“Why don’t you contact us again after you delivered your baby?”
That was my eighth phone call with recruiters, and every one of them had ended that same way. My frustration and helplessness were palpable. My eyes could barely blink away my tears.
On May 3, 2016, my employer, a large tech company, informed me that my job was no longer necessary. Along with more than 50 of my co-workers, I was being let go. We had to leave the company in the next three days. Suddenly, not only was the promotion I’d thought within my reach whisked away into thin air, I was also unemployed.
On that same day, I found out that I was pregnant.
The universe works in mysterious ways. My husband and I had been trying to have a baby for several years, with no luck. Then, out of the blue, our dream had come true! After our initial tears of joy and happiness came the harsh reality: I was now an unemployed pregnant woman.
In Beijing’s tech job market, although equal employment opportunity is protected by law, the cruel reality is that if you are a woman, you are less likely to get your dream job compared to men. If you are married without kids, people often advise you against even job hunting, because employers are wary that you’ll get pregnant soon. If you are already pregnant, you are advised to hold on to your current job and give up job hunting, because it’s nearly impossible. And if you are pregnant? And you lose your job? Well, that’s about the worst possible situation imaginable, so why don’t you just stay at home and enjoy your pregnancy!
“Why? Why can’t I find a job when I am pregnant?” I asked my husband. He tried to comfort me, “It is what it is, honey. Let’s focus on the bright side. After all, your former employer offered you a decent severance package to help you with your pregnancy and post-natal period. Now you can develop all your hobbies, isn’t that exciting?”
Sure, but that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to work!
I wanted to work on what I was good at, technical writing. I love learning about new, innovative technologies and making them understandable and exciting to others through the power of words. I want to contribute to a mission that is meaningful and bigger than myself. I refuse to accept the reality that I’m somehow unqualified to work just because I’m pregnant. So, on May 23rd, 20 days after I was laid off and multiple rejections later, I pulled myself together for my last interview with Dylan Cui, co-founder of PingCAP, a startup that makes an open source distributed database called TiDB.
The conversation went well, and near the end came the moment of truth:
“We are a startup with a small team. We are very busy. Some of us have to wear many hats. Are you cool with that?” they asked me.
“Yes. I’m excited about taking on new challenges and making a difference. But I am pregnant,” I admitted.
“Well, PingCAP is an Equal Opportunity Employer, so your pregnancy has no influence in our consideration. By the way, if you feel like working from home because you need to go to doctor’s appointments or take care of other things, feel free to do so. When do you want to start?”
The next thing I remember, I was signing the contract and heading to work on the same day.
And that’s how I, Queeny Jin, became employee number 17 at PingCAP.
Two weeks ago was my daughter’s first birthday. Over the past 20 months, she’s grown as the popularity and number of contributors has grown for the TiDB project (now at 14,000+ Github stars). And I’ve also grown, both professionally as a technical writer and personally as a mother, taking on more responsibility to help a fast-paced startup grow. Despite conventional wisdom and common biases, my pregnancy was never a hindrance to the growth of the company, and my PingCAP family never treated me differently. We are all regarded, evaluated, and respected based on our competence, potential, and quality of our work. Nothing more, nothing less. And that’s how things should be.
I was lucky to have found such an employer and grateful for the opportunity I received. But frankly, that should be the norm, not the exception, for women who want to work and advance in tech, pregnant or not. I hope my story can give other women hope, as they go through the competitive tech job market, whether they are in Beijing or elsewhere around the world. And I hope tech companies will take note, or they will be missing the talented employees they need to succeed.