#tech

#WITBragDay

From mid-morning and continuing into the late evening, people are adding their contributions to #WITBragDay on Twitter. Tech professionals – mostly women, and also allies who are men – have been tweeting our successes, great and small.

My observations and some facts about the phenomenon:

Alice Goldfuss began the tide of tweets with one of her own when she wrote “Hey, women in tech, we’ve had a rough week. I therefore pronounce this #WITBragDay“.

The fatigue’s been palpably increasing as the week continues, as ire about the screed did not fizzle.  I first noticed the need for positivity voiced on Wednesday by Duretti Hirpa – a much-needed digestif from the entire fracas – and on Thursday, Cate Huston suggested promoting the accomplishment of under-indexed tech professionals. Cate then tweeted a number of women’s tech accomplishments. The day before, Duretti began with her own accomplishments, inviting others.

We already know what happened – is happening, still –  today: #WITBragDay has been among the top hashtags in the United States.

So many people have weighed in with their accomplishments, and supporting the accomplishments of their colleagues.

Most are women. Many are men.

Some have tentatively asked whether they can (or should) speak on behalf of a tech professional in their life – a wife, a daughter, a team mate. Yes, absolutely! Your allyship is vital. Many who have worked for and alongside wonderful team mates have unabashedly mentioned their women colleagues – sometimes by name, sometimes by inference – respecting privacy.

A few have suggested they have “no particular accomplishment” to share – then almost as an afterthought, she mentions some aspect of their work.  Each accomplishment shared has been solid and fascinating – and is so a “particular accomplishment” worth sharing and celebrating.

Also, I’ve seen some comments from some that not everyone feels the need to brag: they’re solid performers sans speaking engagements, without that official blue checkmark by their username. I’ll note this: privacy is important, and everyone has a right to theirs. I’ll also note that solid performers make solid contributions – and yours are important, whether aired publicly or celebrated privately. If nothing else – make sure you record and promote your accomplishments during your review.

Throughout the day, this conversation has grown from celebrating women in tech’s accomplishments to include women in STEM fields’ accomplishments. For example, Melissa Aquino, the executive who started her career as a chemical engineer. Aquino methodically built up the case for women in tech and STEM, citing her own technical roles increasing in responsibility in parallel with the institutional and individual misogyny she experienced in college and the workplace – all the while poking holes in the screed’s rigor.

Brava, Melissa.

Aquino, a Vice President of Fortune 200 company states that “…women in science and engineering fields need to start telling their stories, showing the real challenges they face in pursuing male-dominated fields.”

That’s exactly what Hirpa, Huston, and Goldfuss started with their spontaneous celebrations of fellow tech employees.

Long may the hashtag trend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Nishta Mehra

Nishta Mehra recently wrote The Pomegranate King: Essays, which grew out of her musings about food and life on her blog, Blue Jean Gourmet.  I interviewed her about this collection at The Aerogram.

I first came across Mehra and her blog a few years ago as I sought out writers and creatives in the Houston metropolitan area.  She reminded me of someone – everyone – I knew growing up. The neighbor’s daughter, one of my friends in the extended South Asian community, a friend from school, and even my “cousin-sister.”

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That’s exactly Mehra’s strength: she reminds you of the girl next door – and yet she’s uniquely her own person.  Reading her blog or twitter feed is like being invited over to Mehra’s home for a cup of chai (or bourbon – a drink that was her father’s, and now her own), a pan of corn bread, and meaningful conversation. Welcome at her hearth is for everyone who has an open heart and mind, and intellectual curiosity.

From reading her blog, I was curious to know what wisdom informs Mehra’s life, and her singular voice. She shares her experience of earning that hard-won wisdom in The Pomegranate King, exploring themes of identity, death, community, and belief as they have forged her life. Sonata, an essay published in Trop, gives the reader a preview of Mehra’s collection of essays, and the impetus for much of Mehra’s writing: the untimely death of Shubhash Mehra, her father.

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Mehra gave a wealth of perspective during the interview, some of which was edited for length.  Of writing and having been published as a South Asian author, she states:

“…it’s amazing to me just how pervasive the exoticization of South Asian women still is in our culture; I’ll hear my mom tell stories from when she first moved to the States in the late 60s, and there are pieces of her experience which don’t sound so far removed from 2013.”

“I can’t speak for others, but, for me, being South Asian descent does not define me any more or less than any other facet of my identity does.  Of course, when it comes to book marketing (or any kind of marketing, for that matter), facts and reality aren’t necessarily of interest or use, so lots of authors (of all stripes) are pushed to make their material more fill-in-the-blank (brown, gay, feminist, etc.), and/or they see their work being marketed and sold with a particular sensationalist edge.

“This is a two-way street, though–on the one hand, I don’t want to be pigeonholed, but on the other, I do want to see stories being told by people who aren’t typically represented by the market.  To do the latter, you have to, at least to some extent, be willing to have your “otherness” pointed out or played up.

“The Pomegranate King is, as far as I can tell, pretty far from the…stereotypical South Asian story; to be honest, I don’t read those kinds of books, mostly because I find them so flat and lacking any real commentary or interiority.

“With these essays, I’m not purporting to tell anyone’s stories but my own, and if I’ve done my job well, they will speak to a general human experience that isn’t dependent on tropes or stereotypes.”

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Read the interview here.

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