What I Talk About When I Talk about Women in Product

When we talk about women in technology, women in product roles are rarely included.

By Merci Victoria Grace (Product Management Lead, Slack)

This post originally appeared on Medium

Thanks to the incredible women and their allies who refused to let the haters stop them, the role of women in engineering roles at technology companies has become a central part of the culture and inclusivity conversation currently happening. That conversation has advanced because women engineers started talking to each other and building communities.

Many of these groups exist as meet-ups that regularly convene and provide mentoring, friendship and professional networks for their members. These communities are vital and necessary, and I am so happy that they exist.

But those communities are not for me. I am not an engineer and I can’t contribute as an equal member.

Engineering roles at technology companies are overtly gendered. The deeper into the technology stack that a particular role operates, the more gendered the role is.

Product roles are covertly gendered. Typical job descriptions for product management, product management-adjacent roles, and (critically) product leadership roles contain gendered language like “execute” “drive” and “rockstar.” PMs are often referred to as the “mini CEO” of their team  —  another overtly gendered role.

A good friend of mine, who is also a woman PM, was turned down for a job by a hiring manager who told her she wasn’t what they were looking for. He said to her, in these exact words, that they were looking for an “alpha male.” Then he stuttered and corrected himself: “I mean alpha dog!”

I cofounded a venture-backed game studio right after college, and at a BBQ hosted by one of my investors the CEO of a portfolio company interrupted my conversation with a partner to grab my shoulder and shout in my face: “Dude! You’re a woman!”

Almost every woman working in product has a collection of stories like ours. Over the past decade or so that I’ve been working at early-stage startups, I have worked with one other woman in a product management role.

It’s telling that when we talk about women in technology, women in product roles are rarely included. It’s no one’s fault — we haven’t yet formed our own visible communities or begun really publicly talking about the culture of Bro that dominates our role.

After searching for my community I realized that I would have to start it. So I made a Slack team and called it, plainly, Women in Product. Within a week over 50 women from SF, NY, LA and London had joined.

If you’re reading this, you have been looking for your community, too. We’re here, and we can’t wait to meet you.

To join us, please fill out this short membership request form.

(Thanks to Haruki Murakami for inspiring the title of this post.)


About the guest blogger: Merci Victoria Grace is the product management lead at Slack and the founder of the Women in Product Slack team. Follow her on Twitter at @merci.