Women in Tech: Programming the Future
IPC hosted an Ellevate event entitled “Women in Tech: Programming the Future” on October 9, 2018. This event was designed as part of IPC’s Diversity and Inclusion Program and its Women’s Interactive Network (WIN), which I lead. It was in the form of a panel discussion bringing together successful women working in the tech field.
We as a society are facing certain challenges as part of the digital transformation over the next five to ten years. Jointly as men and women, we are responsible for our future.
The world has never been so fast-paced. With the major technical breakthroughs of the recent years and the emerging technical revolution underway, we know that tech-related jobs will increasingly become the majority in years to come. Business school professors teaching digital classes are advising parents that their kids should become data analysts or cyber security specialists – the jobs of the future.
Today, women are underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. So how can we make sure that women will not be further marginalized and excluded by high-tech innovations? There are three points from which this question can be tackled, and our society needs to address all three holistically in order to make progress in this specific point of inclusion.
1) Get personal.
Things need to be seen from a woman’s personal perspective. Although there is no magic formula for success, here is some advice to women that I learned from the panel discussion:
Women need to not only keep pace with the latest technology and to know the market, but to be ahead of the curve, especially on fast-moving market trends such as robotics, AI, and digital technology.
Navigating the political landscape of a company in a way that leads to engagement, recognition, and promotion is not an innate female skill and needs to be learned. This is where mentorship and sponsorship within companies becomes crucial.
Once a woman gets promoted, she also needs to be supported. Not only do women need to deliver a project to set themselves apart from others, but they also need a sponsor who advocates for them, determines their ability to deliver, and helps them to access challenging assignments. Sponsors can also help women build robust personal brands and relationships within the company’s internal networks.
Imposter syndrome is very common for women and can get in the way of personal growth. It’s key to remind yourself that being different from others does not mean that you are inferior.
Women put barriers on themselves by undermining their capacities or thinking that there is a gender bias which will not allow them to be successful. Although we know that gender bias exists in the workplace, success is a mindset. It’s important to have a clear mindset and be able to take on challenges.
Do not be afraid to ask what you think may be stupid questions. Be ready to learn in a very short timespan. Step out with confidence. Ask to be considered for new roles and complex projects.
When applying for a new role, there is no need to check off all the boxes of skills and requirements listed. Concentrate on skills you have instead of those you do not have. The panel also suggested that companies should shorten the list of requirements on job descriptions to attract more women to respond who would otherwise exclude themselves.
2) Corporations have a role to play.
We know that diversity makes companies more successful. Therefore, investing time and developing programs targeted at women’s leadership will ultimately benefit firms. Their employees will be happier being in a more inclusive workplace and the firm will ultimately enjoy a thriving culture and generate more growth.
Companies need to reset their intentions in terms of female representation based upon accurately reflecting the demographic make-up. They should publish diversity statistics and make a pledge internally and externally to become more diverse. It’s important to measure the outcome, since this is a trial-and-error exercise. Companies need to understand what does and does not work for them specifically, as each corporate culture is unique.
Formal mentorship and sponsorships are extremely important to foster female leadership. One company designated three executives to mentor up to ten women each on a specific area of skills. This included one-on-one and collective meetings. It takes a lot of thought to prepare the next generation of leaders and to increase loyalty of its best employees. Corporations understand there is an element of being a little uncomfortable when becoming a sponsor or mentor.
For instance, people do not always understand what the role means and what they are expected to do. Therefore, training programs for participating executives are needed to provide tools and learning experience on how to be a successful mentor or sponsor. One of the attendees in the event expressed a concern around men in her firm who stopped volunteering to be mentors of women after the emergence of the #MeToo movement. The panel highlighted as a response that mentorships, which happen within the office and professional context, could only benefit and derive a great value for both parties.
Granting access to external networks such as Anitab.org, Ellevate, Women Who Tech, and external events is extremely important, because they provide inspiration and needed access to personal development tools.
3) Share the love.
Last but not least, providing access to educational programs targeted to female employees, both to develop soft and technical skills, is a valuable initiative for each and every employer from a retention and development perspective.
Men and women have a responsibility to future generations. We have the power to influence our children and the younger generation joining the workforce. We can encourage girls to go to STEM. There is no “true” career path to get into the tech field today.
Women who have become successful in tech space do not necessarily come from an educational background in technology. Computer science should also be considered as a creative engineering option where boundaries are broad, with lots of room for imagination and ingenuity. Technology provides an opportunity to women to have fun, learn, gain personal satisfaction, obtain financial freedom, and be the inventors and influencers of the future.
Masha Maskina has an background in business finance and has worked in financial services field for the last decade. She is one of the leaders of the Diversity and Inclusion program at IPC.
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