Tech is a male dominated space. That’s not a controversial opinion. Only 19% of all tech roles are held by women. That’s despite the fact that women make up almost half of the British workforce. There are many arguments as to why this might be the case, ranging from misguided gender stereotypes, to educational limitations (also often founded upon ingrained stereotyping). The basic fact is that if you want to forge a career in tech, it’s harder if you’re a woman.
That doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be tried. I’ve worked within the tech space for almost 10 years and there have been times where I’ve felt undervalued, or even side-lined for positions that I was clearly qualified to handle. But on the whole, my experience has been a positive one and if more women accept the challenge of taking on the tech sector, there’s the potential to change the status quo.
How to Succeed as a Woman in Tech
Learn the market
Whether your skillset is within tech, or you want to move into the space from another sector, the best thing you can do is get to grips with the market and industry. Try to build a solid understanding of a few of the verticals and solutions that you’re moving into. You don’t need to know it all, but you do need to show your skills in understanding certain business models and grasping the technology, regardless of the department you will work in.
Learn how to contribute
If you want to work within tech, and to be valued within that sector, you need to learn how you can really contribute to the business. One way to do this is to find a few great companies to follow. Find the companies that you interact with everyday or that inspire you in general. Your interest in a company will always drive your ability to learn about the deeper parts of them and the intricacies of their business. From there, you can work out what you can bring to that proposition.
Don’t kid yourself
Before you start, you need to be realistic about the demographics. When you join a tech company, you will more than likely be the only woman in the room. That’s not always a comfortable experience and you need to accept that. You also need to know there are many companies out there that want to embrace diversity and change. Find those companies! You may very well be the “token female” – you can either let that bother you, or embrace it, thrive and be the leader for change. Embrace your position. Speak up, be confident and when necessary, give feedback on how to make it a more welcoming environment. Because if you don’t, nobody else will.
Following on from the above, working within a ‘boys club’ can also be daunting for women but there will always be great people within your office to be friends with. It’s not an easy journey, but it will make a big difference to your enjoyment of the experience if you have someone you can vent to. Find common values, hobbies, and interests and do your best to get to know as many people as possible. Plan a team-building event or activity. Remember, everyone wants to have fun.
If you don’t put yourself out there and get your name, face, and work known, you’re going to miss out on a lot of potential opportunities. So, use every chance you can to network, grow your knowledge base, and meet more friends in the industry. Give feedback on projects that inspire you, offer your help or support, find other women in similar situations, surround yourself with great people and find a mentor!
Lastly, don’t be ashamed of being a woman! Despite what centuries of indoctrination has told us, there is no reason to believe that men are better than women. As individuals, we are who we are. If you’re a woman with an interest in technology, harness that! Yell it out! It is great! Your skills and your understanding have nothing at all to do with your gender. If you can do a job, just go ahead and do it.
As a woman, you will need thick skin if you want to succeed in tech. You will need determination and you will need to accept that you’re at a social disadvantage but you also need to know that it can be done. You can have a successful tech career and we can change things for the future.