Smashing the glass ceiling: Women from the tech sector share their experiences

Events such as the recent Women’s Equality Day have gained recognition around the globe over the past few years as opportunities to celebrate women everywhere and reiterate the importance of gender equality.

The world of technology is an area where gender equality could be improved. We are in an age where women leave the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men. According to the Elephant in the Valley study, this is because most women in technology feel excluded and are victims of unconscious bias. That culture needs to change to support women rising up in the technology sector.

To honour this year’s Women’s Equality Day, which took place on 26th August, a group of female technology executives have come together to share their experiences of the gender gap and to offer tips for women on how to face equality issues head on.

Here’s what they had to say:

Leane Parsons, Cloud Team Leader at Node4

“I always find it interesting when I am asked about being female in a technical role within the tech industry. Whilst it is still very much true that it is a male dominated industry, most of us women do not sit here wondering how we made it into our current technical roles. The truth is that many of us are in the position we are because we saw a role we wanted, and we went for it.

For women who are thinking of taking a job in the tech industry, my advice would be: if you find something you have a passion for, go for it. Be a disruptor!”

Karina Marks, Data Science Consultant, Mango Solutions

“Despite working with a large number of female data scientists, I still often find myself looking around me in a meeting and noticing that I am the only female. I don’t consider this as a disadvantage, though, because regardless of my gender, I have faith in my own abilities and what I can achieve. Passion and persistence has really paid off, and I am incredibly lucky that the company I work for has helped support my journey, encouraging me to develop my skills and gain a deeper understanding of the analytics industry. The advice I’d give to young women who are interested in developing a career in the tech – and more specifically data science and advanced analytics – industry, is: Invest in continuous development and learning, share your work, build your community, and keep a sharp focus on value.”

Svenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb

“It’s absolutely vital to encourage more women into the tech industry; not only is it important for a diverse workforce, but there simply aren’t enough skills and resources to keep up with growth with the number of people currently in the industry. For this to change, we need to start young, showing both girls and boys that tech can be fun. There is so much scope for creativity in tech – more than people think.

Being a female CTO today still makes me a bit of a unicorn. And, despite my background and position, some still assume I don’t have technical knowledge. That said, my team respects me because of my technical expertise, not simply because of my title or in spite of my gender, and this is always how it should be.

My advice to women keen to develop a career in tech is to just do it; don’t be put off by the stereotypes as a team comprised of people with an even balance of genders is more representative of the clients and customers you are building products for. Listen, learn and be the best version of yourself. Find the role that fits you best – after all, it’s person-specific, not gender-specific and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.”

April Taylor, Vice President, ConnectWise Manage

“Schools are leading the way in representation for women in technology from a young age and organisations should be cognisant of the talent that makes up the current workforce. Every industry is tied to technology, so it’s great that the right education is available, especially to younger women because now they’re getting more exposure to potential careers within the tech sector. While there hasn’t been a significant increase, we have seen more women entering our company through our internship program because of that exposure and it’s our responsibility to welcome them to the tech space without making them feel different. 

From my personal experience working my way up through several different roles within the company, I’ve never felt there was any lack of equality whatsoever and I want to extend that feeling to the other women around me. We’re all colleagues, we’re all a team working together and we should continue to project that mentality to young girls and women throughout their careers.”

Estee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint

“As a sector devoted to improvement and innovation, the technology industry should be at the forefront of positive change when it comes to gender equality.  It’s therefore surprising – and sadly ironic – that the gender gap in Silicon Valley is still a significant cause for concern.  According to Silicon Valley Bank’s 2019 Women in Technology Leadership report, just 56% of startups have at least one woman in an executive position, and 60% admit they have no women on their board of directors.

The continued lack of gender parity across all industries is why initiatives such as Women’s Equality Day are so important.  They provide a time to pause and see how far we have come – to celebrate the trailblazers of gender equality and women’s rights — but they are also a time to see just how far we have left to go.  I encourage everyone to celebrate the strong women in their lives, personally and professionally, and to empower the women in their organisations. Today, I encourage women in tech to own their voices, to value their intellect and skills, and to take an active role in their careers and organisations.”

Michelle Fitzgerald, Director, Demand Gen & Events at Plutora

“I believe the best way to close the gender gap in the technology industry is to encourage girls to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at a young age. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2018 only eight percent of female high school students enrolled in engineering courses and only 23% enrolled in AP computer science classes. The same study found that those trends continued into the workforce with women filling only 28 percent of the jobs in the science and engineering fields. By diversifying the STEM workforce, women will be able to use their different perspective to bring fresh, new ideas to the table and help revolutionise the future of technology.”

Lauren McCaslin, Vulnerability Verification Team Lead at WhiteHat Security

“As a female in the cybersecurity space, I am aware that unconscious bias is always present. This refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions without us even realising it. Diversity on the other hand brings various unique perspectives that can foster more creativity and collaboration, especially when all parties feel a sense of equality in each of their interactions.

Personally, my team is responsible for finding dangerous vulnerabilities in companies’ application code and offering advice on how to remediate it – which could be critical in preventing a major data breach. It’s very high stakes, and we’d be cheating ourselves and our customers by not being inclusive and fostering a culture that allows us to all come together to collaborate equally. Companies can encourage this by identifying and updating company policies that may unintentionally perpetuate biases that favor one side or the other, explicitly defining and sharing criteria for advancement, and most importantly: expecting and reinforcing equality across all aspects of the workplace.”

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise

“It makes good business sense to strive for a balanced workforce that fosters gender equality. If you think about it, half of our population is female, more than half of college and university students are female – so why should companies not be hiring more of these talented individuals into the workplace? Businesses are becoming less competitive by not hiring women, due to the fact they are missing out on an essential division of talent.”

Connie Stack, Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Guardian

“The key to addressing many of society’s greatest challenges is also the key to improving the tech gender gap – education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Recent research from Microsoft and KRC Research found that confidence in STEM wanes as girls get older, but interest can be recovered when subjects are related to real-word people and problems, tapping into girls’ desire to be creative and make a difference in the world. At DG we’re trying to do just that by sponsoring the United Way STEM program, including hosting girls and boys for a cyber security training camp every summer.”

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