Four Kitchens

Women in tech: Navigating and changing an industry

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The Lonely Only at DrupalCon Portland 2024

DrupalCon is always a major highlight on the Four Kitchens calendar. As part of our presence at the event, four Web Chefs — Shanice Ortiz, Laura Johnson, Jenna Harris-Mosley, and Sebastianna Skalisky — will present the keynote luncheon, “The Lonely Only: Women in tech and navigating a male-dominated landscape” on Tuesday, May 7. Here’s a preview of their presentation.

For women in tech, the numbers don’t lie. Though we have made significant strides in breaking down a historically male-dominated field, women make up just 35% of employees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). When you look at our Drupal community, women have made progress, but remain at only 17% of specialists in our field.

It’s no wonder that women find themselves feeling like “the lonely only” when looking around their companies and departments. Feeling isolated in your profession and your workplace can be difficult. And, when you factor in the reality of sexism’s role in pay inequity and limited advancement, deeply frustrating.

Clearly, there’s more work to be done. However, in this preview of our upcoming keynote at DrupalCon Portland 2024, everyone has a role to play in improving representation in our community.

The right workplace creates a world of difference for inclusion

At Four Kitchens, creating space for women in tech is inherent to our core values of building genuine relationships, to always improve, and doing good. The four of us have come to this topic with unique backgrounds and across differing specialties: business development, creative, delivery, and engineering.

But the root experience of navigating the workplace as part of an underrepresented group remains the same. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives are hot-button topics in our culture. Over the past few years, the term has been weaponized as a tool for division. In reality, making room for a multitude of voices is a source of strength, and it’s valuable to see these goals as part of the core values of the Drupal community.

But words are only the beginning. It’s everyone’s business to create a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds and experiences. Female voices deserve a safe space to be heard, valued, and respected. Any improvements that women employees may see in our industry are still reliant on the culture of a company and its leadership.

Making space for diversity encompasses more than hiring

Companies should take the extra step of creating space for all kinds of individuals. A strong HR department should prioritize inclusion and cast a wide net in its hiring practices. But your workplace should also work to create a culture of internal support.

Along with identifying talent and encouraging growth at the junior development level, organizations should address representation in day-to-day roles. Four Kitchens identified Laura’s talents, and she’s the first engineering lead in our organization. As projects come in, Shanice looks at each project team’s makeup to ensure women are represented, as well as any junior team members who are ready to grow.

We’ve all worked in environments that have prioritized creating diverse workplaces as well as those that have not. Fortunately, Four Kitchens embraces diversity and has a strong DEIB practice. Without question, the companies in our industry that are worth working for will create those spaces.

Inclusion is possible through opportunity

The four of us have had similar experiences as “the lonely only” in our careers. But our professional backgrounds outside the tech industry have included fields with high percentages of women in the workforce. For example, Jenna worked in elementary education, nonprofit, and social work, and Sebastianna worked in higher ed.

Working in tech has not always been highlighted as a viable career path for women. Women account for only 16% of bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences and 21% of engineering graduates. Factor in representation among women of color, and the numbers go even lower. Along with ensuring our workplaces do more to foster inclusion, we need to make sure the education system continues to address inequality in fields of study.

Women should be empowered to transform tech leadership

Upending gender inequality in tech requires systemic change. But at the organizational level, women unfortunately face personal responsibility for creating some of those changes.

For example, women have been socialized to not apply for open positions unless they meet all the listed qualifications. By contrast, men have the learned confidence to pursue a job with only 60% of the requirements.

Women should feel empowered to reach for these positions, but at the same time we need to have support. It’s important to build a network of women outside your immediate workplace to foster opportunities for growth.

Any improvements that women employees may see in our industry are still reliant on the culture of a company and its leadership.

Our presence at every company matters. We need the perseverance and confidence to advance to leadership roles because we have the power to shift the current dynamic and create real change.

Women need to claim space in this industry and foster a positive environment within our workplace. With the right support, we can help pave the way for the future female leaders in this industry still to come.

Effective advocacy requires action

Of course, women can’t resolve inequality in our industry alone. Put another way, you can lean in at your company all you want. But it won’t make an impact if you’re constantly being pushed back.

March was Women’s History Month, which spurred conversation about our achievements and the value of allyship. But fostering change and equality in our industry requires more than static statements of support. Men should play a major role in changing the inequality of our industry through their actions in the workplace.

Advocacy is only possible by actual follow-through and action at the organizational level. We hope you’ll join us at DrupalCon to talk about the ways we can move this industry — and our community — forward for everyone.


If you’re going to DrupalCon Portland 2024, please make sure to attend the keynote at the Women in Drupal luncheon with Shanice, Laura, Jenna, and Sebastianna.

Where: Oregon Convention Center (777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232), 204 Oregon Ballroom

When: Tuesday, May 7, 2024, 12:20 – 1:20pm

For tickets and session details, click here.