SparkFun’s Jessica McDonald: Being a Woman in Tech Can Feel Isolating [VIDEO]

March 23, 2015

5:00 pm

It’s common knowledge that the technology industry is desperately in need of diversification among its ranks. Thankfully, however, many companies have realized this need to diversify and have made plans to work on recruiting more women and minorities. But as it stands, the current lack of diversity can often lead to moments and feelings of isolation. According to SparkFun Electronics‘s director of marketing, Jessica McDonald, it’s just one of the few challenges she’s faced as a woman in tech, and she wants to do what she can to improve women’s numbers in the tech industry or STEM overall to help diminish these challenges for future generations. She sat with us at SXSW to share some of her thoughts.

“As a woman in technology, I’ve face a few different challenges,” says McDonald. “When you’re the only one in the room – which has happened to me a lot…you do feel very isolated that you’re the only person in the room that looks like you.”

According to McDonald, this lack of diversity within the tech industry has created an environment in which women like herself (that is to say: women working in technology) oftentimes feels isolated. Which makes sense – when men comprise most or all of the people in your company or at an industry event, it’s difficult to feel like you belong in that environment. She recounts a time when she was at a meeting at Google and was the only woman in the room – just one of the many times that something like that has happened to her; while those men were kind and inviting, she notes, there’s still a feeling of isolation that comes from being the only person in the room that looks like you (i.e., a woman).

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have female role models to look at that were in tech; I didn’t know that women could do these things.”

McDonald says that it was really kind of lucky that she ended up in technology, considering that she grew up not knowing that women could be involved in the industry. She was actually at SXSW to deliver a talk on possible on-ramps for getting girls involved in STEM. SparkFun – whose workforce is 25 percent female – is constantly looking for new ways on how to encourage girls to get involved in STEM. Aside from education and outreach efforts at SXSW, the company has worked with organizations like iD Tech to organize camps that teach girls how to work on things like Arduino or how to hack.

You can watch the rest of what SparkFun’s Jessica McDonald has to say about women in tech in the video below:

This video series was made possible through the support of Microsoft BizSpark and TrepLife.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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