Women, send in your resumes already
- By Zach Noble
- Oct 29, 2015
Marina Martin, chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is "vibrant and young" and technologically talented, said NetHope's Revi Sterling.
But Martin is working in "the inertia, the bureaucracy" at VA, Sterling added.
How she ended up there was a bit of an accident.
Martin shared her story "an example that you shouldn't follow" during an event spotlighting women, technology and leadership at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Oct. 29.
She joined the government in 2012 as part of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, but she never intended to apply for the program.
"When I read about this program, my immediate reaction was, 'There's no way I'm qualified,'" Martin recalled. "But it said if you sent in your resume, you'd be added to their mailing list. That is how I started my career in government."
She quickly got a call informing her that she was exactly the kind of candidate for whom the PIF program was looking. Over the protest of friends in Seattle, Martin decided to give government work a try, and three years later, she's leading a digital services team of roughly 20 people and streamlining the VA's customer service.
"I never imagined myself in the public sector, ever," Martin said, adding that her story illustrates a problem in the workforce.
Women have a tendency to apply only for jobs for which they feel completely qualified, while men will fire off an application when they're only 75 percent sure they can handle the work, she said.
Those tendencies might contribute to men's persistent dominance of tech jobs in the federal workforce, although the government has made recent strides in pay equity.
"There remains a tremendous tech talent vacuum in government," Martin said, noting that getting more women involved could help narrow the gap. And she said women who are already in the workforce should not be afraid to apply for jobs that might seem like a stretch.
Education is the key, Martin said.
"I've been in computers since I was three," she said, adding that getting girls comfortable with technology from a young age could encourage them to pursue tech careers as adults.
Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.