Women in tech are underrepresented–and despite there being more discussion around the topic, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Women hold less computing jobs today than they did 25 years ago. And women of color are faring even worse, according to McKinsey & Company.
This is despite initiatives by tech companies to attract more female applicants, keep their female employees longer and create pathways for these employees to advance.
Increasing the number of women in tech isn’t just a “nice to have.” Gender-balanced companies do better financially and tech companies, in particular, stay on schedule and under budget, according to a research summary by The National Center for Women & Information Technology.
It’s one thing to read about facts and figures; we wanted to hear about the lived experience of women in tech–their highs, their lows and their advice for making it in a male-dominated industry.
Here are the voices of 60+ women in tech:
Imposter syndrome hits hard and it can hit often. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and lift you up, because when imposter syndrome hits, you’ll have a supportive group of people to remind you of how awesome you really are. Don’t forget to also be that support system for others too.
Get in there! Push any fear aside. Would the 7-year-old you be scared? No way. Don’t let the 20, 30, 40, or 50-year old you be scared either. Keep reading, keep learning, keep asking questions. Find men and women who want to keep propelling women forward. There are many smart and good people in the industry. If you can’t find the right boss, mentor or colleague for you, don’t stop looking. You are valuable, and you are necessary.
My biggest piece of advice to a woman trying to break into the tech industry is dual parted. 1) Stay educated with what’s happening. Sign up for newsletters, such as The Daily Crunch, in order to keep an eye on what’s happening. It’s better to know what’s happening in many different areas of the industry than to only know that happenings of one industry. 2) Don’t underqualify yourself. Breaking into to tech is hard, but it isn’t impossible! Your skills and experience from your other roles are applicable to a role in tech. Figure out how to position your skills and experience in a way that will be relevant to the role your interviewing for.”
Be yourself and own what you do! Your confidence and positivity is contagious! Pay it forward! Tell yourself you’re great, awesome, and amazing — because women, you are!
Believe in yourself. You can change the world for the better. Tech is a phenomenal tool to provide that power at scale.
-Didem Un Ates, Managing Director, Data & AI at Accenture (Twitter/LinkedIn)
Pulling up a chair to sit at the table is great advice if you want to be a part of someone else’s legacy. I want to encourage women to build their own table.
Weren’t we all, at some point, dismissed and underestimated? And didn’t we prove them wrong?
Women in tech and diversity
As a Muslim woman of colour, I constantly navigate life with the feeling of “other”. Who I am essentially goes against a lot of societal norms and practices. For the first time through this industry and at Venngage, I am able to embrace my “otherness” and feel like I am celebrated rather than ostracized. The diversity of people and experiences has created a sense of compassion that is often lost in many traditional workplaces. This in turn has helped me gain the confidence I need to truly see my own potential. I feel so much more empowered.
-Rada Abdo, Content Marketer at Venngage
Being a woman in tech means driving change by advocating for all women. Although there are more and more women in tech, there is still unequal representation in leadership and across positions. We need to create space and opportunity for women—especially women of color—and fight for our deserved place in positions of power.
-Molly Trerotola Director, Strategic Engagement & Partnerships at Give Lively (Twitter/LinkedIn)
By normalizing diversity in the work place that fact that I’m a ‘women in tech’ barely registers on a daily basis. Seeing so many other incredible women across the company taking ownership of their roles means that I don’t need to question if I belong.
I’m new to tech but I’ve never felt like I don’t fit in. Having a diverse company means I kinda forget that I sit within multiple minority groups, and wouldn’t have always belonged in this industry.
-Kai Algar, Office Coordinator at Venngage (LinkedIn)
Imposter syndrome is very common for many people, but it’s particularly common for women. I don’t remember the last environment I worked in where the majority of the leadership team was not made up of cis-men. Our leadership team at Venngage is predominantly women. I’m grateful to be heard based on what’s on my mind, and not by my appearance, sexuality or other social factors.
Representation in the workplace creates a blueprint for what can be achieved and by whom. When barriers of gender, race, and sexuality are removed, your team can set the tone for how processes can be re-defined and problems solved.
Women in tech lifting each other up
When you’re job-searching, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions about company culture and leadership, both current and past. Often, both of those can give you a good indication of whether the company has progressive attitudes about breaking stigmas related to women (and non-binary folks) in tech. Secondly, be prepared to be held to a much higher standard than the men around you. This is an unfortunate truth. My last advice is to make space for other women/NB people in the field to come alongside you. There’s enough room for all underrepresented groups to make a serious impact in our field.
There was a time when I felt like being a woman working in tech often meant being the only woman in the room. But as I’ve progressed in my career toward leadership roles, that has changed. It’s come to mean that I need to do what I can to help women and other under-represented groups access and succeed in the rewarding career opportunities that can be found in the tech industry. It means I need to “pay it forward” and give back by becoming a mentor. It means I need to create communities where women and other under-represented groups feel included and like they can play an active role. It means I need to call out inequality and under-representation if and when I encounter it. And it means I need to use the power and privilege I have, which others may not have yet or ever, to increase representation in tech.
The tech industry feels like home to me. Having worked with countless Fortune 500 clients, it has become clear to me that the tech industry is leaps and bounds ahead of its more traditional counterparts. Between the emerging technologies I leverage on a daily basis and the cutting-edge marketing strategies I employ, I never stop growing as a professional.
The tech industry is home to some of the most innovative founders on the planet. Not only do many of these leaders create technologies that make our lives easier and better, but they also build companies designed to promote the well-being of their workers. Whether that’s a generous vacation package or flexible working arrangements, I greatly appreciate the benefits of working in the industry.
Being a woman in tech has a special place in my heart. Every day, I’m surrounded by inspiring ladies who work tirelessly to leave the industry better than they found it. The sense of community here is profound. While bias certainly exists in tech, it’s less pronounced than in other industries. As a result, I have more opportunities to be heard and, ultimately, make an impact—regardless of my gender or sexual orientation.
Moms in tech
I’m hoping the defining moment will come when I have children and they see that women can work in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.
-Leona English, Editorial Producer at All Things Hair
As a new mom working in tech, I’m really grateful for the flexibility and creative benefits that the industry provides. Unlimited sick days, a work from home option and paid parental leave are benefits tech is pioneering and I’m really proud of that.
-Bronwyn Kienapple, Content Marketer at Venngage (LinkedIn)
Persistence is key
I started working in Tech 15 years ago, in Egypt, in an industry ruled by men and a culture ruled by men, it wasn’t easy to build my self and my career. Being where I am today means a lot to me, It means I didn’t stop because I was sailing against the winds, it means I managed to prove my self and seeing the number of women in tech increasing every day makes me feel proud that I was part of that, our persistence made this happen.
Being a woman in tech means I never stop pushing forward. It means to keep asking questions, continue upskilling myself, and challenging the status quo.
My advice to women looking to enter a programming career: if you’re interested in something, just try it out. Be persistent and clear about what your skills and interests are. Don’t settle.
-Ruth Halteman, Tech Lead at Venngage (LinkedIn)
The tech industry has traditionally been a male-dominated space. And I would say this deeply-rooted mindset is the only reason why women are still hesitant to pursue a tech career. But don’t let this fear make a career choice for you! Working in IT is not easy anyway but neither is in politics or education. Don’t use gender as an excuse to abandon your ambitions and plans. A genuine interest in technologies is already a great start – add here a willingness to work hard and learn continuously, and you’ll see that all the doors are open to you. So, dream big and don’t fight barriers where there aren’t any!
You know what to do. You don’t need instructions, you need courage. Don’t be afraid to reach for the unreachable and learn from experience. And I say experience because success is the sum of the efforts you put in every day.
Tech is like any other industry. There are some tropes to watch out for of course, like “nerdy girl with glasses” but just ignore all of that. Be yourself and apply for any job you think you can do or grow into with a little help. The one advantage in tech perhaps over other industries is that smarts and hard work is often notified and rewarded much sooner — so use that to your advantage. Find a company or role you like and then make it your own.
It sounds cliché, but “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” By this I mean you may have to be the only woman in the room for many technical conversations still, but the tide is changing. More and more women are entering STEM fields and sticking with it, and in order to affect change we need technical women to have the courage to stick with it even when we’re outnumbered. We need technical women to be bold, speak up, and participate in tech. When it’s uncomfortable, lean into it instead of pulling away. Those are the best growth opportunities for you as a technical professional, but also the best opportunities to change the tech industry as a whole.
Speak up more than is comfortable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited to find a “pause” in conversation to contribute a thought, and that doesn’t always happen. If you’re trying to be polite all the time, your voice and perspective won’t get heard.
It’s particularly important to me, as a woman, to have an influence on the development and proliferation of AI technology, as its impact necessarily depends on a diversity of inputs that are representative of the people who stand to benefit from its application.
It means I have to be prepared. Being a woman in tech means we are measured by a different set of standards. We must be prepared to combat, acquiesce, augment and amplify what it means to be a woman.
Be true to yourself
It’s really inspiring to see the Venngage leadership team consist mainly of women but I personally don’t think that gender and labels should matter. If you’re passionate, you have the drive, are a good problem solver and a critical thinker then you should be able to find success.
The epiphany? I realized that I didn’t have to ‘compete with men on their own terms’, be ‘as good as any man’, or ‘prove myself in a man’s world’. I didn’t have to do those things because I am not a man and have no wish, or need, to be one.
-Jane McCormick, McCormick Consulting Group
It’s a chance to be a yourself in a world trying to box us in. You shouldn’t give the fake impression, wear uncomfortable clothes or adapt to someone expectations for getting success. Just speak the language of algorithms and keep learning.
Be fearless. Apply for every job that piques your interest with reckless abandon! The tech start-up scene is great because if you can prove you’re the person who has ideas and can get the job done, that will take you everywhere.
When you’re given an opportunity to lead a project or a team, something bigger than you’ve ever imagined, you’ll often feel out of your depth. I like to remind myself that failure and being uncomfortable are all signs of progress.
-Joanna Lu, Design Manager at Venngage (LinkedIn)
Take a chance on it. Tech is one of the most rewarding opportunities to not only work on exciting new problems but do so in a fast and impactful way. The people you meet in startups and in tech, the skill-sharing, the opportunities will challenge you in ways that you never thought possible – and just because you may not have a “typical” background or experience in tech doesn’t mean your perspective and ideas are any less impactful.
My defining moment in my career when I started working as a business consultant in my company. I don’t think there was one major career-defining moment, instead, there were a series of small wins that made a huge difference over some time. I had known since college that I wanted to pursue my career as a software developer but it was by way of chance that I ended up on the business development side. It’s fast-moving, dynamic, competitive and creative. Building a relationship with the client is often challenging, first and foremost, I would tell myself to be confident and believe in myself, then others will too. The second important factor is continuously learning something new is what the tech industry thrives on! It’s essential to seek out environments where you are supported, but where you have the chance to be uncomfortable and learn new things. I have observed that clear communication is key to getting anything done with high quality. I define my impact on the success I have in helping my clients in solving their problems.
-Ayushi Sharma, Business Consultant at iFour Technolab Pvt. Ltd.
I’d suggest to learn new technology every day and push your limit to mark you footprint in tech word. Because technology which is highly relevant in market will be outdated tomorrow so you need to keep learning with pace.
-Dhara Charola, Full Stack Developer at 200OK Solution (LinkedIn)
I don’t think of my job as very technical per se and many of the people who occupy positions in support are women. A HelpScout Survey from 2018 shows women making 95 of what men in support make, and yet shows more women working in support than men. I think this is because of the emotional labour (in the traditional sense of managing people’s feelings) required for support jobs and I don’t believe that women are inherently better at managing people’s feelings. To me it means seeing the side of technology that isn’t as glitzy and cool aka, helping old people understand how to refresh a page or calming down people who are angry. It shows that even tech requires some sort of human touch and care in order for it to be successful.
-Miriam Namakanda, Customer Support Representative at Venngage (LinkedIn)
Lean on your network
The two biggest things that have helped me the most: 1) Don’t be afraid to reach out to senior women in the industry. You don’t need a formal mentor program, but having someone you can ask “is this normal?” questions, get advice, and be a cheerleader and advocate for you and your career is so important. 2) Speak up. It can feel awkward to have to keep talking so you’re not interrupted in meetings, repeating your ideas if people speak over you, or reminding people of your expertise and leadership. You are your own biggest advocate, and you’re in your role for a reason — don’t be afraid to speak up, push your ideas, and remind others just how awesome you are.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry means your network becomes even more important for support. Hardships will be inevitable but there are so many women around you that are either going through the same thing or have triumphed the over same thing.
-Victoria Clarke, People & Culture Manager at Venngage (LinkedIn)
My defining career moment to date was the first time I got up on stage and started sharing my story. I got into tech after completing a medieval history degree and trying out a few startup ideas, so definitely an unconventional route. I used to feel like an outsider, as I didn’t have a computer science degree or maths background. However the more I connected with other people through sharing my story, the more I realised there is no one “typical” or “right” route into tech. By putting myself out there, I’m hopefully breaking down stereotypes and have also seen my career benefit. I’m not invited to speak at conferences globally.
-Bethan Vincent, Marketing Director at Netsells
Find role models you can follow and other women to support you, and persevere. There might be bad moments but the more of us are the better it will become. Women in tech are awesome. We are fearless!
-Aiglee Klassen-Castillo, Database Architect and Team Lead at Brock Solutions (Twitter)
You don’t have to do this alone. Find a friend, mentor or a community to support you through your journey. Meeting other women in tech and exchanging stories & experiences, only empowers you further to achieve your potential.
Network every chance you get — even if it’s raining, even if you’re tired. Go to meetups and panels, get active on social media. Practice gratitude when any opportunities come your way. People will go out of their way to help you; make sure you pay it forward.
Those wonderful moments of success
The most defining moment in my career was when I was promoted to lead an enterprise team within my first year of software sales. As a junior hire, I worked endless hours to develop an outbound process that worked to hunt and close deals. It was exciting when my hard work was recognized and I was given an opportunity to coach my colleagues.
-Diana Ross, Co-Founder of GetEmails
One of our sellers told me, “Chairish has changed my life.” Thanks to the successful business she was doing on Chairish, this seller was able to leave behind her not-much-loved “joe job” and pursue what she adored. I realized how powerful our platform is.
-Anna Brockway, Co-Founder and President Chairish
My defining moment in tech was when I realized that women are not designed to take credit for their work, so I launched our Women2Watch in Business Disruption 5 years ago. We have placed over 400 women speakers on panels around the world and in the U.S. focus on disruption and innovation in technology.
-Kelly Stickel, Founder of Remodista
The defining moment of my career was when Apple asked me to come and found their business affairs team. A friend recommended me for the job, and I was honestly shocked that they even invited me to interview. I had just taken 2 years off of work to care for my kids, and I had no business affairs experience to speak of. But I went for the interview with nothing to lose, and a Palm phone hidden from view in my bag. I pitched them an idea for what I thought they needed based on the issues they were telling me about. They had just launched the iPhone, content was suddenly a major issue, partners a nightmare, etc.. I listened and riffed on a solution on the spot that addressed their unique circumstances. I figured it would either sound totally stupid or possibly inspired. Luckily for me, they thought the later, and I got the job and an opportunity to build a foundational team at a very cool company during its most innovative period.
-Christina Mace-Turner, Founder of Mab + Stoke
Seeing the first website I created on my own, finished and working was a defining moment for me as a woman in tech. Knowing that you created something with your own thoughts and a few computer clicks that fully functions and connects you to the online sphere is a cool feeling that makes you feel competent in a new way.
-Stacy Caprio, Founder, Growth Marketing
For me, a defining moment was seeing the scalable growth in my company. I realize I’m part of the 5% of women in leadership roles in software companies, so to see such rapid advancement in our product felt incredible. We streamlined our installations and resource deployment from weeks to less than an hour, allowing us to shift our focus on innovation and user experience enhancements. It reaffirmed to me that I am exactly where I need to be in my career and to our team that we are onto something big for our customers.
-Dasha Moore, Chief Operating Officer at Solodev
Being the CEO of a 40 person company with gender parity, 2/3 women on my board and having raised significant venture capital, I am honoured to be part of changing the statistics in our industry.
-Caitlin MacGregor, CEO of Plum (LinkedIn)
A defining moment was few years ago, when I saw my personal brand name appearing in Google’s autosuggest drop down list for my the keyword “seo Greece”. It was just an amazing feeling to be the only brand in the top 10 organic listings that Google autosuggests to international people who look for my service in Google.
-Joanna Vaiou, SEO Specialist
Roadblocks faced by women in tech
I was told by a superior (male) to run all my ideas through him because I shouldn’t be wasting the boss’s time, and then he took credit for all of my ideas. I realized I had to speak up and not let anyone take credit for my hard work or big ideas.
My defining moment in tech was being told to be the “face of the issue'”when I was the only Black woman at a 200+ person company. I was keen to send the elevator back down, but there was no one on the other end at that particular organization. Unfortunately, a year later, there still isn’t.
It’s the little things, isn’t it?
Being a woman in tech means having the conference bathroom all to myself.
This post was a collaboration between three incredible women in Venngage: Bronwyn Kienapple, Sara McGuire, and Alice Corner. Read their thoughts on being a woman in tech above!