Being the change
“Don’t let stereotypes get to you. Follow your passions and believe in yourself. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to take risks.”
Tasha Graham isn’t one to just take it easy. As Kansas City Women in Technology’s new Diversity & Inclusion Director, Tasha is striving to make professional development and growth even more accessible to all members of the Greater Kansas City area. With a professional history working in technology within the healthcare industry, Tasha knows what challenges Kansas City women in technology are facing both in and out of the workplace.
Why did you decide to get involved with KCWiT?
As far as being a member of KCWiT, I was attracted to the support and mentorship from other women who either worked in the field or just enjoyed it as a hobby. I was looking for a safe and welcoming group to join in order to gain more skills and knowledge in the tech industry.
Regarding deciding to interview for my current role as the Diversity & Inclusion Director I skimmed over a few articles about the most diverse cities in the US and the most innovative/high tech cities in the US, and Kansas City was not on any list. I grew up in the New England & NY areas, which are truly diverse areas, and there were many cities in those areas on those lists.
I co-founded a nonprofit in Texas, developed to mentor women and young girls. While serving on the board, one of my objectives was creating a diverse culture within the organization. I provided leadership on diversity related matters and identified strategies to enhance the composition of the members and mentees.
I’ve also participated in many diversity committees in high school and college. It has always been a passion of mine to make everyone feel included. Part of that reason is because I have a very diverse family dynamic, from all aspects.
What is your personal/professional background in technology?
Healthcare Data and Analytics, Healthcare Information Systems Implementation and Workflow Design.
What experiences have you had working in tech and working in tech in Kansas City?
I’ve experienced having bosses, who were actually women, with little to no technical knowledge who would demand unreasonable expectations/requests. I’ve also experienced less sexism in the tech side of the healthcare industry than the clinical side. From other peers in the tech industry, I’ve been told that I look too “prissy” to have as much technical knowledge as I do. However, I’ve also found peers, men and women, who were more than happy to teach me everything they know.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
Workplace sexism is a thing for sure, probably in every industry. I’ve had a male physician look me in the eye (for the first time) and say, “Oh! You do know what you’re doing!”, after working with him for almost three years. Another male physician would tell me that there was too much estrogen in the room.
How do you think your role can impact the tech community in Kansas City?
We know that diversity means to value understanding and acceptance of differences among people. For a technology driven organization such as KCWiT, I don’t only think of diversity in the aspects of race/ethnicity or gender/sexual orientation or education/skill set, I also think of the varying industries that benefit from their employees having some computer science and technology exposure.
Healthcare, which is a large part of my background, is a great example. I think the biggest obstacle that prevents technology adoption in the healthcare industry is lack of knowledge. That lack of knowledge stems from not knowing what resources are available other than pursuing a collegiate certificate or degree.
We see that the foundation of KCWiT is leading, mentoring, and teaching; and when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, I feel that the goal should be the same. I feel we should be driving impact and change not just by being a representation of diversity at all levels, but also by being a strong advocate for it as well.
What advice do you have to other women looking to make a career in technology?
The workplace is a competitive environment and you will encounter friendly and unfriendly people in this environment. Use these experiences as learning tools. Don’t let stereotypes get to you. Follow your passions and believe in yourself and push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Make sure you have a good support system and find a few mentors that can help you explore various disciplines and share their experiences in the industry. Volunteer anywhere you can. This not only helps with networking, but also helps to inspire others.
Anything else you would like to share?
It is proven that providing mentorship for women in tech is crucial and beneficial to help tackle the problem with lack of women in the industry. I think KCWiT is helping to make a lasting impact on the future of the tech industry in Kansas City by inspiring generations of women to get into the industry. Lastly, KCWiT is an organization where we can connect and inspire others at the same time. At every event and/or meeting that I attend, I always feel welcomed and appreciated all at the same time.
Are you interested in using your skills to impact the tech community in Kansas City? View our current leadership openings.