To celebrate National Inclusion week 2018, each morning, Tribal shared one story from a Tribalite talking about their experience as someone who is considered diverse or different, and how this has impacted them. Below, is Marissa's story about being a black women working tech.
As a child I was fascinated with volcanoes and wanted to be a Geologist. That interest in science didn’t diminish at school and when I had to decide what to do after school, I choose with persuasion from my father to study Electrical Engineering at college. It didn’t take me long to realise that I didn’t like the subject and I felt really out of place in a class where I was the only female and much younger than everyone else. I think if I had loved the subject I would have continued with it despite the challenges. In my 2nd year, I changed to studying Computer Studies which I thoroughly enjoyed and excelled in.
By the age of 12, I had learnt the fundamentals of web production and HTML coding. I was extracting content form print magazines into HTML content on websites. In those first few years pre-2000, I hadn’t encountered another black person or a woman in the discipline, but it didn’t put me off because unlike Electrical Engineering, I was loving it and was good at it. However, I felt there was an imbalance and more could be done so that a developer who is a black woman wasn’t rarity. So when I later became a Senior Web Developer, I actively looked for more women when recruiting and succeeded in assembling a diverse team in gender, race and disabilities. I always found that diversity enriched the team and its output.
Today, I find joy in seeing my young black niece loving science and wanting to be a scientist. However, she’s encountered prejudice from a science teacher who from the first encounter asked her how come she was interested in science and whether she was sure she wanted to study it. If a young girl turns up to learn science, you champion, welcome and encourage her. She would be a minority in her field.
If a young black girl turns up, it’s even rarer and should have the same treatment.
If I could say something to my younger self, it would be: don’t stay comfortable with the status quo when it’s clear that change is needed, question things more, speak up more and if you feel out of place anywhere remember why you made the effort to be there.