Women in Technology: What is holding us back?
Elizabeth, Kathrine, and Deborah are some of the extraordinary women in history who defied the odds in the face of marginalization. 12,000 years after patriarchy supposedly emerged, women’s role in the society dramatically changed. Women now are becoming masters of their own field, she is now able to fly to space, climb the world’s highest peak, and dive the ocean’s depth – which used to be formidable and punishable acts. While we have come a long way, it seems that we are is still struggling from patriarchy’s deep-seated roots of stereotypes and gender assumptions, especially in male-dominated industries.
Women in Technology:
8 years after pursuing a technology career, I found myself holding a management position in an IT consulting company. Being the only female member of our business unit’s management team, I can see how any woman with softer personalities can easily feel intimidated simply because she is literally outnumbered. Technology is still considered as the “boys’ club”, statistics show that:
However, it has been proven that gender diversity leads to greater results. The more diverse a team is, the more chances problems are approached from different perspectives. Homogeneous teams on the other hand have limited potential outcomes due to similar point of view. Pepperdine University study showed that twenty-five Fortune 500 firms promoting women into high positions were 18% to 69 % more profitable than the median firms in their industries.
Women bring unparalleled value add but what is holding us back?
Women who succeed in underrepresented industries such as IT are regarded as brave souls who are beating the odds. They show that a better future in tech is possible with a more feminine touch. But despite of the success stories, the question remains: what’s holding us back? And what can women in technology do now to forge a future where little girls regard IT as a diversified and inclusive platform where they can shine?
The Tiara and Imposter Syndrome
The tiara syndrome describes that talented women often keep quiet and wait for someone else to give them the credit and “crown them”. While imposter syndrome is when a person doubts his/her own accomplishments. Unfortunately, majority of women suffer from either or both and here are some tips how women can overcome the syndrome:
- Record your achievements that shows STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result/Impact). This format will help you see the value and weight of your contribution.
- Know your purpose or hashtag. Knowing why you do what you do will help you sell yourself better naturally.
- Develop a positive personal mantra. Create mental scripts that you will consider in situations that trigger your self-doubt. Instead of thinking “I don’t think I am the right person to do this” try thinking, “Everyone started with zero experience, with my prior knowledge and with the help of my peers and other resources, I know I’m smart enough to figure things out”.
- Practice self-appreciation by rewarding yourself even if it’s a small win.
- Refrain from comparing yourself to others because the grass will be greener on your side of the fence only if you water it.
The Confidence Gap
Harvard study found that men are assessing their programming skills consistently higher than women from the onset of their careers and onward. It seems that the confidence gap is as simple as men being more confident than women or men overestimating their skills, even when the women are equally or more talented. If the latter is true, men will less likely lower their own assessment for women, therefore, it is up to the women to bridge the confidence gap.
- Invest in your skillet and learn continuously because more knowledge leads to more confidence.
- Take the challenge. Accomplishing a challenge will give you a great sense of fulfillment and this moment will teach you that all your doubts will disappear faster the more you push yourself into the unknown. On the other hand, being uncomfortable with failure means you are letting opportunities pass by and be snatched up by those who may not be as qualified. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
- People are thinking about themselves. Believe it or not, while you are fretting what other people might think about you, they too are fretting what you might think of them. People are busy thinking about themselves and not about you. Stop worrying about what others think!
- Done is better than perfect. While studies show that women are heavily self-critical than men, it can also be a fact that men will get more opportunities faster than women because she spent more hours making a work product perfect. Similar to the cornerstone of agile practices, delivering outputs iteratively and more frequently until completion will open the feedback loop, hence work can be modified faster for improvement. Be agile and quick!
- Join the conversation. Share knowledge and act like you belong. During meetings, do not just sit back, keep quiet, and observe. Push yourself to speak up, share your insights and ask questions because meetings are your mini corporate stage where you can shine. Give back to the community through brown bag sessions. Prepare for conversations, practice saying your train of thoughts in front of the mirror. Furthermore, some companies introduced a rule that every time a man speaks in a meeting, another man cannot speak again until a woman has spoken.
The Ancient Gender Stereotypes
It is true that some women still feel the by-product of the longstanding gender stereotypes. Some women must fight extra hard not to be seen as bossy while taking control. When women are starting to appear more confident, they will soon be perceived as aggressive. And when passionate women speak up their minds, they sometimes will be regarded as emotional or crazy.
- Raise awareness. Raising awareness of the negative impact of stereotyping is the very first step to making a change. It is important for you to find or pioneer a corporate environment that will support women and other minority group in your respective industries.
- When Diversity and Inclusion groups are setup in your company, do not be afraid to react. Biases, harassment, and inappropriate workplace behavior does not have a place in a company that values its people.
Role Models and Support Group
Empowered women empower women. Aspiring women will succeed when they can interact with other women already in their top positions. However, with the scarcity of female role models, women must be creative to take the extra step:
- Women’s community: Leverage the opportunities when your company offers women’s community group. Join the meetings, participate, open-up, and interact more. Consider this community as your tribe where you can source for inspiration, tips, and learning.
- Network, join LinkedIn pages related to your specialty, participate in forums, and join or host a meet up sessions.
Work Life Integration and Non-negotiable
One of the struggles society puts a woman into is: “they are expected to work like they don’t have children and mother like they don’t work”. While knowing your non-negotiable is critical, a woman being forced to choose between both worlds is simply toxic. Our Lingaro COO, Małgorzata Gryz, has the perfect tip for you:
Capitalize on your Strengths.
Women in technology is not only about women who are coding. Companies need other roles such as business and operations managers, project managers, sellers, marketers, designers – and the list goes on. Women need to find their strengths and harness it as all the good things will follow if you are in the right role.
I am proud how women in history fought for our equality. Women leaning in means not to wait for you to be crowned, but rather you should earn and get the crown for yourself. Building a better diversified and inclusive community is a tough challenge, and now that our fellow women in the past have already done their part, it is now our duty to continue the fight moving forward. BE BOLD! Be Women in Technology!
Want to experience our workplace for yourself and become next Women in Technology?
See our job openings here: https://lingarogroup.com/careers/