Women are changing the way tech companies operate.
But we can’t simply wait for a seat at the table. We need to be proactive advocates for our own advancement in the male-dominated world of startups and tech companies. After all, the lack of upward mobility is one of the main reasons women leave tech careers and exit the industry almost twice as fast as men.
Women hold only 26% of computing jobs; the percentages for women of color don’t even reach double digits. And as we move up the corporate ladder, women’s representation drops from 27% in entry-level positions to just 14% in the executive suite.
So, what can we do to ensure we don’t become part of these statistics? Here are three key tools to help us shatter that persistent glass ceiling.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
To achieve success, especially in a workplace where you don’t look like the majority, you must step out of your comfort zone. Embracing new opportunities is part of the journey.
You need to confront the fear of tackling new tasks or challenges and not let imperfect qualifications or lack of experience stop you from raising your hand. Remember that discomfort is often a good sign that you’re on the right path.
Don’t be afraid to openly share your goals with bosses and colleagues. Let your peers know what you want and need to succeed. Don’t keep your dreams to yourself.
Find a Mentor, Then Become a Mentor
When you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry, it’s easy to think your struggles are unique. But many others before you have gone through similar experiences. The trick is to find those people and allow them to help boost your confidence.
Look for other female tech role models in your company, whether within your department or on a broader scale. (Remember, many male allies are also eager to provide guidance and support!) When one woman sees another progressing towards her goals, she becomes more empowered to believe in herself. Whether you’re a recent graduate or a senior in your company, it’s important for women to recognize, listen to, and uplift each other.
It’s also crucial to pay it forward: if you’re in a leadership position, even an informal one, elevate yourself to a mentoring role. Send a powerful message to all employees about the importance of gender diversity. Mentors gain as much learning as they give by sharing professional aspirations and insights with their mentees, keeping a fresh perspective and encouraging each other to seek opportunities.
Keep Moving Forward
Once you’ve started your journey, take active steps to maintain momentum. Engaging with a community of like-minded individuals is one of the best ways for technologists and all creatives to stay inspired and overcome professional obstacles. Look for technical women’s groups in your local area or online!
As computers and technology become even greater forces in our lives and society, more and more organizations, even those not traditionally labeled as “tech companies,” are hiring computer scientists, engineers, and other STEM specialists. Therefore, it’s crucial for women in tech to step up to this challenge and assert these claims. Together, we can work towards a future where the people who imagine and build technology better reflect the people and societies that use it.