Growing up in the Australian bush before spending my adult life navigating the male-dominated technology field, I am no stranger to the feeling of isolation. I have been the only woman in a boardroom, client meeting or conference session countless times. This is what drove me to spearhead the global initiative, SheLeadsTech, through global business technology association ISACA, to address the global underrepresentation of women in the technology workforce.
Leading panel discussions across the globe, I have asked time and again “What can be done to address the gender gap?” Women of all ages, whether new to the profession or a seasoned professional, tell me the same thing: mentors and role models!
So, how do you choose a good mentor?
Look for someone you admire, your girl crush if you will. This person can be in your office or working at another company, male or female, but should hold qualifications or a role that you desire.
Your mentor ultimately needs to be an advocate for you, especially if the person is someone you work with. Seek out a person you can confide in, that will support you, give you confidence, and along the way assist you in reaching for your goals, or getting your next promotion.
This doesn’t mean every day or even every week you need to have a one-to-one, but you need to ensure your mentor has the time to invest in you and your career. We’re all busy, so be realistic. If they don’t have time, ask someone else.
There’s an old saying “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Over the years, your career path will deviate, twist and turn, so continue to network, through industry associations and social functions, to meet new people that can assist you along your journey, or be your next mentor.
Don’t forget about your experiences at university and how you felt at your first job. Provide the space and opportunity to mentor a peer. This experience will prove rewarding, will give you a new perspective as a mentor, and you’ll help a fellow woman through her journey in the technology profession.
There is still a lot of work to do. The United Nations states it will take 80 years to reach gender equality in our profession. Additionally, a recent cybersecurity report launched by ISACA ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March states that while 79% of men say women and men have equal opportunities at their workplace, only 41% of women agree. Furthermore, globally, only 44% of organisations have diversity programs that support women in cybersecurity.
So, by helping one another, we can help forge a leadership path for women, where we all sit at the board table.
Jo Stewart-Rattray is from rural South Australia and the founder of global advocacy program, SheLeadsTech. Jo was selected by the Australian Government to attend last year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women as one of two non-government delegates to lend expertise on how technology can empower rural women, and assist with gender equality. Jo speaks internationally in Africa, India, Europe and the US on issues of gender equality in the tech workforce.