the rise of women in tech

(Photo : ThisIsEngineering)

When you think about tech, images of men probably come to mind first. However, there is a rising number of women who are proving, among other things, that tech jobs are not just for men.

Somehow, in the digital revolution, among men shouting about their transformative discoveries, the influence of women has been overshadowed. Who knows that Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was the world’s first computer programmer? Or that film actress, Hedy Lamaar, wasn’t just a famous actor of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but an inventor whose work influenced, among other things, global communications? While the role of men in tech has been shouted from the rooftops throughout history, that of women has, until now, been grudgingly acknowledged.

It is true that influential women are taking on tech jobs and we are finally starting to see their contributions recognized. However, the statistics for women in tech jobs demonstrate that the gender gap is still very much present. In fact, data shows that since 1990, the number of women in tech has dropped from 32% to 26%.  And even those women who do break through the stereotype and land a job in tech have to deal with what is accepted as an industry with deep-root “bro culture” that women have to accept, or move on. In fact, according to TrustRadius’ survey of women in tech, 72% of respondents said that they are usually outnumbered by 2:1 in meetings, with 26% saying it’s more like 5:1 or more.

Women in GAFAM

When it comes to developing technologies, the world’s eyes tend to turn to (GAFAM Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft) to see what is hot – and what’s not. Surely, as leading innovators they should also be leading the way for women in tech? The data is surprisingly disappointing. Overall, according to Statista, 24% of the tech jobs in these big tech organizations are held by women; far from being trailblazers for equality, the stats are on a level with global tech stats. Amazon’s figure of 46% looks promising at first glance, but only 29% of leadership roles are occupied by women, and they don’t give the data for tech jobs, which inevitably leads to assuming the worst.

The Challenges for Women in Tech

When it comes to women in tech jobs in GAFAM, all of them linger between 23 and 25%, which is, again, reflective of the industry as a whole. According to a 2020 survey of the top 51 US Tech companies by AnitaB.org, women accounted for only 28% of the workforce – at a time when 50% of the labor force were women. And the data gets bleaker. The challenge for women in all STEM jobs is not just about getting the job and climbing the ladder; it’s about keeping the job. Reports of discrimination, lack of clarity in career progression, gender bias, and imposter syndrome mean that it is a whole lot harder for a woman to pursue a successful career in tech than it is for a man.

Becoming a Woman in Tech

Becoming a woman in tech will almost certainly be challenging. However, the more women break the stereotypes, the more the path to a tech career will be laid for subsequent women. Here’s what you need to remember.

You are not alone. You may be part of a minority, but you are most certainly not alone, and having a mentor can help you to remember that. If you don’t know where to start in tech, start by researching some of your heroes in the company you work in or aspire to, or in the broader tech world. Look them up online and use contacts to try to connect. You could undoubtedly go it alone, but the chances are that your mentor has encountered many of the barriers that you face and can advise you on how to tackle them.

You are worthy.  It is common practice for women in tech to use hedging language, to allow their male colleagues to claim their successes, or to underplay their own achievements. If you are not going to stand up for yourself, then it will be hard for others to back you up. Share your achievements, own your successes and be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished.

Upskill yourself. The tech world is constantly changing, which means that tech jobs are evolving, too. If you doubt yourself or your worth, look back at your qualifications. If you honestly don’t feel that you measure up to a competitor of any gender, then highlight your areas of weakness and upskill yourself.

Stand by others. Most women have endured the brotherhood effect in the workspace, but there is no reason why you can’t empower yourself and other women with the sisterhood. They say it gets lonely at the top and this is especially true for females, who tend to find themselves in a greater minority the higher they climb with an organization. Regardless of where you are in your tech career, imagine how much easier your progression would have been if you had had women cheering you on, from the sidelines or from the pitch itself. If you were lucky enough to have mentors and sisters supporting you along your journey, remember the value they gave you, and make a promise to yourself that you will support other women in tech in the same way.

Seek professional support. In view of the damning statistics regarding women in tech, it is not surprising that there is a range of organizations locally, nationally and globally who are on hand to promote the role of women in STEM, and support them on their journey. These organizations can be a great place for you to learn from others, meet sisters and mentors, and provide others with support and encouragement.

If you want a career in tech, don’t let the gender bias stop you. Together, women in tech can rise and forge the way for the next generation.

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