Ever since Ada Lovelace became the first computer programmer and recognized the full potential of computers, we have witnessed a steady rise of women in technology. Today, we have more female role models in the tech industry than ever before.
However, the gender gap in the technical workforce is still a major concern. Numbers show that, in 2018, only 26% of computer occupations belonged to women – a significant drop from 32% in 1990. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers primarily consist of white men; all other gender identities and skin colors are severely underrepresented.
In major tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, female employees only take up 20 – 23% of the workforce.
Considering these worrying numbers, our goal is to highlight the importance of women in the tech sector. In this post, we will talk about the most influential women in technology today, what organizations exist to help women break through in the tech industry, as well as what you can do to get your start in IT.
Famous Women in Technology
Even though we’ve all heard of famous men in science and technology (Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.), usually, it is difficult to think of notable women in the same fields.
Here is a list of some of the most admirable and powerful women in tech today.
- Rediet Abebe
Rediet Abebe is the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science at Cornell University. She is a mathematician who works with artificial intelligence and algorithms and co-founded Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG).
Through this innovative organization, Rediet has found a way to combine her computer science knowledge with humanitarian work. MD4SG is an initiative that utilizes machine learning to assist historically disadvantaged communities.
- Kamelia Aryafar
One of the top women in technology is Kamelia Aryafar, Google’s Chief Algorithms and Analytics Officer. Kamelia works on Google Cloud AI solutions for all sorts of industries and has immense knowledge about machine learning. She is also serving as a board member of Persian Women in Tech, Overstock.com, and Initiative of Analytics and Data Science Standards (IADSS).
If you’ve ever wondered how Google personalizes your search and ad experiences, Kamelia is the one behind the science of that.
- Safra Catz
Anyone even remotely connected to information technology knows about the Oracle Corporation. Oracle is a tech company that develops cloud software engineering systems, database software, and other applications for enterprises. Safra Catz is one of the two CEOs of Oracle. Initially starting out as a banker, today, she is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the United States, not only in the IT industry but across the board.
- Roshni Nadar Malhotra
Famous women in STEM are not limited only to the United States. Roshni Nadar is the first woman leading an IT company in India. HCL Technologies, Roshni’s company, provides all kinds of software services for some of the world’s most influential companies.
At the same time, Roshni is dedicated to preserving India’s natural habitats and indigenous species and aiding the economically underprivileged in her home country.
- Zhou Qunfei
Zhou Qunfei’s story is possibly the most unbelievable one on this list. Now the richest woman in China, Zhou had to drop out of school at age 16 to work and support her family. In her part-time university classes, she learned about customs processing, accounting, and computer programming. She used this knowledge to found a touchscreen company Lens Technology.
Today, Lens Technology is one of the most profitable companies in the world, with Zhou earning a net worth of around $10 billion.
- Maria Raga
Maria Raga is the CEO of a top-rated fashion marketplace app called Depop. Faced with climate change and pollution, today’s younger generations are turning to sustainability in everything, including fashion. Depop offers its users an opportunity to sell their used clothes and give them a new life.
Depop is so successful that it has over 140,000 items on sale each day. Thanks to Maria’s innovative thinking, the most dedicated users can earn a full-time living through Depop sales.
- Ginni Rometty
The former CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, is one of the most formidable women on this list. Even though she still serves on the board of directors, during her time as the CEO, Ginni guided the company through projects based on analytics, cloud computing, and cognitive computing systems. She started working at IBM as a systems engineer and worked her way to the head executive position thanks to her hard work and expertise.
- Gwynne Shotwell
Even though everyone connects SpaceX with its founder Elon Musk, the one responsible for the day-to-day operations of this space transportation company is actually Gwynne Shotwell. Taking the role of the President and COO (Chief Operating Officer), Gwynne manages customer relations and develops strategies for SpaceX’s growth.
She also fights for diversity and inclusion in tech, especially for including more women in computer science.
- Susan Wojcicki
Susan Wojcicki is a highly-esteemed name in information technology. She has been with Google since its beginnings in the 1990s, only to become its first marketing manager in 1999. Today, Susan is the CEO of YouTube, overseeing new experiences and apps in all segments of the company – music, gaming, and family content. Under her guidance, YouTube introduced new ways of monetization for its creators and released YouTube Premium.
- Jacky Wright
Jacky Wright is a high-powered black woman serving as the Chief Digital Officer and Corporate Vice President of Microsoft in the United States. She is also very vocal about gender diversity in IT and fights for improving the overall status of women in STEM fields. Her organization, Year Up, offers unique opportunities for young adults of all backgrounds to build professional skills to help them in their future careers.
How to Become a Woman in Technology
Women technologists face a set of challenges that are found in many other industries as well. The main reasons why women leave their STEM jobs are:
- Conscious and unconscious bias
- Discrimination and harassment (including sexual harassment)
- Confidence issues
- Competing life responsibilities
In addition, women often feel ‘stalled’ in their IT careers, meaning they feel they are deliberately prevented from career development (no promotions, no new responsibilities, no progression).
While you cannot eliminate every obstacle that comes your way, you can tackle each issue as it arises. As mentioned above, the position of professional women in IT is improving; it just may not be improving as fast as everyone would like it to.
Here are five pieces of career advice you might find useful as you embark on your IT journey.
- Polish Your Skills
This advice may not be new – anyone who works in a STEM field (especially if it’s information technology) knows how essential it is to keep up with the latest developments. If you wish to become a stellar computer programmer, cybersecurity specialist, network administrator, or similar, you need to stay on top of your game.
Regardless of whether you have a computer science degree, you need to devote some time to polish your skills. Search for new technologies, programming languages, and coding techniques. What’s in these days, what’s generating a buzz, what are young programmers excited about?
Satisfying your curiosity and natural inclination to learn new skills and gain new knowledge will help you go a long way in the technological industry.
- Connect with Mentors
Of course, you can do everything on your own, but your career path will be a lot less thorny if you find a mentor to guide you. Pay attention to your surroundings and the people in the tech circles – are there any role model candidates? Anyone you admire and would like to work with?
The easiest place to find a mentor would be at the company you work for. If there is a supervisor or even an executive that fits the bill, don’t hesitate to connect with them and perhaps ask them to mentor you.
You can also find potential mentors online through social media. You can follow their accounts and interact with them, all without even being in the same part of the world. Just remember to be friendly and respectful, and nurture relationships with your peers and colleagues.
- Speak Up
If you have a relevant opinion or a great idea, don’t be afraid to speak up. Build your confidence! Women often get overlooked in meetings and conversations simply because they feel they have nothing interesting to contribute. But you absolutely do! Never hesitate to use your voice when it matters.
The same goes for witnessing or experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Fifty percent of women in STEM have experienced gender discrimination at work. Don’t keep quiet. Take a stand for gender equality and speak up if you feel like you or someone else is being mistreated.
If you need help in finding your voice, practice it at home. Watch yourself in the mirror and practice interacting with other people – your coworkers, supervisors, and others. This will make it easier to find your words at the right time.
- Be Proud of Your Accomplishments
Unlike men, women tend to disregard their accomplishments. This can be due to various reasons, the most common of which is the so-called ‘imposter syndrome’ – a feeling that successes and achievements aren’t well-deserved.
However, there are considerable advantages to publicly talking about your accomplishments.
Firstly, you are building your confidence and feeling better about yourself and your career.
Secondly, you are simultaneously building a good reputation! By posting about your successful projects online or mentioning them at events and other gatherings, you are building your brand. People are more likely to perceive you as an expert when you’re more vocal about your achievements.
- Support Other Women
If you climb the corporate ladder high enough, you will notice how isolating it gets for women. Statistics suggest that little has been done to improve the representation of women at the executive levels. This is the primary reason why women – especially women in leadership positions – need to encourage other women.
No matter how much you advance in your career, don’t forget to help those who are just like you were at the beginning. Join programs that help female-led startups, educate young girls on the beauties of science and coding, and invest in diversifying the tech industry as much as possible.
Organizations that Help STEM Women
In light of everything, it is no surprise that there are programs and organizations focused on empowering women in STEM fields. There are dozens of them across the United States and even more across the globe, but here we will discuss the most important ones.
- Anita Borg Institute
The Anita Borg Institute is a nonprofit organization that fights for the representation of women in the tech industry. In Anita Borg’s own words, “Women need to assume their rightful place at the table creating the technology of the future.” The institute provides award programs, access to female STEM communities, resources, network events, and more.
One of the most exciting segments of the Anita Borg Institute is their PITCHER competition, where female entrepreneurs have the opportunity to apply and receive funding for their startup ideas. PITCHER supports for-profit and nonprofit startups, and there is a list of criteria they need to meet to qualify for the competition.
- Black Girls Code
The founder of Black Girls Code is Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer who acutely felt the lack of diversity on campus during her time at university. She founded Black Girls Code, an organization that teaches essential coding skills to girls of color between the ages of 7 and 17.
Thanks to Black Girls Code, the number of girls in tech is steadily rising. The organization offers conferences and events, workshops, summits, and scholarships for young women of color. Kimberly is aware that not everyone has the digital means to gain this kind of knowledge, and Black Girls Code has been actively fighting the digital divide.
- Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code has a mighty goal: close the gender gap in entry-level jobs in technology by 2027. Whether or not they will succeed remains to be seen, but they are certainly on the right path. Their internal values are based on diverse and inclusive workplaces, and they strive to show the world that girls, too, can be great software engineers.
The organization offers after-school programs for girls from the 3rd to the 12th grade, as well as summer programs for school girls from the 10th to the 12th grade. They also provide college programs for girls older than 18.
- Women Who Code
A nonprofit that supports women’s tech careers, Women Who Code is dedicated to uplifting female executives. The organization wants to see more women VCs, technical leaders, founders, and software engineers.
To achieve this, they provide a wide range of offline and online resources, such as videos, articles, tutorials, and over one thousand global events each year. Not only that, but Women Who Code also gives away $1 million per year in scholarships, conference tickets, and other programs to bring more women closer to technology.
- Change Catalyst
Change Catalyst has a female founder and CEO, Melinda Briana Epler. She has been fighting to change Silicon Valley’s alarming diversity numbers since 2014 (when it became apparent that women barely make one-fourth of the tech workforce).
Change Catalyst has an ecosystem approach, as Melinda declares. They educate governments, tech companies, and hubs on diversity and are making an effort to drive real change. Their roundtables, career fairs, summits, webinars, and podcasts are valuable sources of knowledge and information for thousands of underrepresented groups in IT worldwide.
The number of women in technology, mathematics, science, and engineering careers has been relatively low for decades – not even half of the total STEM workforce. In fact, in the last thirty years, the percentage of women in these jobs has decreased by around 5%.
That does not mean that you, as a woman, cannot have a successful career as an engineer, a scientist, or a computer specialist. On the contrary, so many organizations today are focused on assisting women just like you, who want to become the next big name in technology.
Look up to powerful IT women such as Susan Wojcicki, Rediet Abebe, Safra Catz, Zhou Qunfei, Jacky Wright, Kamelia Aryafar, Maria Raga, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Ginni Rometty, and Gwynne Shotwell.
Throughout your career, practice using your voice in pivotal moments. Stand up for yourself and other women in your workspace. Seek the mentorship of career coaches that champion girls and women as computer scientists and leaders in the technology sector. Keep working on your professional skills (both hard and soft skills), and openly discuss your accomplishments. Find your confidence, and don’t shy away from praise.
If you need any help, turn to organizations, schools, and colleges getting involved in recognizing women’s rise and community impact in the technology sector and upcoming events explicitly created to help women and girls pursue careers in tech. The Anita Borg Institute, Girls Who Code, Women Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Change Catalyst are just a handful of program organizers women of all ages can turn to for advice, mentorship, and skill courses.
MyComputerCareer would be more than happy to help you achieve your IT goals. Contact us for more information on carving a path in information technology as a hard-working, dedicated woman.