By Elaine Montilla, founder of 5xminority, a TEDx Speaker and the Chief Technology Officer for US School Assessment at Pearson.
The technology sector has made significant strides in recent years, but gender disparities still persist. As a woman who has been in the tech industry for over two decades, I have experienced firsthand the challenges and opportunities that come with being a female in a male-dominated field.
According to a National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) study, women held only 26% of computing jobs in 2021. Additionally, a McKinsey report found that women are 18% less likely to be promoted to managerial tech positions than their male counterparts. With these statistics in mind, it is crucial to empower and support women in tech to level the playing field. Here are eight insights I wish I had known early on in my career:
Many women in tech experience imposter syndrome, feeling like they don't belong or aren't good enough. To combat this, build a supportive network, celebrate your achievements and remember that everyone has moments of self-doubt. Regularly seeking feedback can help you grow and gain confidence in your skills while also allowing you to identify areas where you can continue to improve and excel.
Building a solid professional network can be crucial for career growth. Attend industry events, join online forums and actively engage with peers and mentors. Remember, networking is a two-way street, so offer help and share your knowledge as well, solidifying connections and building long-lasting relationships.
I didn’t learn until my later thirties the importance of speaking up and sharing my accomplishments and ambitions. I recommend that you make time to develop your personal brand, practice self-promotion and negotiate for better opportunities, roles or salaries. Being assertive and communicating your value can help you stand out and demonstrate your potential to current and future employers.
Striking a balance between work and personal life can be challenging. Set boundaries, prioritize self-care and communicate your needs to your manager. Remember that taking breaks and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can improve your overall well-being and productivity.
Embrace the idea that dedication and hard work can improve your abilities and knowledge. Continuously invest in your professional development by attending workshops, webinars and conferences, and stay up-to-date with industry trends, positioning yourself as a valuable and adaptable asset in the tech world.
Women in tech may face biases and stereotypes that can hinder their progress. Educate yourself on recognizing and addressing these issues, and seek allies who can support you. Promote diversity and inclusion initiatives in your workplace, and be an advocate for other underrepresented groups, fostering a more equitable environment for everyone.
There is a reason my first TEDx Talk was on mentorship. Having a mentor can offer priceless advice, assistance and networking opportunities. I encourage you to look for mentors who can guide you through your career, either inside or outside your organization, and remain open to getting constructive feedback and absorbing their knowledge and suggestions. The key is to stay open to learning from their experiences and advice, applying their wisdom to your own journey.
Failure is a natural part of growth and development. Learn to see failures as learning opportunities rather than setbacks. Reflect on what you can improve, and don't be afraid to take risks or try new approaches. Adopting a resilient attitude will help you overcome challenges and grow in your career.
According to a recent McKinsey & Company analysis, businesses are 21% more likely to generate above-average profitability when their gender diversity is higher. This emphasizes the value of encouraging an inclusive workplace and giving women the tools they need to succeed in IT. We can contribute to a more equal and creative technology landscape by exchanging experiences, embracing growth possibilities and helping one another.
In addition to being a question of fairness, addressing gender gaps in the tech sector presents a huge economic opportunity. According to research from the World Economic Forum, reducing the gender participation gap in the workforce by 25% by 2025 may boost the global GDP by $5.3 trillion. This serves as a reminder of the significance of encouraging women to pursue professions in technology because of the potential for innovation, economic growth and the development of more inclusive and varied workplaces through their contributions.
As a woman in tech with over 20 years of experience, I can attest to the power of perseverance, learning and advocating for oneself. Women are not the problem, and we need to ensure the various challenges we face, like underrepresentation, pay gaps and biases, get addressed and the bro culture dissipates.
The road to success in the tech industry may not be easy, but it is possible by leveraging the insights and strategies discussed above. Remember, you are not alone, and together we can positively impact the tech world.