The Challenges of Being a Woman in Technology
In this second blog of our Women in Technology survey series, I am going to take a look at the results of question two, which asks: What is your biggest challenge as a woman in technology?
Over 63% of women responded that their biggest challenge is:
"Being taken seriously in the industry due to gender perceptions."
The above response didn’t surprise me as I hear this time and time again. "Manterruptions", "mansplaining", being delegated menial tasks, and being overlooked for promotion are the examples I hear most often.
Now, as often as I hear this, I do hear positive stories about businesses, colleagues and managers who are super supportive of women in tech. So my first piece of advice would be to find the right home; find a business with a positive gender diverse culture. Even in these positive organisations, though, you may come across the odd person who does not take you seriously, and this is where I think there are ways we can help ourselves:
- Stop apologising! You can read more about this in a fantastic blog by Erica Azad: Sorry Not Sorry – It’s Time for Women to Stop Apologizing.
- Be your true self, be authentic. I don’t feel that a person should try to change their personality in order to be taken seriously. I hear people advising others to be more aggressive in meetings but if that is not you, then why do it?
- Call out the people who are not taking you seriously. This can be a tough one if you are prone to avoiding confrontation, but I hear so many stories of women who do this and find that the perpetrator is totally unaware of how their actions made the woman feel. A diplomatic confrontation will usually result in changed behaviour.
- Brag. Ok, so a lot of us are not comfortable bragging about our achievements, but unless we do, how will anyone know what a great job we are doing? If you are not comfortable bragging or highlighting your achievements, find a brag buddy who can do this for you. I’ve tried it – it works!
- Keep the faith. Keep reminding yourself that you are good at what you do, and that you bring skills and qualities to the table that are important and valued.
Another top answer (over 42%) to the question of challenges being a woman in tech was:
"Having no female role models in the industry."
This is another very important response to discuss. Not only are women seeing this as a challenge whilst working in technology, we also know it is a challenge when it comes to recruiting women into technology or even more girls into STEM. There are definitely more high profile role models than there were a years ago (think Sheryl Sandberg, Dr. Sue Black and Anne-Marie Imafidon) but there are definitely not enough. So what can we do about it?
Well, one thing that is being talked about a lot are editathons to add more women to Wikipedia, as the female gender has always been very underrepresented on the site. I really love this idea.
I also think we need more female speakers. Most tech events I attend have around a 90% male presenter list, and when I am looking to book speakers for events myself, it is very difficult to find women. In the same way, how many times have we seen media coverage of large scale ransomware attacks where all the experts brought in to comment are male? I don’t know the answer to fixing this problem but I really think it would help to see more female experts (of which I know there are many) in the public eye.
I think women also want to see role models within their own organisations. Maybe this is just to see that women have the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Maybe it’s because we want a role model to inspire us, or may it’s because we want to find a mentor, but this can be a challenge for a lot of women. Again, if this is really important to you, you may need to search for it and find a new employer.
Almost 40% of respondents to the question of challenges being a woman in tech was:
"The gender pay gap."
This again is nothing new, and we are seeing this across many industries at the moment (not just technology), but it is an issue nonetheless. In the UK, the government's gender pay gap survey does not make for pleasant reading but it is highlighting an issue. It is bringing a problem to the limelight and causing people to take about it. I can only feel that this will have a positive outcome but I wonder how long that might take.
Interestingly, only 8% of respondents felt that they had no challenges as a woman in technology and I am really happy for those ladies. Wouldn’t it be great if one day we had 100% of respondents choose that answer, and gender diversity in technology was no longer an issue – that’s what we are working towards and we will keep plugging away!
Stay tuned for our next blog which tackles the question: “What is the best thing about being a woman in tech?”. I promise it will be a cheerier read!