Erica Peterson: Founder & CEO of Moms Can: Code
As you probably already know, gender roles are ingrained deep within our culture. They establish a striking difference between the part men and women play in today’s society. Consequently, these same stereotypes are enforced on parents, maintaining the notion that fathers should be working, and mothers should stay at home. However, Erica Peterson — the Founder & CEO of Moms Can: Code — wishes to challenge this paradigm that has affected countless individuals.
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Moms Can: Code is an organization that offers opportunities to for mothers to connect online and offline, provides learning resources, and in a similar way to WiTech: features women they admire on the website each week.
Prior to Moms Can: Code, Peterson had taken numerous jobs in STEM, from founding a nonprofit organization dedicated towards promoting early STEM education, to becoming the president of the Association of Women in Science, Pittsburgh Chapter, and even trained as a cytotechnologist and studied reproductive physiology among other things.
Despite her success, Erica is disappointed by the fact that the American workforce hasn’t been very welcoming towards women and mothers like her, stating that “I can’t think of ways being a woman hasn’t impacted my journey in any field. Being a woman, more specifically a mom, has meant that I have a lot more to prove.” Through her work, she aims to tackle a multitude of issues facing women aspiring for jobs in STEM, affirming the need for “more mothers as role models in tech” and “more role models for young women and girls”.
When asked about the type of improvements she wishes to see in the field of tech, Peterson expressed her desire to see “more women of all ages”. Additionally, she wishes to see “more opportunities for mothers to start businesses”, affirming the great difficulty in doing so while raising her kids. Erica often saw the need to borrow money from family members or use money that would otherwise be used on groceries in order to start her business. Not only this, but this same barrier to entry also affects working mothers, as there are hurdles in juggling a full-time job and a tech startup at the same time. However, an even greater difficulty lies in the money, as such a large portion of many women’s incomes are used to provide for their children.
It can easily be stated that Erica is one of the first female pioneers in STEM, truly challenging social conventions that dictate what role mothers play in a family, her work aims to inspire a new generation of young women who wish to work in this field and seeks to increase the number of opportunities for them. Her experiences reflect a larger issue in the STEM field ― the barriers to entry don’t just lie in prejudices, but are also caused by finances and lack of opportunity too.
When asked about what advice she wishes to give to younger women who wish to pursue careers in technology, she replied by saying this: “While I very much respect Sheryl Sandberg and her advice to “sit at the table”, I encourage girls to build their own table. Pulling up a chair to sit at the table is great advice if you want to be a part of someone else’s legacy. My advice is to create your own.”
Her words disclose a narrative that is unfortunately (for the most part) unheard of ― that young girls should not choose to be a hidden behind someone else’s legacy or success, but instead, should have the confidence and capability chose to create their own.
Patrick is currently a high school student at the British School Manila. His passion for political, social and cultural issues is the main reason why he decided to join WiTech as the first male contributor.