Thousands of women technologists have joined a new Facebook group to talk about motherhood in the tech industry. They're members of the new Moms in Tech group, a growing community founded by Linda Xiong. Community members use the space to discuss workplace challenges, arrange meet-ups, and ask for advice.
"Being a mom is hard, working in tech as a woman is hard," Ms. Xiong explains. "You mix the both, and we got a group of people with [a] pretty unique challenge. We should have a space for us."
In three months, the group has grown from a few dozen women to more than 2,700 mothers. Members are primarily located in Silicon Valley, but membership is growing in other cities like New York and Seattle. The group includes a mix of mothers who work in the tech industry and technologists who work in non-tech fields (like developers at banks).
Ms. Xiong attributes the group's appeal primarily to the lack of support in workplaces. "One mom posted that she was THE ONLY mom in her company of 250 people. Women are still [a] minority in tech, and tech skews young, so some of the younger women are not yet moms." To counter the loneliness, women use the group to make friends and build a professional network. "Meeting in real life to build in person friendships is important," she says.
"One mom posted that she was THE ONLY mom in her company of 250 people."
The community also serves a need for women who fear discrimination based on their family status in the workplace. "The perception and fear [of discrimination] is there. But this just make it even harder for moms to connect as [moms] and get that open dialog," Ms. Xiong tells us. One group member—who spoke on condition of anonymity—says that she values the community's collective experience with handling potential discrimination. "I wanted to negotiate the terms of my leave without making my manager think I was going on the 'mommy track'. I saw other women discussing it [in the group] and now know how to start the conversation."
"I am normal. We are normal. We are ok."
The community's conversations cover both the professional and personal sides of parenting. Ms. Xiong enjoys "how real everyone is. People talk about real problems and real feelings." At the same time, "it's not all serious topics, one of my [favorite] threads is where everyone shared a photo of their crazy messy living rooms... after seeing that, I was like, I am normal. We are normal. We are ok."
Some women who identify as technologists are currently on career breaks to care for their children. To recognize this, Ms. Xiong changed the name from "Working Moms in Tech" to "Moms in Tech" within a few weeks of founding the group. She explains, "Something bothered me about the term 'working mom.' It's very othering, and tries to put moms into two neat little buckets of 'working' vs 'stay at home.' Does it also implies that 'stay at home' is somehow 'not working'? That's not cool. These little things do matter."
Ms. Xiong remains an active community moderator, along with a team of volunteer community administrators. They suggest meet-ups, vet new members, and encourage group members to share their experiences.
"I'm happy I found this group," the anonymous group member tells us. "It makes me feel like I'm not alone, even though I'm the only one with a baby at the office."