What does being a woman in tech mean?
Although this may sound like one of the easier questions you have read this week, this question is so much more than these seven words primarily show.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a US organisation Women in Electronics, a community of progressive women leaders at all stages of their careers dedicated to the professional and personal leadership development of women in the fast-paced Electronics Industry, where we got to chatting about what it really means to be defined as a ‘Woman in Tech’.
It really made me think about the perception that, that phrase has; ‘Women in Tech’ – what does this actually mean, and who actually falls under this category?
It is interesting as the buzz phrase ‘Women in Tech’ is one that you can’t ignore if you work in Technology (or even if you don’t).
A lot of people, me included a few years back would imagine a very ‘technical’ engineer, or a someone who works as the head of development for a very ‘techy’ company when you suggest a ‘Woman in Tech’, however why is this stereotype very narrow minded?
The world of technology is so broad, if you really sit back and think about it technology is behind almost every single thing we do and come across in our day to day lives.
Can you in a black and white manor define what a ‘Woman in Tech’ means, just by someone’s job title? A job title often denotes a person's level of seniority within a company or department, but does that mean you can judge a person’s role just from that?
Speaking to some women in tech
It is interesting as I really do not believe there is a right and wrong answer to the questions I first posed. So speaking to some women in the tech industry themselves about what being a ‘Woman in Tech’ actually means to them, we had some very similar but different answers.
Dr. Amyce Aurora-Smith, QA Automation Engineer at Benefex, and aspiring Product Manager was recently interviewed by Confido in which she said: “The phrase ‘Women in tech’ is an interesting one, because I think it’s an important phrase to have around.
“It’s important to remind people every so often, that women are in tech. We constantly see CEO and CTO names that are male, in the mainstream media - it’s sometimes nice to just get that very basic reminder, that women are in tech. However, there can be some issues with campaigns that are linked to the phrase, especially those that are along the lines of 'positive discrimination'. It's not something I've really seen in the software industry so far, but when I was an undergraduate engineering student, all the talk about increasing the number of women in engineering actually knocked my confidence; I think this is an unintended side-effect that people aren't always aware of.”
Lauren Stewart, Founder of Invigorate Platform recently spoke to us about some of the challenges of being ‘a woman in tech’ and how to turn that titles into a competitive advantage, she said: “For years, if not decades, being a ‘woman in tech’ has been seen as the exception to the rule and for many, a career path that’s littered with challenges.”
Melin Edomwonyi, Director of Product at Illustrate Digital in a recent interview with We Are Tech Women was asked ‘What does it mean to you being a woman in tech?’ and her response was: “It means that there’s a lot of work to be done so that this sort of question doesn’t need to be asked in future. Questions such as ‘what does working in tech mean to you?’ rather than ‘what does being a woman in tech mean to you?’ should be asked instead.
Is there a problem?
The stats show five percent of leadership positions in the tech sector are currently held by women, and when asked only three percent of females said that a career in tech was their first choice.
Obviously we need to change these stats, opinions and mindsets, but I think one of the important things here is really explaining and thinking about what a ‘Woman in Tech’ actually is.
Is half the problem of these stats that we are not recognising enough of these incredible? Is there a section of women that actually classify, but in actual fact a large number are being left out?
It is fair to say, I completely agree that we are lacking in gender diversity, and we do need more girls in STEM fields, that are able to support the organisations and individuals. Together these females will strive to break down barriers and make more opportunities for the younger generations and overall improve the gender inequality in tech.
But if we look a bit deeper there is this lingering thought and question that does keep popping up, but I am today bringing to the surface: Is the definition of ‘Women in technology’ too narrow?
- Is this about creating a team of female coders and tech entrepreneurs?
- Is this, what young girls should be aspiring to be?
- And is this the only way they can really make a strong professional contribution in the Digital Era?
It is scary to think we maybe demoting women who are a ‘Women in tech’ to something less, when they should be showing off their skills – after all skills come in all different shapes and sizes.
Whilst on subject, have we built up the phrase ‘Women in Tech’ to be too much? Is there a stigma around it, that people think they need to uphold, and could we actually be adding more pressure to some females that are already feeling too much?
So many questions so how do we even begin to answer them, I think defining what actually a ‘Woman in Tech’ actually is, is a start.
How do define it?
It is a community of people a lot larger than you think.
Working in HR, marketing or even sales? If you work for a tech company, not matter what your job title you can classify yourself as a ‘Woman in Tech’. You don’t need to have engineer, or CEO down to consider yourself to have a job in tech.
And do you know one of the other most wonderful things? If technology isn’t your thing, that is okay. You don’t have to be a genius to want to work in tech. ‘Working in tech’ is so much more than constantly innovating hardware or software products, the industry needs more than just developers and programmers. It needs graphic designers, HR experts, project managers, marketing professionals and writers, for example. If you opt for one of these positions in the tech sector, you will also have the unique opportunity to learn more about the technology we use every single day – and expand your intellectual horizons and career prospects.
Whatever route you take, a career in technology is a fulfilling and fascinating one. Technology professionals develop cutting-edge products and solutions that entertain us, improve the environment, keep us connected and save lives.
Technology isn’t just about coming up with cutting-edge ideas – you need to work in technology to explore how those ideas will work in the real world.
There is this ideology around technology, everyone seems to respect the industry and hold it in high regard, probably as the impact technology has made so far and will continue to make on the world, so I genuinely believe anyone and everyone that comes under the ‘Women in Tech’ umbrella should be proud, and wear that badge with honour.
To conclude, I think my main point here is don’t undersell yourself or others. The phrase ‘Women in Tech’ has different meanings and connotations for everyone, and as we speak about regularly once there is more of a gender balance within the tech industry, I don’t think the phrase will be used as much as it is now.