Do We Have to Give Up Our Femininity?

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I do love video games, hate shopping, love the color pink, could talk about software product design and development all day, and am obsessed with anything that sparkles, but I’ve been unintentionally hiding that side of me that loves shoes and the color pink. By Samihah Azim (Founder & CEO, GleeBox)

I recently had a conversation with one of my lawyer friends who’s very stylish and fashionable, about blogging. It’s no secret that I have friends who choose my clothes for me since I’d be completely lost on fashion without them.

I was recommending a few blogs that some of my fashion-forward friends run/own, and T (we’ll call her T), said I should start a blog. I told her I already have one and she said I should get all of my friends to follow it.

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Me: Well, my blog is kind of boring for anyone not in tech because I mainly talk about tech or anything related to tech. Which is fascinating to me, but boring to non-techies.

T: So? Start talking about other things. Cater to your audience. Give a makeup tutorial or something. That way girls will see it and go, “oh! She’s a nerd but also girly!” and can relate to it.

Me: But... I... my audience IS tech...

I started to explain why I couldn’t/wouldn’t talk about other things and realized that I’d been compromising my femininity.

As women in technology, do we need to turn our noses up to anything that’s remotely feminine or girly to be taken seriously? Conversely, do we need to be ultra-girly in order to be relatable by girls, or by women who aren’t on the development side of product development – in either design or engineering? Why is it that when a guy finds out that I like video games but hate shopping, I’m no longer considered, a “normal” girl, or that I’m “practically a guy.” What does that even mean? And what does it mean to be considered a “normal” girl. What IS normal?

I’m used to being the only girl, or one of very few women, in a group (whether it’s a work group, a conference, or a meetup), but this ratio needs to change - and not for the sake of just changing the ratio, but for the sake of having more voices heard, and creating a level of acceptance that women can kick ass while still being “girly.” A woman that I knew (we were the only women in a group of guys), completely shunned anything feminine. It’s fine if you don’t care for the color pink, or shoes, or sparkly things, but is it really necessary to turn your nose completely up at women that do? Interestingly enough, none of the guys cared if any of the women were “girly” or not since they cared more about the work we did (THIS is the kind of environment that should be encouraged everywhere).

When I was growing up, I admired people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I thought Madeleine Albright was pretty bad ass. But I also loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Spice Girls, and Destiny’s Child (all of which had messages that girls can kick ass - none of that Twilight shit). I was obsessed with science, but wanted to play with makeup (my parents were strict - there was no playing of makeup for me until sophomore year of high school). I love video games, hate shopping, love the color pink, could talk about software product design and development all day, and am obsessed with anything that sparkles, but I’ve been unintentionally hiding that side of me that loves shoes and the color pink.

Instead of outcasting women that hate shopping but love to play video games (pretty sure Fifa is the best game in the world), or looking down on women who love glitter and pink (hot pink glitter shoes - I NEED to find this), we should encourage women and girls to enter technology as a “builder” regardless of what their outside interests are. I love that there are organizations like Hackbright Academy (we need one that teaches women design also! I’m talking, fundamentals of UX, Photoshop, HTML/CSS) and Women 2.0, I just wish there was more outreach to the younger generation of girls to let them know that it’s okay to be feminine but also love traditionally male-dominated “geeky/nerdy” things.

We shouldn’t have to compromise our femininity to be taken seriously.

This post was originally posted at Samihah Azim's blog.

Women 2.0 readers: How do you ensure that you are taken seriously in the workplace? Do you give up your femininity to be respected or fit in?

About the guest blogger: Samihah Azim is the Founder and CEO of GleeBox, a startup that lets people curate and organize offline discoveries and explore unique local items to share within their network. She has a passion for solving complex problems surrounding social commerce. Previously, she was a Design Product Manager at 6waves Lolapps and BizeeBee, leveraging both her keen eye for design and product management skills. Follow her on Twitter at @samihah.