NEWS + ADVICE
Persevere and Rise: 3 Strategies for Women in Tech
At the Women in Tech Conference, “On The Rise,” members of the tech community in San Antonio came together to discuss the obstacles and opportunities that women encounter in the profession. Thank you to Accenture, HERdacity, and RBFCU for providing an environment to discuss such an important issue in the community.
While women account for nearly half the workforce, only 20% of the tech pool is female. This is plainly illustrated by the fact that men’s restrooms are the one’s with lines out the door at IT events—a sight not typically seen at most outings. Though the IT world has its share of challenges for women, it offers opportunity to those who persevere. Through the support of mentorship and allies, women stand to raise that 20% figure to a more equal representation in the tech workspace.
The Value of Mentors
Having a mentor is valuable in virtually any industry, but it’s even more vital for women in the tech space that might feel isolated or different from everyone else sitting at the table. Presenters and audience members at the conference described instances of being passed over in meetings, not being heard, or having to prove their value to earn respect. These can be defeating experiences that can hinder women from confidently asserting their opinions and expertise—they were hired because they know their stuff and they should feel empowered to share it.
Having somebody to coach you, give you advice, and build your confidence benefits career success. While you are ultimately in charge of managing your own career, having an extra supporter can go a long way, but you need to be strategic in selecting a mentor and assessing what you want from them. Is there someone that has a particular skillset that you want? Someone you could learn from that would push you out of your comfort zone?
Don’t look for a mentor who will simply validate you. You will have much more opportunity to learn and grow with a knowledgeable supporter that gives you feedback and tells you the truth. Capitalize on your opportunity to select an advisor that will be constructive while investing their time in you.
Once you know who you’d like to be mentored by and what you want from them, take the leap and make the ask. You can’t be told yes if you don’t ask, and many people are generally happy to help, time allowing. You may be surprised that you already have a mentor and didn’t realize it. You don’t need to have an official mentoring contract to confide in someone that you look to for professional advice, but make the most of your opportunity to form a meaningful relationship that will enhance your career.
A Need for Allies
While your mentor can’t be there 24/7 to boost you up, it’s important that you advocate for yourself. However, some of the experiences shared by women at the conference could have been alleviated if they had a buddy or ally by their side. Multiple women described events in which they proposed a solution to a problem in a meeting that wasn’t met with enthusiasm. Minutes later the same idea was repeated by a male coworker, incurring a much different and more positive response. If we as professionals want this kind of bias to be expunged, we need allies—specifically, men as allies.
In the tech workspace it’s not uncommon to see only one woman sitting at the table for a meeting. Those in the room need to be conscious of possible bias that fellow coworkers might evoke. This means speaking up and saying “yeah, that is a great idea – I believe Ann proposed that a few minutes ago,” or something of the like.
Buddy up and accept rebounds from your allies but you also need to be prepared to stick to your guns. It’s frustrating when no one is listening, but know that you are just as important and have the skills necessary. Master the art of timing, be assertive, cordial, collaborative, and inquisitive—it’s also okay to say “I don’t know” when that’s the case, but most importantly be confident in what you do know.
The topic of imposter syndrome was broached several times throughout the conference. The idea that you’re a fraud, you don’t really belong there, you just got lucky—am I good enough? The workplace is a common environment for thoughts like these to occur at times, but know that if you are there, you’re supposed to be.
Sometimes a particular problem might be difficult to solve, but push through and work it till it works. Look to what you can contribute and build confidence by solving a problem in front of you. Attack the problem head on and push through with multiple solutions and eventually one will work. As long as you have a concept of your goal, you can progress to it and make adjustments along the way.
While you may encounter obstacles that make you question your line of work or even your abilities, there are great opportunities and rewards for those who keep going, continue learning, and persevere.
Shaping the Future of Tech
How can we raise the percentage of women working in tech and inspire women of future generations to join the industry? We do this by showing up—going to career day and making ourselves available. Our youths are not seeing enough examples of working professionals during their formative years. How can they aspire to be something they never know exists? Create a path and inspire future women by being visible. Show them what a woman working in tech is and how they can be one too someday.This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 6:04 pm