5 pieces of advice by Jutta Horstmann, Chief Operating Officer at eyeo
It’s no secret we still have a long way to go before we can truly say we live in a gender equal society. Whether it is the gender pay-gap or a lack of women in leadership positions, there are still so many areas where women experience setbacks in their career or in daily life based on gender.
The technology industry is a clear example of where women are still the minority. In fact, a recent report revealed only 27% of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% say it is their first choice.
I first noticed the huge gender divide in the tech sector when I started working as a system administrator and database developer back in the 90’s and got involved in the open source community. For me, it goes without saying more needs to be done to get women interested in tech, but probably now, in a global pandemic, more than ever. In light of this, I want to share 5 pieces of advice for women looking to start a career in tech.
Own the room
Don’t let anybody tell you that tech isn’t for you. It is one of the most creative and innovative spaces to work in – and very well paid I have to add. How could this not be your cup of tea?
There will be lots of voices telling you otherwise. Family, teachers, the way you find women depicted in media.
But this is just not the truth.
I graduated in Computer Sciences and I went through a dozen different roles in tech. Believe me: It is fun, and you can totally do it.
So now you feel confident – great!
But I know that there will be times when being a minority by gender in your area of work all of the time can wear you down.
This is when you will need a network of other females in tech. Use it to exchange knowledge in your field, and to share experiences. Don’t fear that this will be a group of gruntled moaners. Your network will support you by sharing success stories, best practices, and learnings from failure.
For any tech area, there are related groups of interest for females in that field. Google is your friend.
Additionally, I highly recommend attending conferences and local meetups. And as I am sure you will have something interesting to share from your experiences, make sure to also speak at them!
To be clear: When I advise to be patient, I definitely do not advise to tolerate either misogyny or sexism.
You might face both. But often they come from a lack of education and understanding of male privileges and are easily reversed as soon as you explain to the person how their action affects you.
Patience and always assuming best intentions first before proven otherwise will help you to pick your battles, and not wear out.
As a minority by gender, it might seem useful to adapt to your male peers’ behavior and preferences. You expect to blend in, and to find more acceptance.
First, this rarely works out. Second, it hurts you if you try to be somebody you are not.
But most important, it is proven that diversity in a team leads to best results.
So being your best self will highly benefit the product or service you are building.
If the environment you are working in is not yet as up-to-date to appreciate this – change the environment! If this means to speak up at your current place or to change your employer – be ensured that the industry is looking for tech talent and you will easily find one that wants exactly your true self (hint: we are hiring as well!).
Enjoy the ride!
I cannot stress enough how happy I am about having chosen a career in tech.
I was and still am able to have an impact on one of the most important aspects of everybody’s everyday life.
In any of the tech areas I have worked throughout my career, I found my work to be highly satisfying, and my work environment and colleagues inspiring and kind.
Being a minority in any area always comes with some difficulties.
But rest assured that the benefits outweigh them by far.