Women in tech: Experiencing the highs and lows

Women in tech are important. As we shall see, the tech sector can benefit from a diverse workplace, and women play a role in that. There are undeniable challenges that women in tech face, however, and for this reason it will be a good idea to review the current situation of women in tech in the US, as well as looking at some words of advice for women in tech. There are definite highs and lows for women in the tech industry, but with a good awareness of the benefits that women bring to the tech-table, we can hope that slowly but surely, those highs will start to outnumber the lows.

The current situation in the US

The US is one of the leaders of the tech-industry: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft all originated in the US. This is not the only thing that these Big Tech companies have in common though. We’re sure you can guess what it is… that’s right! All were founded by men and continue to be run by men for the most part. What this doesn’t show is the huge number of women who work in tech and are incredibly successful at their jobs. What is does highlight, however, is the historical imbalance between men and women in tech in the US, an imbalance that is still prevalent today. Let’s take a look at two important questions, one of gender imbalance in tech, and another of women’s experiences in the workplace in tech.

Is there a glass ceiling for women in tech?

A strong gender imbalance in favor of men has long been present in tech, and despite many Big Tech companies’ statements that they value diversity, the picture hasn’t changed much in the last six years. The data shows that the women who get into tech are often in the minority when it comes to the whole picture, and that despite growing awareness, there has been little change in the industry itself. Indeed, whilst there has been a growth in the number of women in the Big Tech companies over the last six years, only a quarter of tech jobs across the sector are held by women, and this number is lower than it was in the 1980s.

Furthermore, statistics from TrustRadius report that women in tech were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19pandemic in 2020 and its consequences on home and working life. In the same TrustRadius report, when asked if they saw remote working as a positive change, 42 percent of women in tech answered that they actually perceived it as a negative change, whilst only 23 percent of men in tech responded that they felt it was a negative change. The reasons for why this change was perceived as negative mostly by women isn’t completely clear, but it points to the gender imbalance in working life, and a more exaggerated imbalance when it comes to the tech sector.

Are you the only woman in the room?

One concrete way of describing a gender imbalance in tech is to imagine an office of tech-employees, and in this office men outnumber women 2:1 at least, but often even 5:1. It is highly likely that women in tech are the only women in the room. This can sometimes contribute to a feeling of imposter syndrome, which can be difficult to overcome and can undermine a sense of confidence.

Of course, for some women in tech, being the only woman in the room won’t be discouraging or difficult, and it is important to realize that each individual will feel differently. However, 25 percent of women who considered leaving their tech jobs in a survey by CapitalOne said that this was motivated by having unfair compensation compared to their peers. Considering that their peers were likely men, this potentially points to the gender-pay-gap, which does nothing to help overcome imposter syndrome and feeling unequally valued at work. Whilst the challenges for women in tech are very real, the industry benefits from having women in the workforce, which is what we’ll look at next.

They need you! The benefits of gender diversity

Gender imbalance and imposter syndrome are two challenges women in tech may be facing daily. However, one of the highs of being a woman in tech is that the industry really needs you. Different genders have different perspectives on the same issue, and a diverse workforce will challenge stereotypes that a homogenous group may have. Rather than seeing you as a candidate to “tick the diversity box”, employers should understand that women in tech have so much to offer, both as excellent tech-savvy employees, but in the form of a different gender identity. Having a diverse workforce increases positivity in the workplace and seeing as we spend so much time at work, a positive working environment is surely a good thing. Both men and women are reported to benefit from a more diverse workplace, so your presence as a woman in tech is probably more valuable than you realize. Women in tech are in a strong position to help other women in tech, too, which we will address in the following section.

A word from the wise women in tech

Whilst women in tech are (currently) in the minority, there are so many lessons from women in tech that can be learned to help your career. Let’s take a look at the ways in which women have been trailblazers for other women in tech, and take some sageadvice from women in tech for how to advance and progress your career in tech.

Women support women

One of the best things you can do as a woman in tech is to support and be supported by your fellow women in tech. Women will have come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives between each other, but the fact that they are women in a male-dominated industry means that there is some shared experience there. Supporting all your co-workers will be a natural part of the job, but if there is a new woman in the office, reaching out to support her will surely be welcome.

Especially given that 72 percent of women in tech have experienced a pervasive “bro-culture”, simply supporting another woman in tech will not be inappropriate or out of line. Whether it’s just being someone to grab a coffee with, or someone to vent to, support at work is so important and you can help each other overcome some of the challenges at work such as having to overcome bias.

Understanding and overcoming bias

Unfortunately, there are still lots of biases around women working in the STEM areas. That girls are bad at math and science is simply not true, but despite the mountains of evidence to prove these outdated stereotypes wrong, the bias still exists. Inevitably, then, women in tech will have to challenge biases, or even sometimes face discrimination in the workplace based on their gender.

According to a recent survey, 50 percent of women in tech said that they had experienced gender-based discrimination at work. You can be as tough as old boots and still feel ruffled by this kind of discrimination, and you could easily class this kind of treatment at work as a setback. Setbacks can be big and small but knowing how to overcome setbacks on a personal level can help you progress on a professional level, too.

By understanding that the world sometimes moves slower than we’d like, we can recognize that biases still exist, and that everyone needs to learn to overcome them. Women in tech may need to work that bit harder because of old biases still being prevalent, but with a good head on your shoulders and an eye for opportunity, you’re sure to shake things up.

Become an opportunity hunter

One of the great things about being a woman in tech is the opportunities that you can find out there. Rarely has there been a time where tech-savvy individuals are as needed in the booming e-commerce world, but also other industries such as web-design and cyber security. The opportunities to further your career, keep learning, and get into a leadership role are out there, but you might have to do some opportunity hunting to find the right place for you.

If you’re a woman in tech, then you’ll probably already be familiar with the foundations of programming, but for anyone wishing to join the women in tech, learning how to code is an essential first step to create those opportunities. It can seem a daunting task to keep looking for opportunities climbing that career ladder but working with other women in tech and connecting with mentors is a great way to feel supported whilst putting yourself out there.

Approach and connect with mentors

Community is one of the wonderful aspects of being a woman in tech. There are lots of career fairs and online events for women in tech, and it is at these events that you’ll perhaps make a connection to a woman in tech who you feel can motivate and inspire you. Having a mentor who can talk you through the highs and lows of being in tech is so helpful in feeling like you’re on the right track. Don’t feel like you need to be tied to one mentor, though – different mentors will help with different aspects of your career.

Do you feel like you’re in a position to offer mentorship to other women in tech? If not, perhaps consider that you’re more qualified that you give yourself credit for. There are plenty of women out there who will be happy to hear about your experience as a woman in tech, and who will benefit from getting your perspective. Who knows, if things go well, you might even end up creating a coaching website specifically for women in tech. It would certainly add another string to your bow and the business experience might even bolster your negotiation skills – the final topic in this article.

Negotiation skills

Negotiating anything can feel uncomfortable if you’re not experienced at it! Negotiation is often associated with feeling like you’re asking for something from someone, rather than a collaborative discussion. What form your negotiation takes depends on you – there are five approaches to negotiation, according to psychologists. This means that you can follow the kind of communication style you prefer and implement that in your negotiation. You don’t need to feel uncomfortable when negotiating a pay rise, or paid maternity leave. Knowing how to negotiate is a great way to improve your lot as a woman in tech and enjoy your career as much as possible.

Conclusion: Women in Tech will be winners

Ultimately, women in tech enjoy their jobs. 43% of the women who stayed in their tech jobs in the CapitalOne survey said that their main reason for staying was the job itself, not factoring in pay or vacation time, for example. The work itself is therefore a huge factor in why women in tech stick to their jobs. In the face of challenges such as the gender-pay-gap, underrepresentation, and imposter syndrome, enjoying the job itself is hugely important.

A benefit of being a woman in tech is the support network that there is out there, although often outside of the workplace. When women in tech support other women, create mentorship networks, it helps create a more diverse workspace. It’s not only up to women though, and everyone in the tech-industry and beyond can benefit from a more diverse tech world.

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