yeaR of birth
I was 14 when I decided that what I was going to be in life was a software engineer. After graduating from Cambridge in Computer Science, I started working as a software engineer. Even though I saw myself as an engineer, the tech industry being very white and male dominated did not see me as a part of that. People would assume I was working in sales, for example! I’ve definitely seen an unfriendliness, a distrust of women who are engineers.
I thought a lot about the diversity issue in tech. I realise that most of that has very little to do with me personally and very much to do with how people treat me because of how they see me. Being female is part of that, being Chinese is part of that, even being short. I have these extra things that I have to consciously work against which cause people to think that I’m not as professional or technical as them.
After working in that environment for 5 years, I decided to leave and before starting a new job, I thought very hard about the way I’m seen in the workplace. In the industry, there is a feeling that clothing is functional and it’s frivolous and ‘female’ for you to care. If you dress up, you are not technical, you are not an engineer, you are not one of us. All these things came together before I started a new job and I thought I’m going to do the ‘Steve Jobs’ thing and buy multiples of same identical outfit which I will wear to work everyday. I wear all these t-shirts back to front, and I do that in because I want to deflect any attention to the chest area.
I really didn’t like this thought originally because I felt as a tech person, you should wear anything you want, like the tech world says! It would be great to think that I can wear a ballgown to work but at the same time, that’s a big fight and I’m not sure if it’s a fight I want. These t-shirts are nothing special, I wear these everyday, literally, Monday to Friday. It is a uniform for me, it is a uniform I have constructed for myself. In a perfect world, the only thing that you should be judged on is your work, your character, your ability. These t-shirts have become a bit of an armour for the workplace and that is reflected in my artwork.