‘A balanced world is a better world’ is the tagline for International Women’s Day 2019. It’s a mantra that resonates particularly strongly with the tech industry, which has always typically been perceived as male-dominated. It’s possibly not unfounded, considering that only 12.8% of the overall STEM workforce are women. But this is starting to change as women are being welcomed into more tech-focused roles. Eight IT experts share their experiences of diversity in the technology sector, and offer advice on how businesses can encourage a better gender balance in the tech sector.
The benefits that diversity brings
Estee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint, identifies the range of perspectives that a diverse workforce creates.
“As a sector devoted to innovation and connectivity, the technology industry is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in the workplace. Yet, as recently as 2016, 43 percent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all. As we celebrate the trailblazers of gender equality and women’s rights this International Women’s Day, we should also reflect on the differing and valuable perspectives that diverse voices bring to the table. We encourage everyone to celebrate the strong women in their lives, personally and professionally, and to empower the women in their organisations. Today, we encourage women in tech to own their voices, to value their intellect and skills.”
“Gender balance is essential for a company to achieve sustainable growth,” explains Susie Andrew, EMEA HR Director at Commvault. “It brings with it diverse ways of thinking that facilitate seeing a problem from an alternative perspective, and add value and greater impact to internal stakeholders and customers.
“My experience of working in the tech industry on a personal level has always been a very positive one; mainly because I have been fortunate enough to choose companies that have an open and flexible approach to how I do my job. As a mother of two, a flexible working culture is crucial to ensure that I can put my energy where it’s needed and when it’s needed. When trying to encourage diversity in a candidate driven market, this can truly be a deal breaker.”
Kate Gawron, Senior Database Consultant at Node4, believes the main challenges facing women considering a career in technology are “a lack of role models, and the perceived culture in IT. Young kids learn their entire world from what they see, ‘girls like pink and unicorns, boys like blue and cars’. By the time girls come to do their GCSEs and commit to a career path it’s too late, they’ve already been convinced that IT isn’t for them.
“My advice is not to be afraid to say no to a job offer if it doesn’t suit you and your life. I’d never planned to become a Database Administrator, but it turns out I’m more than suited to the job. I believe it’s important to have the confidence in yourself to stick to what is important to you, and more often than not another amazing opportunity will open up.”
Svenja de Vos, Chief Technology Officer at Leaseweb Global B.V, provides an insight into her experiences growing up, and how this influenced her career choices.
“I believe that if more women are to enter the tech sector, we need to start young, showing girls that tech can be fun. I started coding when I was about eight years old. It was fun learning how it worked, creating something on a computer. There is so much scope for creativity in tech – more than people think. In the future, everything is going to have tech elements, from fashion to charity to healthcare. Tech has gone mainstream, the typical ‘tech’ stereotype’ is a thing of the past, and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.”
Advice for women embracing tech, and the businesses that hire them
Joanna Hu, Principal Data Scientist at Exabeam, recommends that women who wish to pursue a career in this industry should persevere and push themselves.
“It’s important to remember that women bring a unique voice to the table, are naturally good at handling interpersonal relationships and help create a harmonious work environment. Our communities and companies need diversity in leadership roles to succeed because every person’s individual background also brings a new perspective to the table that can drive the bottom line, culture and overall success of the business.
“Young women in technology must find a good mentor to be successful, and that requires being proactive, and committing to continuously learning from superiors and peers. Women in technology must remember to never give up on their dreams, always strive to do better and keep a positive attitude. They are in charge of their own personal destiny.”
“Confidence and carrying yourself professionally amongst your peers are essential to earning respect,” argues Jeannie Barry, Director of Technology Enablement at ConnectWise. “For women who are struggling in a male-dominated industry, the key is to not stop learning. It helps with maintaining confidence in any situation and allows you to prove that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to speak up, either. If you have something to share, don’t hide behind someone else – that’s how you gain the respect of the room.”
“Striving for a balanced workforce not only fosters gender equality, but it makes good business sense,” states Krishna Subramanian, Founder, President and COO at Komprise. “Half our population is female, more than half of college students are female, so why should we not hire more of these talented individuals into the workplace? Not hiring women makes a business less competitive, because they are not tapping into a vital segment of the talent stream.
“It’s essential to focus on hiring the best person for the job regardless of their gender – we have women in key roles across our company. For example, our first engineering hire was a woman, and we have women in key leadership roles across engineering, marketing and sales/channels.”
But it’s not only the women in technology that are driving gender diversity – there are many men who are also strong advocates for a balanced workforce, including Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora.
“I’ve never understood why men wouldn’t support gender equality in the workplace, especially since some of the women I’ve worked with are the most influential and powerful leaders I’ve known. That being said, for me, the goal is to have an organisation filled with smart, creative, energetic and self-motivated individuals, regardless of their gender. A business needs a mix of different perspectives, and this is improved through a healthy mix of both men and women.
“Differences in the workplace can be a really good thing – the capabilities of people don’t vary because of their gender, but because of who they are. I believe the goal for any business should be to get people to understand that diversity is critical to their success; you will be far more successful if you operate under the notion that differences are powerful.”
Though many industries, including technology, still have a long way to go in terms of creating a completely gender-balanced environment, these experts’ experiences reflect a society that is working hard to improve the opportunities available for women. By ensuring that all employees’ voices are heard equally, businesses will find that the ideas they produce and the services they offer will greatly benefit from having more diverse perspectives.