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Top 5 Lessons Learned From Being a Mom in Tech

tech industry sexual harassment

Sysamone Phaphon

I will be a full time mompreneur in the tech industry for two years this coming November.  I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to share my thoughts on various media outlets on various heavy topics: gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexism in tech. It’s been a grateful and humbling experience to be able to share my opinion with a bigger audience, especially in an influential industry like tech. Most recently, I shared a personal story about sexual harassment with USA Today that amplified the “Pao Effect” and highlighted the ongoing sexism and sexual harassment issues women face daily in Silicon Valley.

I and so many other women have dealt first hand with the challenges of being a woman in this industry that it has influenced some changes in how I raise my children. I reached out to one of my fellow mommies (Sophia Eng) in the tech industry to help me compile a list of lessons learned. Sophia is an expert growth hacker in the tech industry, currently is a growth strategist for InVision and also runs her own consultancy company.

Sophia Eng

This list we compiled isn’t perfect and subject to change as we both continue our journey deeper in the industry. The experiences we both encountered to date, as women, women of color and as mothers, have brought us to these top six lessons.

Speak up even if you’re afraid

We live in a nation in which we have the freedom to challenge our leaders and anyone in a power position without harsh retribution found in other countries.  Remind our children that this freedom does not mean our voices are free from criticism or retribution from the people and topics on which we voice our thoughts. What you say can make an impact, negatively or positively, be prepared for the various outcomes. No matter the outcome, it’s important to always have the courage to speak up, because somewhere in this world, many women and young girls need you to spark the dialogue for change. By speaking up even when you are afraid, you are leading by example. You are paving the way for others to find the courage to speak too. Change does not come from silence, change starts with our voices being heard.

Male allyship is important

Teaching our daughters to be brave in the face of discrimination is not enough. We need to also teach our sons to understand the challenges women face and groom them into male allies that can advocate for women when their voices are not heard. Let’s add to the lessons at an early age by teaching our sons to know the definitions of sexual harassment, sexism, gender discrimination, gender equity & gender inequality, so that they can recognize it when it happens. My son is about to be nine years old. When the USA Today article posted, it set up the perfect situation to educate him. For others, maybe it can be discussed even earlier, but do not allow yourself to become an example that pushes you to teach the lesson. Teach both sons and daughters the definitions, provide example scenarios and teach them how to best handle these situations if encountered.

Never stop learning

Being in the tech industry, everything changes all the time and fast. Make sure you’re staying on top of not only tech skills, but skills that will help broaden your capabilities. This means that it’s really important you are doing what you love or get closer to finding out what that is. For raising our kids, it’s instilling a growth mindset at a young age. Constantly providing new experiences and opportunities to learn new things (that challenge them), so that they can work through and persevere through those challenges. Challenge them to be resourceful, and teach them to internalize the fact that most abilities can be mastered through learning, dedication, hard work; they’re not just innate talents from birth. The more they are challenged at early ages to absorb knowledge quickly, the stronger they will be as leaders and influencers in any industry. Never stop showing them the importance of self-education.

Find your tribe

As women in tech, we can’t and shouldn’t make this journey alone. Find your tribe of people that are willing to support you in your personal and professional endeavors. That means finding strong women who share the same values and building incredible things with them. It also means being able to identify other people who genuinely share the same values as you without the expectation for quid pro quo. With our children, it means that we show them that it’s good to go the extra mile to have social time in their lives and equally important, to learn how to identify toxic behaviors. Extra curricular activities are great to learn that competition is good when you use it to work together to get to the same goal.

Have mentors and sponsors in your corner

Mentors guide us both professionally and personally. Sponsors advocate and champion us within our professional endeavors. It is good to have both. Having the right advisement has helped us identify areas of opportunities in our lives that we otherwise may not have seen or felt good enough to strive for. As parents, we do this innately for our children and allowing others in their lives to influence and mentor them is just as important. Most of us have this provision for our children in the form of grandparents, aunts and uncles.  For those who don’t, consider close friends or colleagues that can add this value to their growth.  Teach them the value of growing professional and personal relationships at home through examples of how to mentor each other (siblings mentorship) and be mentored by their school peers depending on skills and strengths.

We hope that by the time our children are of workforce age these discriminations will no longer exist or at the very least the percentage of statistics will have dramatically dropped. May this list help our children, if they find themselves in a male dominated industry and are faced with the various forms of discrimination that come with it.

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