The Experience Tax
The extra toll Black women in tech pay in “years of experience”
About 6 months into a job, a (cishet, White, male) teammate asked whether my current role was my first as a Software Developer. I calmly explained that, no, I had been a Software Developer for more than five years, and that this was my fourth role in the field. After the conversation ended, I proceeded to have a brand new wave of imposter syndrome, anxiety, rage, and embarrassment.
Then I realized something: my five years of experience look very different than those of a cishet, White male. Yes, I had five years of software development experience, but I had also been paying what I now refer to as the Experience Tax on those years.
The Experience Tax: the additional time and energy that folks with marginalized identities must put into navigating various challenges in their careers, which their overrepresented peers do not face.
Five Years of Experience Tax
During the first five years of my career in tech, I worked at four different companies. Each time I left a role, it was because of the racism and sexism I experienced at each company.
So, over the course of five years, I had to:
1. Learn four different architectures and code bases
2. Navigate four different team and company cultures
3. Encounter four different flavors of microaggressions and problematic company policies, both written and unwritten
4. Wrestle with three separate decisions of whether these issues were worth leaving the company
5. Conduct three different job searches and offer negotiations