Do you feel like the “awkward BIPOC person” as a woman in tech? Here are four tips to help you to have a POSITIVE work experience

Do you feel like the “awkward BIPOC person” as a woman in tech? Here are four tips to help you to have a POSITIVE work experience

By: Munifa Ahmed.

Endorsement of Diversity and inclusion (D&I) and cultural practices within an organization have increasingly become a critical and important reputable aspect to the success of many businesses, especially in the Tech scene. There has been a lot of research and many other resources on how to adapt, retain and measure the value of D&I. 

But based on the World Economic Forum report, the global gender parity is estimated to take 100 years to close that gap in the tech sector, at the current rate of change. This is while gender equality is one of the key determinants of diversity in an organization.

An aspect, I think, that might be under shared, is the actual story of the -nitty gritty- experience and insights of how navigating tech, looks like as a BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color), visible minority or LGBTQ2A+ person. 

So, it is as important to speak about and dive deeper into the experience of actually working in these spaces. In this blog, I will try to share my experience and insights as a young, recent immigrant, Muslim, hijabi woman who is navigating her way to social entrepreneurship in the tech world. As women, people of colour, visible minorities and/or religious groups, what is our role and work in this process of change? Do we lay back and wait for changes to occur? 

Having the privilege to represent more than six social labels and breaking through the mainstream biases and narration made based on gender, race and background was not a smooth process. It required high self-awareness, patience and inconsideration in some instances, here are some tips from my experience and research I have done: 

  1. Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. This is the rule of thumb when it comes to personal and professional development. The same principle applies here, from researching the market to learning new tech skills. Then comes the actual job of job searching. After spending six months researching, I learned to stop feeling comfortable by trying to find people who look like me and kept asking questions when I get stuck (there is no such thing as a stupid question). Nearly half of Tech companies are hiring non-technical skills, so working on your communication, presentation and body language is also valuable. It is okay if you do not code. All these steps require little bit thicker skin, but will help you move towards a rewarding and exciting career.

  2. Engage with Asking, Questioning and Curiosity. As obvious as it might seem, it is necessary to be proactive in building professional relationships at your workplace and tech network. It could be as simple as trying to understand and engage in a group tech joke (like a Spider makes a website not landing page, lol) to as complex negotiating your unique perspective confidently. Being assertive, flexible, friendly and funny is where the magic happens when it comes to engaging here and in life, generally.

  3. ALWAYS be a Proactive Learner . There is an Arabic saying, “coming late will not cut the work.” Your presence is already perceived as an unequivocal challenge to the tech sector. And doing the work on our own mindsets is essential in an ever growing and evolving industry. Pivoting from my Administration and Marketing background was a steep turn and most challenging. But that was not all, I realized after graduation that thousands of bootcamp developer graduates are competing for a similar position. So, I decided to utilize my coding skills as a compelling selling feature in a different position which led me to take Veza’s Digital Marketing course. This learning mindset is the key to growth and success in the Tech sector.

  4. Be YOURSELF. “Connect and Communicate like you’ve known them for 1000 years” – this was my secret recipe while building a network or meeting for an interview. My LinkedIn connections have more doubled since pivoting toward a tech career, nine months ago. This mindset is so powerful when it comes to creating a meaningful connection. From sharing your thoughts to asking for help and from owning your weakness to speaking in public, those are one of the basic principles that guide my decision while interacting with people in general. 

All in all, those are insights from my personal experience which has helped me to navigate the sector and successfully land my first job in tech as a Data Analyst and Marketer at the startup Apples & Oranges Analytics. By sharing our experiences, hopefully, we can all contribute to creating a more inclusive culture. As there is overall more interest, policy integration and active participation from the employer side, complementing the movement and progress through sharing our stories will inspire and involve broader communities


Munifa Ahmed is a recent migrant to Canada in 2017. She is a Spring 2019 graduate of Veza Community’s Digital Marketing Program for Immigrant Women. Through her passion for creativity and personal-development, she had pivoted toward tech and landed her career as a Digital Analyst and Marketer. To learn more about her and her climate action project, visit www.munifaahmed.io.

Negotiating your salary to eliminate the need for equal pay day

Negotiating your salary to eliminate the need for equal pay day

Equal Pay Day is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. The exact day differs year by year (Conflicting dates as to what the actual day is in Canada as it may be April 2 or April 9th).

In most cases, men have four months on most women in terms of earnings. Over the lifetime, men will make over $400,000 more than women due to the lack of equal pay.

One way that you can help combat this trend and help make the need for Equal Pay Day obsolete is to advocate for your own salary/raise.

Here are a few tips on negotiating salaries:

  1. Research what is market value for your experience, expertise and your role. Glassdoor and Payscale are great places to do this research.
  2. When asking for a raise, showcase your achievements and have concrete examples of how you supported reaching the organizational goals (so be very aware of what are the organization’s goals). Constantly ensure that your role is alignment with the organizational goals so that it:
    • Keeps you valuable to the company
    • Allows you to feel you are contributing
    • Shows value for your position
    • Allows you to use it as leverage.
  3. Be confident when asking. This is the most important piece. You need to believe your own worth. You need to have a strong voice that has conviction in it. You need to believe you deserve. Practice in the mirror what the conversation would be. Notice if you look away or continue to look at yourself as you ask for the raise. Does your body language showcase confidence or do you shy away and change your body position? Does your voice have the same tone, volume and power throughout the conversation or do you falter when you mention money?

Do this exercise multiple times and then journal what is your experience each time. This will allow you to uncover how you are showcasing your worth and deservability on a regular basis as well it allows you to be prepared for the conversation.

  1. Talk to a mentor or coach who can guide you through the conversation. It is always helpful to have a third party act as a soundboard, give pointers and a coach can take you through a role play.

Historically, we know women tend to negotiate less and accept what they are given – so it is time to negotiate once and do it well. Your voice and your confidence in your own abilities will help fix this disparity. Do you have any additional tips to add? Tell us about them in the comments.

The Double Glass Ceiling

The Double Glass Ceiling

We have all heard of the glass ceiling and we have seen its effects. Webster’s dictionary defines the glass ceiling as “an intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper-level positions.” Fortunately, we are now witness to how the glass ceiling is being broken and shattered as women are rising in numbers to new levels of leadership. We are seeing multiple women at the table for various roles for the first time ever.

Most recently, we can celebrate the number of women from minority backgrounds in the US Senate.The women of colour elected to the Senate were not only dealing with one glass ceiling, but two. Identifying as a woman and as a visible minority is a double whammy in many ways. They each had to overcome the mindset of having to push their way into spaces others have easier access to and on top of it all, they did so while visibly looking different than those who have been in power up until now.

They had to go above and beyond to break the perceptions of voters to show that they have the same qualifications and can make the same or better contributions than those typically being elected.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently published a report stating that women face a “double-pane glass ceiling” at the top of Canada’s corporate ladder — first, in getting to the executive suite and, once there, in earning as much as their male counterparts. Women earn about 68 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts at the CEO or Executive level, whereas the gap has shrunk to 86 cents on the dollar at senior management.

As a minority and a woman, you experience the biases of the generalizations and stereotypes associated with race on top of those associated with gender. A recent report on Silicon Valley from the Ascend Foundation revealed that Asians, though the largest racial cohort in the industry, are the racial group least likely to be promoted to managerial and executive positions.

The infantilization of Asian women, who report being treated as younger than they are, is yet another cultural barrier.” (For more on this, see: Huffington Post) “We’re seen as younger, more naive, less experienced, on top of less American,” says Lata Murti, an associate professor of sociology at Brandman University who researches the experiences of female Indian doctors.

In breaking the double glass ceiling, we must first tackle the societal biases and uncover the individual bias that may exist in the unconscious. It is through the tackling of these bias that we are able to accurately address the situation.

Here are few ways that you can begin to overcome cultural bias for yourself:

  1. Just do what you feel called to. It may be uncomfortable, you may feel lonely, you may be surrounded by people who don’t look like you or that you don’t resonate with. Regardless of these feelings, take the actions that you are called to. When we follow that call, we are listening to our intuition, soul and heart that are pulling us towards our purpose. It is important to listen and take the inspired action.
  2. Find a mentor that can show you a path that would otherwise feel overwhelming. Mentors give us advice based on their experience. Sometimes it works best to have multiple mentors who can speak from the varied angles of cultural experience, gender experience and the career experience.
  3. Connect with people who are likeminded, who will understand the fear and resistance, yet still push you through it. Surround yourself with people who understand the cultural experience, yet allow themselves to be pulled towards to their goals.

Another resource to overcoming the double glass ceiling is this talk by someone who did: Barinder Rasode in her TEDx talk: Smashing the Double Glass Ceiling

What have you done to smash the glass ceiling? Please share below.

Gender Challenges in the workplace

I have a been a long time advocate for women in the workplace. In the last few years, it keeps being brought to my attention how men also need attention. Men have been supported and sponsored into career progression but they face a different set of challenges than women.

We know women face challenges in regards to:

  • negotiating salaries
  • feeling understood
  • confidence
  • feeling valued
  • being sponsored into promotions.

Research has shown that men face challenges in regards to:

  • Choosing work over family and the loss of personal relationships
  • Understanding how their gender is working against them
  • Managing stress
  • Feeling inadequate and unworthy when things aren’t going well career wise.

What are other challenges that you see that women and men face in the workplace?