Tech industry warming up to diversity
Having faced sexism, one woman believes the tech industry is changing
In the past 30 years, she has been uninvited to staff meetings, been underpaid and even doubted herself because she was a woman in the male-dominated technology industry.
But Ms Elissa Fink, an American linguistics graduate-turned-technophile, never regretted joining the IT line, despite experiencing sexual bias over the years.
Speaking to The New Paper on the changing roles of women in the tech space, she said: "Over time, I stopped holding myself back and wondered whether I should speak up.
"Sometimes it is easy to fall into a victim mentality, but it takes courage to put yourself out there and adopt a solution-oriented mindset, focusing on what you can contribute to the company.
"And that I did."
Today, Ms Fink, 53, is the chief marketing officer at US data visualisation firm Tableau - which reportedly has over 54,000 customer accounts worldwide - and said the tech industry has become more inclusive.
The working mother, who is based in Seattle and married to a real estate agent with whom she has two adopted children aged four and 11, made a brief stop in Singapore last week to visit her colleagues at Tableau's branch here, after a conference in Japan.
Her foray into the technology industry began when she joined US market research firm Claritas as a marketer almost 30 years ago, having previously worked in advertising for the Wall Street Journal.
"I was fascinated with data and how you could use it to study behaviour. Plus I'm a Microsoft Excel junkie, and I love spreadsheets.
"So even though I studied liberal arts, I have an interest in technology, particularly in data analysis," she said.
She went on to work for US tech company Ixi before being offered a job at Tableau in 2008.
But her journey did not come without challenges.
Ms Fink recalled: "I had an employer who hired females just so he could underpay us, and I have been, intentionally or unintentionally, uninvited to meetings.
"I grew up in a traditional Italian family, and I have five brothers.
"So growing up, I thought I should behave a certain way and know my place."
But the technology industry has become more accepting of diversity today, she said.
"Companies now recognise talent. They are starting to look at people for what they can contribute rather than their sex, race or background," she said.
She also encouraged more women to join the technology industry, especially those who have an interest.
She estimates the number of women in the technology industry to be about 25 per cent, with most of them taking on roles in marketing, sales and human resources rather than the engineering side.
"I do hope the number of female engineers will go up, and it will as more young people are studying sciences. Hopefully we will see a more even ratio of men to women," she said.
She added that it has become easier to juggle career and motherhood, thanks to the supportive corporate culture at Tableau.
"They are very accommodating with the hours and we are allowed to work from home, if necessary, with the focus on the results we produce instead of the number of hours put in.
"I hope more companies will recognise that the traditional work week no longer exists, and we can be more flexible.
"Companies have a huge role to play in creating an environment where everyone feels included," she said.