I am the difference between innovation and stagnation
Symantec’s 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report explores our commitments to our employees, the world, and your information. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be featuring blogs from Symantec employees and partners that focus on how they are making a difference. This week, we hear from Jingjing Ren, Software Engineer.
I’m a software engineer at Symantec. According to recent statistics, less than 20 percent of the bachelor degrees in computer science go to women. This means that, even living in Silicon Valley as I do, I’m a member of a very small group of working technical women.
Why do so few girls and women pursue careers in computer science and other tech fields? What makes a company attractive to female engineers? How can companies best invest in the development of their technical workforce? These are not easy questions to answer, but I can provide some insight through my own experiences at Symantec.
One thing that had a big impact on me was mentoring. My aunt is also a technical woman – she’s been living and working in Silicon Valley for 20 years now, and as a child her experience really inspired me. She spent a lot of time talking to me about her education and her work, and she helped give me the confidence to enroll in classes dominated by men, and ultimately enter a workforce dominated by men.
I try to hone my networking skills. Events such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing offer technical women an opportunity to hear inspiring keynotes and presentations, network with recruiters from technology companies, and interact with other women engineers. Attending events like this makes you realize that there are other women working in technical fields, and you can begin to build a professional network of people who can help educate, inspire, and coach you to greater success.
Search for employment opportunities at companies with a demonstrable record of valuing women and their contributions. I met a Symantec recruiter at the 2010 Grace Hopper conference, and left her with my resume. When she called to follow-up, she spent some time telling me about the programs and policies that Symantec has in place to help nurture the careers of technical women. Programs like the Symantec Women’s Action Network (or SWAN), of which I’m now a member, offer women an opportunity to learn from each other, collaborate successfully, give back to the community, and position themselves for success.
Perhaps most importantly, I was impressed that Symantec has a number of women in leadership positions, at the Senior Director, VP, and above levels. That gives me confidence that Symantec is a place where women can, and do, succeed. My experiences with my own team have been very positive – I feel that my contribution is valued, my voice is heard, and I have many opportunities available to me to learn and grow. And I feel supported in my efforts to balance my work life with my personal life. Symantec offers all employees flexible working arrangements and challenging, stimulating projects.
If I were to offer advice to young girls thinking of pursuing careers in technical fields, I would encourage them to move out of their comfort zones. Walking into a classroom or a meeting room full of men can be intimidating, but if you have an interest in these fields, pursue it. Build your network. Take full advantage of support systems and programs. Talk to people who are doing the kind of work you’re interested in. And take risks.
For more information about Symantec's approach to talent management, diversity and inclusion, and employee satisfaction, visit the Our People section of the corporate responsibility website.