Is it Hard Being a Woman Data Engineer?
First caveat: this isn’t a post just for women. This is a post to anyone and everyone who’s asking, wondering, or thinking.
Second caveat: I’m speaking from the perspective of a woman and a data engineer, because that’s what I know. However, the sentiment could certainly apply to endless other professions and people. It’s not my place to speak on their behalf.
Third caveat: you’re going to have to read until the end to actually get an answer. As you can imagine, it’s a loaded question.
Now that you’ve read through my caveats (if you know me you know I always have them), let’s actually start addressing the topic.
A little background
I spoke (virtually) at the Airflow Summit in July 2021 about Writing Dry Code in Airflow. I prepared, practiced, and delivered a talk on a topic I am passionate about. What I enjoy most about presenting isn’t hearing people who agree; it’s hearing questions, opinions, and sparking debate.
When it comes time for Q&A, the very first question I received: “Is it hard being a woman data engineer?”
I hope my surprise wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was. The question was most likely from a genuine place, from someone hoping to get into the field. And it’s for their benefit, and any others wondering, that I’m writing this post.
To be honest, I didn’t remember my answer until I watched the recording immediately after the talk ended. My answer was tacky, I even said so at the time. It was along the lines of “if you’re passionate about something, put your mind to it and do it”. If it was that simple, the question itself and the topic of this post is void.
I’m writing to actually answer the question on my terms.
Who I am vs. what I do
A woman is who I am; data engineering is what I do. One isn’t superior to the other, nor are they completely separate.
However, these types of questions make it harder to be both. When I’m talking about what I do, why am I being asked about who I am?
I’m someone who has worn bright red pants to business meetings. Additionally, I’ve worn a dress to the AWS re:Invent conference (this was pre-Covid times when in person conferences were still a thing). I choose to dress in a way that expresses femininity, and have very intentionally decided not to change that based on how others might perceive me.
As for what I do, I architect data platforms enabling businesses to be truly data driven. Additionally, I’m a technical writer who strives to be future thinking. I speak at talks to encourage others to think about where the data space is headed and start conversations.
The way I choose to express myself doesn’t preclude me from being a professional or being good at my job.
So, I’m not going to answer the question at hand with a “yes” or “no”. I only have the perspective of doing what I do while also being who I am: the woman who sometimes wears red pants and talks data.
If I did it any other way, it just wouldn’t be my way of doing things.
My True Answer
And without further ado.
So: is it hard being a woman data engineer?
Only if you let who you are be masked behind what you do.
Usually these types of posts end with answering a question like “if you’re not a woman, what can you do for us?”. I don’t want anyone reading to do anything more for me in response.
In fact, I ask you to do less: ask questions focused on what I have volunteered to talk about. If you have any other questions, I’d consider myself fairly reachable throughout different data Slack groups or LinkedIn (final caveat: that’s just me, and not everyone wants to be reached out to).
I’m merely expressing my opinion on something I actually think a lot about, and hope it can help others navigate through being a woman in data engineering as well. Do with that what you will.
I’m writing about being a woman in data engineering, so if you have questions, let’s talk about it. Shoot me a message.