Balance for Better: a conversation with women of Bonfire on International Women’s Day
Written by Heather Bellingham, Talent Acquisition Lead, Bonfire
Bonfire is celebrating International Women’s Day by recognizing our female team members, sharing their experiences in tech, and focusing on how we can all work towards this year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter.
Women make up almost half of Bonfire (46%) — we’re always striving for balance. We’re happy to share insights on Bonfire’s female force across the organization, and yes, we’re acknowledging that there is still some disparity in a few of our departments.
There are many women making a difference and driving results at Bonfire, and while we wish we could have shared everyone’s perspective, we asked a few members of the female force at Bonfire to join the conversation on advancing women in the workforce.
We heard from:
- Maddy Currie, Senior Full Stack Developer (and the first female team member at Bonfire!)
- Liu Yang, Product Manager
- Melissa Nicolas, Business Development Representative
- Kim Veenstra, VP of Finance
- Meghan Wahab, Product Designer
- Whitney Chen, Client Support Agent
1) What would you tell your younger self about work?
Maddy: Diversify your skills early, in any direction, because if you have the experience to bring to the table that others don’t, you will think of solutions that others can’t. And trust your intuition; your gut feelings are based on a lot of information your rational mind isn’t aware of, so by listening to it you can avoid risks and take advantage of opportunities that you might otherwise miss.
Kim: You don’t have to know the answer to everything but what is important is having a good work ethic and taking the initiative to figure things out and get things done. I’d also tell my younger self not to complain so much when picking stones or helping with hay season on the farm as it provided me with the work ethic required to succeed.
Whitney: Contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to not be outstanding or the best. You’re going to see a lot of young women out there killing it, especially in tech, and you’re going to hear a lot of comments about how a woman is “not a real dev” or a “fake gamer” unless she has completed a dozen complicated side projects, or works at Google or Riot Games, or knows at least 5 obscure facts about a game she loves to play. Screw that. Just do your best, whatever your best is, because at the end of the day how you feel about your work is what matters.
Meghan: Ask a lot of questions — especially from people in different walks of life. You never know who will give you the most insightful yet veiled advice or guidance. There’s no such thing as an obstacle unless you think there is one. Have trust in yourself and treat your life like an adventure — be gritty, take risks while still maintaining a sense of security.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t fret about your future career path. Eventually life figures it’s s*** out and helps you connect the dots.
2) Why is a gender-balanced workforce essential for the tech community to thrive?
Melissa: I graduated from electrical engineering, which tends to have more men than women. Even from my past jobs working as a field engineer, the workforce was primarily more male than female. Now that I work in tech, it’s easy to see those nuances that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed earlier, and I’m a firm believer that a diverse workforce creates different views and also welcomes more opportunity to solve various problems in the best way.
Liu: A diverse workforce in any sector also makes us all better people by giving us empathy for other human beings that are different than ourselves. It makes us less selfish. An ethical workplace retains ethical and happier workers who are more loyal to the company.
In tech specifically, we are automating things humans do. It’s too easy to imagine a world where technology runs the world. A diverse workforce in the tech sector would provide a better sounding board to the visions of tech companies. Our products could better serve our customers and cause fewer unintended consequences.
Kim: I believe having a gender-balanced workforce is essential in bringing together different perspectives and experiences that should be shared. There are several studies that prove that having a gender diverse workforce leads to stronger financial performance and is key to high growth companies. I’ve witnessed this proving true at Bonfire given its executive team — I thoroughly enjoy the discussions we get into with the varying perspectives and approaches on the team from our diverse backgrounds.
Maddy: Gender balance in the workforce is essential for the tech community because women and men have different perspectives and ways of thinking about our common problems. By coming together we can combine all of our experiences to invent new solutions. Stereotypically, success in tech requires traditionally “masculine” strengths, like logic and critical thinking, ambition, and competition. To be fair, those traits are very important, but success also requires traditionally “feminine” qualities: compassion, aesthetics, communication, and cooperation.
3. What does the tech community need to do to realize the goal of a gender-balanced workforce?
Whitney: I think we as a community can start by recognizing that women with technical skills and roles are “valid” and “legitimate” regardless of their skill level or portfolio. And at an individual level — and this goes for women too — we can check ourselves during a questionable interaction with others by asking, “If this person was the opposite gender of what they currently are, would I be acting/reacting this way?” There’s a lot more that needs to be done, but I think this would be a good start!
- Be family friendly. This is a pipe dream, but can you imagine providing daycare on site at work? Someday we might get there. But how about involving children during more company events?
- Minimize the role of alcohol as part of company culture. This might be controversial, but drinking should not be a prerequisite for networking with your colleagues. When it becomes the primary channel of social engagements in a company culture, those who do not engage will lose out. These, statistically, are women. For more on this: Stop (Silently) telling your Female Coworkers to Drink More.
- Provide mentorship. This would help recruit and grow men and women alike.
There are many many more things that can be done. Start anywhere!