Women’s History Month Spotlight: Hazel Valdez from PDXWIT
This Women’s History Month, we’re featuring several inspiring leaders who are working toward expanding equality and opportunity for women within our community. Women continue to be grossly underrepresented in leadership roles and when we consider the unique barriers experienced by women of color, representation drops even lower. Hazel Valdez, Executive Director at PDX Women in Tech (PDXWIT) shared with us what she believes is keeping women from entering the tech industry, a piece of advice to those pursuing leadership roles, and how the courageous act of speaking her truth helped shape her own leadership style.
In your opinion, what is the main challenge preventing women from entering the tech field and how is PDXWIT helping address this challenge?
In my opinion, the main challenge preventing women from entering the tech field is access to tech. Access by way of education and access by way of opportunity. PDXWIT just had a K-12 event this past month and I was blown away by what attendees had to say, including the fact that parents don’t know or have the means to get their kids in early STEM programs. The stigma of being a woman continues to be pervasive and it’s sad that in the 21st century, there are pockets of folks who stick to the dogma that women don’t have what it takes to be in tech. That’s where PDXWIT will continue to be. Amplifying a women’s value, genius and worth. By partnering with organizations who align with our mission of access to tech, we can do more things together to showcase the talents of all women wanting to break into tech or continue their path in tech.
Knowing what you know now about leadership and career growth, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is at the beginning stages of their career or pivoting to an unfamiliar field?
One piece of advice I would give someone, stay grounded. You’re on a journey and sometimes it will be hard but the payoff is that you will learn new things and you will be better prepared for new opportunities. Ignore the noise around you and be yourself. For folks pivoting to an unfamiliar field, reimagine courageously. You have knowledge and skills that you have honed for years, tell your story so that they see your value.
Is there a specific person who has greatly influenced your career or has inspired you to pursue the position you’re currently in?
A long time ago, I spoke my truth to the CEO of the company acquiring the company I worked for. I told him that the acquisition was not going well and that I was disappointed by the whole process. Impact works on both sides of the story and that they didn’t consider the folks who were being acquired. I thought I was going to be fired that day, but instead, was invited to meet with him one-on-one. We spoke and since that incident, I admired his humble nature. What he did next is what really influenced my leadership aspirations. He went to the people. Not just one day, but everyday. He asked questions, he learned department roles, and he showed me that to be a leader meant taking the hits from folks and turning them into positive solutions. I will say that those years of my life working with him were influential in my own career journey.
To learn more about how you can help support Hazel’s work and dismantle inequities in the tech space, visit: https://www.pdxwit.org/