Helping women break new ground

I’m a marketing leader in the tech sector and passionate about diversifying our industry. I care about living my values and keeping women paid, well and thriving. Through Possible Ground I work with people looking to enter the tech industry whether that’s through a job or a business they are running.

Over the past four years I've quadrupled my salary, started a company - and a family. So what does it take to help women break new ground?

Here are five things people within the tech industry can do:

Stop overcomplicating entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship = Selling a Product or Service. That’s it, there’s no more to it really. However, we’ve managed to convolute the entire thing with made up concepts like 'Seed Funding', 'Pitch Days', 'Demo Days', 'Series A', 'Angel Investment', etc.

A certain type of person has been defined as an “entrepreneur” - someone who has access to capital, someone who attends “Pitch Days.” Here’s the thing: a lot of these businesses don’t even make money! Or have customers!

So why don’t we call ourselves 'Entrepreneurs'? Because of all the biases and myths we’ve been told about entrepreneurship: 

  • Entrepreneurs are supposed to work full-time on their business. Not have jobs on the side.
  • Entrepreneurs are supposed to get investment.
  • Entrepreneurs need to have an MBA.

An entrepreneur is so devoid of any relationship to a business that earns money because we’ve defined it as what the richest in our society already has.

Reframing the narrative is an important step if we want to help more women and people of colour get funding for their functioning businesses.

Invest in women

Women need money. …not accelerators, advice. Just money. The problem is we keep going back to hiring people we know. I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it.

I’m a hiring manager and have been one at billion dollar tech companies for a while now.

This is how hiring is done

Your tech company is fine. It’s sailing along. No headcount approvals.

Suddenly... Your tech company is high growth. It’s scaling rapidly. You need people NOW. You need people who know how it’s done.

You need to bring people in the door ASAP. You look through your LinkedIn at people you’ve worked with, make them an offer and bring them in.

People from Google go to Facebook. People from Facebook go to Stripe. People from Stripe go to Twitter. And on and on.

This is the same for Venture Capital. People look into their networks to fund

What happens when we look into our networks? We have lower standards for those we bring in than those we don’t know.

When we look at our networks we are invested in proving that we know the right people, smart people, good people. Because they reflect us.

We are invested in seeing people outside of our networks as not good enough.

When it comes to hiring and investing, no matter how hard we try our judgements are never going to be good enough.

Only when we accept that can we take the first steps to doing better.

Stop telling women they have imposter syndrome

This is just another way we tell women that they need to change themselves.

Why can’t we be okay with not knowing the answer? It’s normal, and it’s better! It’s better for relationships, for business growth and for our political sphere.

Imagine if Boris Johnson said: “Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit, but I’m going to do my best.” Or if Adam Newman declared, “I’m exploring how to turn WeWork around.”

We’d probably run them into the ground. Every newspaper (not just The Daily Mail) and journalist would skewer them.

I want to create a new concept: ‘confident unknowing’ - when you openly admit you don’t know, but you’re exploring - you’re opening to having your mind changed. You don’t know, and it’s okay!

I want to create a new concept: ‘confident unknowing’ - when you openly admit you don’t know, but you’re exploring - you’re opening yourself to having your mind changed. You don’t know, and it’s okay!

Advocate for women who aren’t in the room

To move up in tech, women need someone fighting their corner when they're not in the room. The thing is, usually, the people *in* the room are men.⁠⁠

I’ve seen a man drop into a role at Google as a product marketing manager after being told there were no roles available. ⁠⁠I’ve seen advisor roles pop up at companies for men who they want to keep on. ⁠⁠I’ve seen men take on consulting roles in tech companies with monthly paychecks bigger than my annual salary.⁠⁠

Women need to benefit from these kinds of opportunities. ⁠⁠If you’re in a position of influence or power, you can help make this happen by actively building relationships with a broad spectrum of people within your company.

Choose your words wisely

Our choice of language matters. A lot. Widely held societal beliefs about gender roles & leadership mean that when most people are asked to picture a leader, they picture a man. 

Personally, I find platitudes like “Go Boss Girl!” and "#blessed" extremely embarrassing and infantilizing. Would you rather be called a “boss babe”, or a “strategic leader”?

If you’re like me & you want to contribute authentic feedback to support & lift other women up, an easy way is to comment on an actual specific thing you liked about their event, project, email etc etc.

Careers in tech can be creative, high impact, rewarding & lucrative. It can ​​also be toxic.

To progress in the world of tech, you need to come up with edgy, brilliant ideas and push them through yet if you’re pushy and edgy you break the image of what a woman is supposed to be. For women, it’s a balancing act like walking a tightrope.

We live in a society obsessed with dissecting women’s choices and telling them what to do.

The world needs to change, not women.

Possible Ground is a feminist coaching practice helping women to build incredible businesses and land jobs at top tech companies.