The Gender Gap and a Cultural Divide

My name is Avni Barman. I’m the founder of Generation She by night, and by day, I’m a product manager at Atlassian. I’m 23 years old.

I grew up in Silicon Valley; I’ve always been surrounded by technology. My mom was in the tech industry. So I’ve seen firsthand how male-dominated it can be and the struggles of being a woman in tech.

My mom started her tech career 20 years ago. The awareness of the gender gap in the tech industry has positively evolved over years in ways my mom couldn’t even imagine during her prime years in tech. So, I’m much more optimistic now about a future career in tech today than I was maybe 10 years ago, when I was growing up and seeing the challenges my mom was facing.

Blending Cultures

My parents were born and raised in India. They immigrated here. My dad immigrated here for college. That was pretty challenging for him, because he came to America with no money — but very passionate and ambitious — ready to start his future. So he would basically go to class during the day and work at night to pay the bills. He met my mom in India later, and they got married. Then she came to America with him; she got her MBA here. They’re two people I admire and look up to.

One thing that my parents instilled in me is that while I’m an American citizen and part of American society, my heritage and culture and who I identify with at the end of the day is Indian. They didn’t leave India and forget their values — they brought those values with them. And they’ve instilled those values in me to make sure that even though I’m an American, I also embrace my culture and know where I come.

At times, when I was growing up, I didn’t want to be different from my peers. I wanted to be just as American as them.

I have this very vivid memory of Culture Day. I was very young — maybe second or third grade. For Culture Day, my mom brought out this really cute Indian outfit. She said, “You should wear this; it’s Culture Day.” And I said, “Ew, no, I don’t want to wear that, everyone’s going to laugh at me.”

I remember wearing regular clothes, and I went to school that day, and there were lots of other students who were Indian. I thought, “Oh, they actually look so cute. They’re embracing their culture, and that’s awesome.”

“I recognized that I can be American and also embrace my culture.

And that makes me different, but also it’s really awesome to have another culture to resonate with and to be proud of. Now, I’m definitely proud of being Indian, and when people ask me, I want to tell them.

A Valuable Journey

When I rejected that outfit, there was a sadness in my mom’s eyes. She wanted me to embrace who I was and what I identify with the same way that she did. But I think there’s a generational gap. She grew up in India; it was very natural for her to accept those parts of herself. Whereas for me, I just had a different journey. But I don’t regret rejecting it in that moment, because there was no way that I could’ve come out of that experience thinking, “Actually, this is very valuable and important to me” without experiencing what it was like to not have it or what it was like to reject it.

I value the journey that I went through to embrace my heritage and be proud of it. I, through the years, grow to love and appreciate it more and more.

“I can say today, yes, I’m really proud to be Indian-American.

I’m sure my mom would be proud to know that all of her hard work and all of that energy she put into making sure that I didn’t forget who I was and where I came from actually led somewhere.

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