Why Female IT Leaders Should Replace Perfection With Confidence

By Women Love Tech
on 13 June 2019

Emma Pudney is a Director, Architecture, Onboarding and Professional Services at Rackspace ANZ . Emma herself has only interviewed a handful of women for technical positions throughout her career, and is passionate about increasing these numbers by instilling confidence in Australian female IT professionals. She shares her thoughts on why female IT leaders should prioritise confidence over perfection, and the steps they can take to overcome impostor syndrome in order to put themselves forward for their next promotion or technical role.

Women apply for a promotion only when they believe they meet 100 per cent of the qualifications listed for the job, according to Hewlett-Packard.

Conversely, the study showed that men were willing to apply for a promotion when they met only 60% of the job requirements.

For an industry with so few women in top management positions, this confidence gap is a huge inhibitor for career progression in IT.

I do a lot of hiring. The fact is, during my entire career, I have only interviewed four or five women for technical positions. Often it is easier for us to assume others are better suited to the “new opportunity” or promotion.  However, I believe confidence is the key for women to enact change and drive digital innovation, overcoming imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome refers to a pervasive feeling of insecurity and even fraudulence. It’s the internal monologue that convinces us that somebody in the room will eventually realise that we are a ‘fraud’; they are going to question our skills or point out that we have never done this before. To be honest, often that person is us!

Women much look after confidence instead of perfection: think like a lady act like a boss

I have experienced imposter syndrome at numerous stages throughout my career. Regardless of how senior I am, or how many years I have been in a role, there are occasions where I’ve experienced a nagging sense of self-doubt. This feeling is common among high achievers and can affect women and men differently. I have noticed it is prevalent among women in STEM industries who feel they need to prove themselves.  Particularly more so than our male colleagues, by being a minority we feel we have to be the best just to be accepted. 

Clinical psychologist, Dr Kimberley Norris from the University of Tasmania says research has found that imposter syndrome affects more women than men. People are also more likely to experience these feelings of inadequacy if they are operating in an area that is stereotypically outside of their comfort zone.

Seeking: Female Tech Role Models

A lack of representation within the technology industry also serves as an inhibitor to career progression for women in technology and other STEM-related industries. Although organisations like Girls in Tech and Code like a Girl are promoting gender diversity by providing women and girls with  knowledge and support to enter this space, there is still a long way to go.

We need to give female leaders across ANZ a platform to champion diversity and role model the exciting possibilities that technology presents.  Companies should be working towards finding women who are currently in non-tech related roles but who are interested in upskilling and learning more about possible careers in technology. Organisations also have a responsibility to dismantle gendered stereotypes and foster a workplace culture of inclusion, whereby girls don’t have to be ‘tomboys’ to get along with their male colleagues.

For women in technology, the process begins by having the courage to apply for more technical roles even if they don’t meet 100 percent of the employment criteria. The biggest issue I have faced during my career has been the lack of women applying for these types of positions because of differing levels of experience, job advertisements that inadvertently target men, or even a lack of information about the roles. 

Organisations need to prioritise investment in diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as further education about careers in STEM at a high school level because this is where girls are making decisions about their future careers. Moreover, it is somewhat counterproductive to focus solely on the talent pipeline when there are less career pathways available to females in technical fields; we need to support female graduates at the very beginning of their careers with equal pay and access to other female mentors within their organisations.

Women must believe in themselves and can be great Leaders

Shrink the confidence gap

Building confidence is an ongoing process and there are methods to overcome self-doubt.  As a result of human evolution and the need for survival, our brains are hardwired to focus on the negatives. 

My advice would be for women to focus on their own personal career highlights. Acknowledging the small wins along the way, and building courage to put themselves forward for a promotion or apply for a technical role.  They should remember all the reasons they are unique and best suited to a role, instead of the reasons why they may not be.

We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to be confident.

Women Love Tech would like to thank Emma Pudney, Director, Architecture, Onboarding and Professional Services, Rackspace ANZ for her article.

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