How to win as a woman in tech
We all know that there’s a massive skills gap when it comes to the tech industry, with a lack of women in tech roles.
The Muse recently consulted the 5 biggest names in tech (all female) and asked them for their tips, techniques, and tactics that have afforded them their tech success. Just one-quarter of all computing roles are filled by women, so we wanted to learn how they stood out and what it’s like for a woman building a lifelong career in their field.
1. Big each other up
Sheila Oh, Director of Seattle University’s Computer Science Fundamentals Certificate Program, joined Systers, an online platform for women in tech roles.
“Understanding that I wasn’t alone was so powerful for me” – Sheila
Having access to women who were in her position, though not in her company, allowed Sheila to feel included, rather than isolated. With so few women in tech, it’s better to band together than compete against each other. She identified Systers as a place to ‘trade diversity and inclusion solutions from one another’s companies’.
2. Fight the imposter syndrome
Being the only woman in the room can be daunting – it can even convince you not to speak up for fear of being ridiculed. Lisette Cruz suggests reminding yourself that you were “hired for this position for a reason“. Keep looking for problems to solve, processes to improve and contributions that could be made.
Erica Peterson, of Moms Can: Code, “encourages women to build their own table“ – be forward thinking, speak out and don’t allow your contributions to be quashed. You have every right to be here and voice your opinions.
3. Don’t let bias get into your head
Whether or not you feel or think that someone you work with might have a bias or believe that women have no place in tech, don’t rise to it. Whatever situation you’re in, focus on the technicalities, the specifics. If you’re being interviewed, concentrate on aligning yourself with the job spec but don’t over-egg it. Don’t assume a bias, just do your best and know that you are welcome in any room you put yourself in.
4. Create your own tech space for women – and don’t stop there!
Whitney Wolfe developed the dating app, Bumble, after a sexual harassment lawsuit that saw her leave Tinder. Bumble only allows women to talk first – empowering women against the kind of male backlash Whitney faced herself.
Holly Brockwell founded Gadgette, one of the only online tech spaces that were created by women.
Nicola Mendelsohn is the VP for Europe, the Middle East & Africa for Facebook. Not bad for a woman who, upon having her third child, was chided by her boss with ‘how many more times are we going to have this conversation, Nicola?’
Sarah Wood co-founded video advertising, Unruly, because “women often have all the requisite skills, they just don’t know it. There’s no ability gap, but there’s often a yawning confidence gap, and that’s what we need to close”.
5. Take advice from those who came before you
We love a good quote, a nice motivational nugget to start the day. Here are a few blinders from some inspirational women in tech:
“Collaborate to learn. Join different organisations that are representative of different industries and obtain positions that will help you to learn a different skill-set in each.”
Tiffany Pham – Founder & CEO of Mogul Inc.
“Volunteer to work for the best people in the industry you really want to get into. No need to worry about title or pay. Once you get into the company, talk to everyone. Meet as many people as possible and learn as much as you can about how the business works. And remember to always follow up. Do what you said you would do.”
Edith Yeung – Partner of 500 Mobile Collective Fund.
“Be aggressive. You have all the goods – be confident! Sometimes it may feel that’s not what society expects of women, but just keep going and be bold. In my experience, women tend to be over prepared and under-confident. It’s important to match your competence with your confidence.”
Chenoa Farnsworth – Managing Partner of Blue Start-ups.
So, there you have it – 5 stages to tech success, from those who have been there and done that.
Be confident, make your gender irrelevant to your skillset, make your gender relevant to your support network and lift up another woman whenever you can.
Perhaps being female is your niche? Have you had a unique experience that you could improve upon for others? Are women being particularly underrepresented in an area that you’re extremely qualified in?