolve in a certain direction. Unfortunately, there are too few female role models in ICT. Having no female role model at work, I had to learn things the hard way. Recently, GSoft signed the women in tech manifesto, committing to reaching parity in the representation of men and women in technology-related events. Hopefully our efforts help to generate more female role models, inspire more women to choose technology as a career path, and build a better future of work together!
All the actions that GSoft and their employees take are helping to make an environment where women feel safe to be themselves and where they can evolve and learn freely. This is only the beginning. GSoft is organizing many more initiatives to help promote women in ICT. Here are some ideas from Canada’s Gender Equity Roadmap that inspire us!
I hope my story inspired you. While writing this article, I discovered that there’s so much more I wanna talk. So I’m working on another article titled tech girl survival guide. Stay tuned ! 😊