A helpful guide on how to become one of the women in information technology may prove useful to ladies just starting in IT. Across the entire tech industry, women are severely underrepresented, especially women of color. According to a wide range of women in tech statistics, decreasing the gender gap is an uphill battle going on even today.
Becoming successful in IT requires a few standard must-haves:
- professional skills, obtained either through an information technology degree (or from a similar field) or through self-taught practice,
- soft skills, such as problem-solving, negotiating, leadership skills, teamwork skills, and similar, and
- connections in the technology industry.
However, women in computing face a series of additional challenges that men – particularly white men – don’t.
Challenges of Women in Tech
- Gender Bias
Gender bias is a type of behavior in people who prefer one gender over the other, and it is a genuine problem for women in any industry. It can affect anyone, but women are often the victims of gender bias, especially in the IT workforce. In various computer occupations (software developers, systems analysts, computer scientists, programmers, information systems managers, and others), the percentage of women has actually decreased from 32% in 1990 to 25% in 2018.
Whether it is conscious or unconscious gender bias, because the overwhelming majority of executives are men, other men tend to be supported and promoted more in their careers.
Tech companies are working on solving this issue by supporting women in senior roles, implementing gender-neutral recruitment, increasing transparency, and providing unconscious bias training.
- Confidence Issues
In any business, to make your way up the corporate or entrepreneurial ladder, you need to be sure of yourself. Confidence matters just as much as competence, if not more. However, this is where women usually fall short compared to their male counterparts.
In self-assessment, on average, women tend to be a lot more critical of themselves than men. This is particularly true for women in STEM jobs. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, women perform equally to men in scientific knowledge quizzes. The problem arises because women (despite having equal average scores) underestimate their performance and think less of their scientific reasoning ability.
- Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
Any list of challenges women face in the workplace wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the harassment and discrimination they face. In a 2017 analysis, 50% of women in STEM declared they had experienced gender discrimination at work. Among these women, black women feel the most discriminated against, followed by Asian women, Hispanic women, and finally, white women.
36% of women in technology identified sexual harassment as their main problem in poor workplace culture.
Even though these issues occur in most workplaces that include women, it seems that women in STEM are more exposed to discrimination and harassment or are more likely to be vocal about it than women in non-STEM jobs.
Work on Your Skills
The first – and probably most apparent – advice for breaking through some of the challenges we listed above is to work on your skills continually. Whether you are a UI/UX designer, web developer, network administrator, systems analyst, cybersecurity specialist, or other – the nature of technology careers is that they require a non-stop upgrade of one’s knowledge base.
Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for your first job, have an entry-level position at a tech company, or are hoping for a promotion soon – if you don’t know what’s new and fresh in the world of computer science and information, you will be quickly left behind.
So never stop learning. Nurture your curiosity and always search for new sources of information and knowledge. Look up to those who know more than you – whether male or female – and strive to learn from them.
Connect with Mentors
Speaking of role models and looking up to those who know more than you – find a mentor who will be willing to teach you everything you need to know about the job. You can do this on your own, through networking and socializing in the tech circles, or you can join a mentorship program.
Reaching out to a potential mentor can be nerve-wracking. To find a suitable one, first look within your company. If there are no appropriate candidates, you can always expand your search online through social media. LinkedIn may be an excellent place to start. Follow those who catch your eye, observe what they’re doing, and engage with them before actually asking them to mentor you.
Alternatively, plenty of organizations for women in tech offer mentorship programs. Check out the Anita Borg Institute, Change Catalyst, TechWomen, and other programs designed to connect women with other women in information technology.
Use Your Voice
Women often get sidelined in meetings, presentations, and discussions because they hesitate to express their opinions. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you have something to say. Use your voice to guide your team in the right direction or to fight for a project you don’t want to see fail.
Share your ideas and opinions when they are relevant, and have confidence when speaking. If necessary, practice what you’ll say in front of a mirror at home so that you can get the right tone of voice and posture in the right situation.
Most importantly, call out discriminatory or harassing behaviors. Women are often taught to grin and bear it, but you absolutely shouldn’t do that. If you spot an unfairness, either towards yourself or another female colleague, take a stand. Having a strong voice and knowing how and when to use it is essential for women in the tech industry.
Leverage Your Accomplishments
Commonly, women get the ‘imposter syndrome,’ a feeling that they don’t deserve their success or haven’t somehow earned their position or status. Shake off these feelings of inadequacy and take a cue from your male coworkers. Take stock of the accomplishments you’ve made in your career, and learn how to use them to your advantage.
Be public about your achievements. Post about them on social media, mention them in conversation, leverage them to build relationships that will propel you in your information technology career. Of course, all within reason. There is a difference between stroking your ego and merely mentioning your latest project’s success in industry talk.
Being confident about your career goals and accomplishments will earn you a reputation that will pave the way for your success in the tech world.
Support Other Women
One of the main reasons women quit their careers in information technology is due to isolation. The higher they climb in business, the fewer women they interact with, and the lonelier it becomes.
Women supporting and uplifting other women is the key factor in diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Nothing much will change in the long run if the women at the executive levels don’t lend a hand to those just starting out.
Make sure to encourage and root for your female colleagues. They may not be working at your company or your particular field, but find a way to celebrate women no matter what tech sector they’re in.
Even though gender (and other kinds of) diversity in tech is sorely lacking, not all is lost. Women in computer science careers face many challenges, not least of which are conscious and unconscious gender bias, confidence issues, and discrimination and harassment.
To become an influential woman in IT, you first need a computer sciences degree or any type of certification that makes your knowledge and expertise official. You need to work on your soft skills, especially those of negotiation, and build strong relationships in the tech industry.
Lastly, there are five things you can do to advance your career more quickly. First, always seek to upgrade your knowledge and skills. Second, find a mentor or organization for women that will guide you at the beginning of your career and offer indispensable advice. Don’t be afraid of speaking up when you have valuable insight to offer. At the same time, don’t be shy about talking about your achievements, student experience, career journey and using them to build a formidable reputation for yourself.
Finally, don’t forget to support other women. In order to improve the gender diversity statistics in STEM fields, women need to be there for other women – inspiring and motivating them from day one by sharing career opportunities and resources for women and information technology.
Even though it’s not an easy path to becoming a woman in IT, we at My Computer Career are confident that you can do it. Reach out to us if you wish to request information on how to jumpstart your career in information technology. We’re here to answer frequently asked questions on degrees in computer and information technology, financial aid, student loans, transfer students, our academic calendar, admissions process, online degrees, and so much more.