With men making up the majority of those in the tech space, it's no surprise that there are still major challenges that women face in the industry. The value of having women in the tech space is undeniable - given that women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce. Nonetheless, being a woman never held me back – and it doesn't have to hamper your career either. In fact, I excelled at my job because of the women who came before me, and my personal determination to succeed.
Throughout my career, I've learned a few things that helped me embrace my gender, become a strong leader in tech and also help my fellow female counterparts along the way.
Take Advantage of New Technical Background Opportunities:
'You should never be afraid and think that just because there are fewer women in tech, that the guys are better than you. You are capable of the same. Don't overthink it, just go for it.'
There are several factors that prevent women from pursuing a career in tech. With less than half of computer science students being women, many women that might have an interest in tech may think they don't have the right educational background to pursue a career in the industry. However, just because you didn't graduate with an education in tech, doesn't mean it's too late to jump in the tech space. In fact, there are many postgraduate programs that people interested in tech can pursue to strengthen their skills. Likewise, there are companies in the space that are looking for new diverse talent that offer to teach their employees how to code and learn new skill sets.
My advice to young women interested in pursuing a tech career, who didn't graduate with a computer science degree, is to not be intimidated and consider it to be too late. Look into programs online or in your city that can help you gain the technical background you desire.
We're In This Together:
Starting and maintaining a successful career can be siloed and as women, we often try to resolve issues and roadblocks on our own. I have found throughout my career that having the right role models and peer network group is a vital element of having an enjoyable and fruitful career.
There are many ways to build a network that can help you solve workplace issues, support you as you are taking on a new challenge and even swap stories and relate to during your career. This includes finding a mentor who has already navigated the same career path you are hoping to achieve. Having someone on your side that has already paved the way gives you a resource to turn to when problems arise or when you need to weigh career options.
Secondly, I have found it helpful to have peers supporting me who are on the same career trajectory as me, but not necessarily working at the same company or tech space like myself. These women in my life are often the ears that listen to me talk through daily work events and I know can relate to anything I am going through professionally.
Lastly, there are so many larger networking groups and organizations that offer regular events and meetups to connect with other professionals and leaders in the tech space. I find it refreshing to tap into these networks and meet with other women I might not otherwise know to hear their stories and learn about their approaches to their careers. I have also found that through these connections women have a great opportunity to learn about available job positions in the tech world and get their foot in the door. A few organizations that have helped me include Techstars, Woman in Hardware in NY, Hardware Club, and New Lab.
Acknowledging Gender/Unconscious Bias:
'Being a great female leader is not trying to mirror a man.'
It's important that while we celebrate all the achievements women in tech have accomplished these past few decades, we need to have an ongoing conversation about all that still needs work.
Although I have had a successful career in tech and secured a seat at the table, I've still faced situations where I was the only woman in the room. At first, I thought the best approach to navigate this was to change and morph my leadership and work style to fit my male counterparts. I quickly learned though that my sex isn't a problem that needs to be fixed, it is a fact that needs to be embraced. As women, even if we are the only representation in the room, it is important that we maintain our personalities and approaches and let our capabilities strengths shine through rather than projecting what we think others want to see.
In addition to staying true to myself and embracing my gender, I have also learned that it is imperative that acknowledge unconscious bias head-on rather than letting it continue. There have been many times in my career when I have faced unconscious bias where individuals have taken a different approach to me vs my male counterparts. It is easy to let these moments pass by and certainly can be less awkward, but I have learned that if I don't speak up and address these issues we won't change behavior and change the world for better opportunity and equality.
Paving the Path for Tomorrow's Women:
Having the confidence to pursue a career that is male-focused, embrace your gender even if you are the only woman at the table or to speak up when you experience unconscious bias takes a lot of courage. I've learned though that staying focused and continuing to work hard for my dreams has led me to have the career that I want leading a rising tech company and also has helped me pave the way for women to follow. When I get discouraged or think it would be easier to stay in the shadows, I always think that if I don't do it now, how will the future get brighter for women in tech?
Serena Williams said it best - "I embrace being a leader and continuing to pave the way for the next generation."
The more we do today will only bring more opportunities to women in tech tomorrow.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.