Women in tech - A slogan, a movement, a necessity
The technology industry is innovative, forward-thinking, and ahead of its time. It's an industry that's shaping how we'll live our lives tomorrow, in 10 years’ time, and in 100 years’ time.
It is building a foundation for the world to progress and revolutionise. But it falls short when we look at the balance within the workforce driving this change as only 25% of positions are held by women and equality significantly decreases within the more senior ranks. I know I’m not alone in believing that this isn’t forward-thinking at all. So how can we, as individuals, change this?
How can we gain balance within this technology movement?
International Women’s Day events pepper the scene across the world as we celebrate women past, present and future. General Assembly and Women in Tech Club led an evening with a panel of three wonderful women tasked with talking about their unique experience and positioning within Tech.
- Hannah Blair, Senior Frontend Developer at defty, Founder of VRCalm and Sky Technology Scholar
- Jennifer Heape, previous Creative Director and now CCO & Founder of Vixen Labs voice consultancy
- Natalie Deeble, Previous Design Director at Google and now Design Lead at Facebook
Seeing such candid transparency from these people broke down the fourth wall, encouraging group participation and honest and open conversations to take place. Questions led by Bihe Zhu from Women in Tech Club resulted in largely unanimous opinions:
- The importance of mentors regardless of their relationship to you and where you are on your personal or professional journey. They could be more senior or a new starter, your family or a newly formed friendship, a therapist or a professional mentorship scheme.
- Taking it beyond a PR move, what can gender balance do for your ROI. More equal companywide decisions, product designs, strategies etc.
- Reach out and talk to people but make sure to ask the right questions. ‘Can you help me?’ is not helpful. Show you have thought about how an individual may be able to add value and make it clear what you want to achieve, have a clear goal.
- Schedule time to educate yourself, you’re responsible for your own development. If you need support, reach out for it but as with asking questions, have a goal in mind. Find and take every opportunity to push the boundaries of your knowledge.
- Proactively work to eradicate feelings of impostor syndrome. The whole premise of technology is that it is innovative and therefore so much of what we are doing is new. We are discovering and developing things that have never been done before, encountering challenges and hurdles which have never been overcome. Take pride in what you have to offer, work collaboratively to reinforce your knowledge, rather than to seek acceptance and validation.
- The to-do list will never get done, lift your head up and let go of the uncontrollable. Take a walk, make time for a hobby, do some exercise.
- Look after your mental health and take conscious steps to avoid burnout.
But the biggest point that I took from the evening is that the conversation is bigger than just gender.
Although titled ‘Kickass Women Slay the Tech World’, the recurring theme throughout the evening was that it’s not only important to gain a balance between men and women in the workplace but also a balance in who people are as individuals – industry experience, life experience, education (when is true talent going to have a check box on job applications and trump whether or not you have been to university?), goals, personality and so on. In order for the industry to truly champion the ‘diversity’ that we all hear about, there needs to be a balance across all of these areas. A gender balance is required, but that is a binary assessment – it is a whole host of variables that make a person right for that position, for that level of seniority, for that position or promotion that they wholly deserve.
In such an innovative yet saturated environment as tech, where impostor syndrome often prevails, this breadth of a workforce can enable great things to happen!
So as a young woman in a tech-related industry it is certainly concerning to see a lack of diversity, especially in decision maker positions. I feel myself pondering on occasion questions such as ‘Is it possible for me to get there?’ or ‘Is that job for me?’ But I have been inspired. In that 90-minute session it didn’t really matter what industry you were in or what gender you identified as, the discussion should have rung true with all audience members. Change can start from an individual; don’t leave it up to your manager or HR or society to make that change for you.
So, from this, I invite people to listen, learn and look after yourself. Be inquisitive, ask good questions and push the social norm. Be a mentor, find a mentor and strive for a better balance in this incredibly exciting industry. We can make tech more innovative, more forward-thinking and look further to the future together.