Maria Hollweck

CS Student, University of Regensburg

Location: Regensburg, Germany

"I was already sitting at the table. I decided to sit ON the table during our next meeting to get their attention."

I am a proud woman in tech. I have been coding since I was 13 years old, and I have grown more and more passionate about how to use technology to create a social impact. I started to work as a Software Engineer when I was 16, where I was shocked to see that I was only the second woman in our software team. Being a woman in tech has a lot of benefits, but it’s also very challenging.

In group projects, I often ended up working on all-male teams. Some of the students didn't know that I had already been coding for years, and many of them treated me like “the wannabe tech girl.” I always had to convince them that I had the technical skills and that I knew what I was talking about. Still, I wondered: could I speak up when I didn't  understand something without being judged as “the girl”?

During project meetings it was hard for me to get their attention when I wanted to add something or make a point. I was sitting with them at the table, but they never treated like the leader that I wanted to be. So I tried something different. Instead of sitting at the table, I decided to sit on the table during our next meeting to get their attention. It might sound crazy, but it gave me the confidence to tell my team what I thought. I felt so much more powerful when I was sitting on the table. I finally felt like people were listening, and that I was recognized as a real team member with things to say.

I continued sitting on the table -- even in classes when we had group discussions with the professor -- and I always got the respect that I wanted to get. Furthermore, I also had the experience, that the people around you will see you as a natural leader when you’re sitting on the table - which is great because I’m always interested in improving my leadership skills.

I encourage all women who are working in a male-dominated field to try this. Even if it feels bold or unusual, it will bring a lot of confidence and a new perspective to team discussions.